When is it Smart to Create a New Position?

Are you feeling under pressure, overworked, or that there is just too much to do?

Perhaps you and your team are working hard but can’t seem to keep up, let alone get ahead.

There are several potential solutions, but one of the most common is to hire more staff.

If you hire and lead staff, you understand the pressure of knowing how many staff is the right number, what positions are the right positions, and when is the right time to hire more people.

Crystal clear vision and strategic alignment can help minimize the differing opinions. But there is always more than one way to design a team successfully.

The tension of knowing which way is best will always exist. Having the right people is more important than the right positions – but there is a healthy balance.

Let’s start with some thoughts about why you should not establish a new role or position to hire.

Atypical projects

There are seasonal initiatives and a variety of projects that come up across any church calendar year.

If your team is stretched too far, many of these projects can be handled by short-term, contract-based hires.

Don’t hire a new position to get a one-off project done, even if you think you have a near-continuous stream of projects coming up. Think each one through and select the right person for each one.

A grumbling staff member.

You might be surprised about how true the old saying is – “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.”  True as that may be, if you give in to an underperforming and complaining staff member who wants you to hire them more help, it will hurt the morale of your team.

It’s better to coach the staff member to a different way of thinking and better productivity.

Temporary increases in workload

A temporary increase in workload is a little different than the contained project type of work mentioned above.

There are occasional brief increases in workload for your existing positions. The temptation is to overreact and solve the pressure by hiring another person to help get the work done.

It doesn’t take long before that position is rationalized because all jobs migrate toward justifying their existence. It’s better to “tough it out,” or re-prioritize the work and let something else wait, or trim back the scope of the ministry or ask a volunteer to help.

A staff member is unable to do the job.

No one wants to release a staff member; it’s a terrible part of a supervisors role. But on occasion, it’s necessary. Refusal to release a staff member who’s unmotivated and not willing or able to do the job hurts the overall team.

A better course is to have the difficult conversation, let them know you care, coach them well, but be willing to make the tough call if necessary.

If a volunteer can do it

We are often tempted to hire someone to get a job done when an experienced volunteer is more than capable of doing.

It’s faster and easier to hire, but often not any more effective, and certainly lacking wisdom in terms of financial stewardship.

However, more important than the budget is making sure you allow the gifts and passions that God has given individuals in the body of Christ to rise up, get involved, and make a difference.

Good reasons and guiding principles for creating a new position:

1) The position follows momentum.

As a general guideline, hire new positions only when your church is growing.

More specifically, grow a ministry area before you add staff.

For example, expand the number of small groups before you add more small group staff.

The timing is more complicated in the case of a church plant or launching a new campus. However, even with a start-up, there is ministry momentum before the launch. The vision is clear, money has been raised, and general support has been generated before staff are hired.

Bottom line — grow the ministry then add staff.

2) The position advances your vision and expands the ministry.

Administrative and support positions are vital to the team; they help you make sure ministry is operating smoothly and cover the multitude of behind the scenes tasks that make greater ministry possible. But in general, they do not drive the engines that reach new people.

Place your new position emphasis on creating roles that help expand your Kingdom reach first. Design your new positions to clearly advance the vision.

Hire support roles slowly and wisely. When you do hire support staff, always ask the question of the team who receives the help, “What will you do with the time you get back?”

3) The position allows you to focus on your priorities.

Why you hire is as important as what position you create.

For example, far too often, an administrative assistant is hired to make someone’s life easier. That’s not a good decision.

A good assistant should make you more productive, not more comfortable.

When you hire staff to “free you up” to focus on key priorities, it’s essential to tend to those priorities tenaciously. It is too easy to allow the newly found time to get sucked in the never-ending process of more stuff to do.

4) The position is backed by financial resources.

Several of my peers have stepped out in faith to raise money for a new position, and while I can admire that, it’s also a substantial risk based on some pretty big assumptions.

In that scenario, I recommend that you realistically build at least one half the salary into the budget before raising the rest.

Action steps in creating a new position:

  • Be honest about the motivation and reason for the new position.
  • If you could add only one new position, determine if it’s the best one to advance the purpose of the church.
  • Write a detailed job description.
  • Make sure your key leaders are in agreement.
  • Identify how you will fund the new position.

I trust that this post will serve as a starting point for good conversations about new positions and strategic hiring.

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