Monday Morning Insights

Photo of Todd

    Staff Members and Blue Jeans

    "I don't think it's an overstatement to suggest that when it comes to building a successful ministry, the team matters more than anything else. You can have a solid mission and vision for the future. You can implement the best ministry strategy, systems and structure. You can have really cool music -- even better than smooth jazz. You can also be in God's Word daily, be fully empowered by the Holy Spirit and pray a lot. But if you don't have the right people on your team, you're not going to have success in what you do.

    Building the best team, of course, begins before you hire your new staff member. It starts in the recruitment and selection process. I suppose it might be helpful to illustrate this by thinking about the days when you were young and your hormones were raging and you were just beginning to discover relationships and love and start dreaming about the prospects of marriage. I think there's a correlation between courting your future mate and the hiring process.

    For example, you meet someone who, on paper, has the right mix of skills and experience. He or she loves Jesus and is also available to fill the vacant position. You think, "That's my prince charming or my fairy tale princess. I want to marry that person." The problem is you haven't found true love. You're just attracted to that person. Hiring someone just because they have the right education or the right job experience or the right skills is like marrying someone just because they look hot in jeans from the Buckle. Your eyes and your hormones tell you that's the one, when in reality you need more time for your head and your heart to confirm the relationship will allow you to live happily ever after.

    You need to go on lots of dates with that person, and you need to give yourself the freedom to date other people. Interview your prospective team members one-on-one. Have someone else interview them. Schedule group dates and invite a whole team of people to talk to the candidate you think may become "Mr. or Mrs. Right." Call their references and find out what they were like in previous jobs or relationships. You may even want them to take personality tests to determine if their true colors match who they are when they're trying to impress you.

    All of this dating before marriage hopefully ensures that you offer the ring to the right person. Just like with a real marriage relationship, your business relationship is more likely to last because of the intangibles you'll discover over time rather than the details you might find on someone's resume during the first date. For a moment, forget about education, experience and skills, and answer these questions:

    In my experience, when trying to find the best talent, these types of questions are far more important than learning whether or not someone has a big, fancy resume.

    Take this advice from a soon-to-be old guy without ink: Don't marry the first hottie that comes along. Now, I know what you're feeling. I've been there, too. You have a vacant position, and you're thinking, "We have people to reach for Jesus. I can't be doing my job and covering that open position at the same time. I need to hire her even though she may not be the best fit. My proverbial clock is ticking, and I'm not getting any younger, you know."

    Just slow down Mr. My-life-is-going-to-fall-apart-if-I-don't-hire-this-person-right-away. You will be far happier in the long run if you find someone who not only can do the job, but who will fit in well with the rest of the team and add huge value to your ministry. That process takes time. It's better to leave a position vacant than fill it with someone who's really not the best fit but just happens to be the best available.

    I may not be the hippest guy in town, but hopefully I've helped you learn how to attract and select the very best talent for your team. And, with the right pair of jeans, I think you could become all that."

    You can read the whole article here.

    FOR DISCUSSION:  How do you know when you've found the perfect team member?

    I really enjoyed reading Tony Morgan’s recent article on finding the right staff person or team member for your church.  I hope you enjoy some of his thoughts.  Tony says…


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    1. matt on Tue, July 19, 2005

      Great post, Todd!  Thanks for putting that out there.  I have just gone through the hiring process (thanks to and hired a worship arts pastor to join me and an associate.  This posting confirms the process we used and I believe we got the best person for us at this time in our history.  I’m excited to have him here.  Just like marriage, there will be some bumps in our growth together, but the core is there.

      thanks, again, for what you’re doing here.  Though you spend too much time having to defend your vision and goal against those who don’t believe and share them, there are people out here like me who eagerly check the site throughout the day because it causes us to think through ministry leadership issues well.

    2. Kerrie on Tue, July 19, 2005

      Thanks Todd! As a person who has been the one looking for the right JOB - i always love it when a church is willing to go through the work of really making sure i fit them - as well as i want to make sure I fit them. This is the best process and the times I haven’t done it this way - have been rough - but the times I have done it this way have been amazing

    3. erica on Tue, July 19, 2005

      Dating a perspective staff member is nice theory but it’s a one-sided philosopy.  That candidate has a life and perhaps a family or a current ministry and can not wait around forever.  It’s also becoming increasingly inappropriate and illegal for church leaders to pump references for info on the candidate’s history.  The solution is to be disciplined and put the time in to raise up leaders in your own church and to be networked in your city.  The skills needed in ministry are not that different from other professional jobs there are probably candidates in your own home church with the skills and the passion to commit to full-time ministry.

    4. rick on Tue, July 19, 2005

      “Fit” has become the new buzz word in hiring church staff.  I hear it all the time.  Not sure what it means…but it probably means different things to different people.  For my last church, “fit” (and “team”) meant applauding the Senior Pastor’s ideas, never voicing descent and never mentioning the “elephants” in the room.  But I digress.

      Tony is a smart guy…and I’m sure he does an excellent job at hiring.  I know they (Grainger) place a big emphasis on hiring within—which I think is smart.  Ultimately, 90% (a guess) of the people who work together as a staff would never be friends or work for one another if there wasn’t a paycheck invovled.  I think that’s sad…and possibly a good explanation for the lack of truly great staff-teams.

      Hofefully, we’re seeing the tide turn toward more organic staff development—friends (who were already friends before working together) serving with one another for the kingdom.  I can’t imagine serving Jesus along side “fellow employees” that aren’t really my friends. 


      The only place I would deviate from the Grainger approach is that it’s probably too corporate for us younger folks.  I think “hiring” would be easier if we saw the church as a family (the only relational metaphor used for the church in the Bible) and not a business or a club.

      All in all, Tony’s on the right track, though—he’s one boomer that deserves some love for his many good thoughts.


    5. Teresa on Tue, July 19, 2005

      I believe the right fit is so important.  But I also believe that from time to time a Pastor needs to re-evaluate his staff.  Sometimes the person who fit that position five or ten years ago does not have have the skills necessary to fill the scope that his or her position has taken on.  The ministry can grow to a point where those in certain position can hinder the ministry.  This actually can happen in a year.  I am not stating that you disgard those people but re-evaluate what they bring and the new scope of the position.  You may need to change what that position entails and add those duties to another position.

      I have experienced people being so afraid of losing favor with the ministry and/or Pastor that they actually block the talent that God has sent to the ministry to get the job done.  I do not want to believe that this in intentionally done but it can cause you to lose out on opportunities.

      I say this because as a Pastor you need to re-insure your people that new people or positions do not mean that your relationship will change and that they are still needed.  While allowing those who have the talent and the fit to be able to do the job they have been called to do.  Fit is important but it does not stop there.


    6. rick on Tue, July 19, 2005

      one more thing…

      Erica is soooo right about what she says.  I think most churches are lazy…and their

      “senior leader” is lazy in the area of developing leaders.  The truly great staff teams are usually home-grown, not hired “out there” (no offense to 


      Buying your talent like the New York Yankees will never work long-term with churches and is probably unhealthy.  Plus…it just seems to excuse the pastors from raising up and developing the leaders that they will pass the baton to (makes you think that maybe they aren’t interested in passing the baton). 

      Personally, I think that most senior leaders don’t develop new leaders because they fear that they aren’t up to snuff and those with high calibur leadership gifts won’t follow them…and ufortunately, they’re probably right.  So…they get the hired gun and get applauded for their “leadership”.


      Can I get a testimony?!?  I mean…how many senior leaders are REALLY developing younger leaders and placing them in roles where they really have room to grow and lead?  I know of 2-3 guys who do this well in the DFW area.  The rest act as though their leadership is an end of itself.  Sad.


    7. Larry on Tue, July 19, 2005

      I seek to do both, hire from within and bring staff on from the outside.  Right now I have 7 staff members who came on staff after being a part of our ministry.  The rest of staff came from the outside.  I believe the author of the article is correct when he says the key is how the person will fit with the rest of staff.  Every time I seek to bring a new person on staff I ask how will this person fit with the rest of my staff as far as their personality and makeup. If they will not fit, then even if they are qualified for the position I will not hire them. The people on my staff are friends with each other and hang out together outside of church.  Whether a person is ingrown or from the outside does not matter.  How do they fit with the rest of staff is the key.

    8. tony morgan on Tue, July 19, 2005

      Rick, this may be hard to believe, but I’m not a “boomer.” I was actually born in 1968. I’m a GenXer.

      Isn’t that interesting? I’m a GenXer that’s optimistic about my future, committed to helping the institutional church reach more people for Jesus and I prefer not to share conversations with strangers at the coffeeshop.

      I’m not a slacker. I’m actually quite driven. I’ve had a job ever since I graduated from college. I’ve never moved back home to live with my parents, and I don’t like to buy clothes from The Gap.

      Funny thing is many of my GenX counterparts reject my leadership approach and ministry philosophies. In reality, I’m just trying to be who God designed me to be. You know…authentic.

      Just thought I’d try to eliminate some of the stereotypes that are out there about us GenXers…and have a little fun at the same time.

      I appreciate your kind comments. Thanks for sharing the love.


    9. MB on Tue, July 19, 2005

      I think the essence of Tony’s comments are right on…and apply well whether a church is hiring from the “inside” or the “outside”.  There are advantages to “both, and” as opposed to “either, or”.

      Rick, I sincerely don’t mean to be confrontational here…but it sounds to me like you have been burned…or at least there is something that has taken place for you to make broad sweeping statements about the motives of leaders that you have never met.


    10. rick on Tue, July 19, 2005

      Ha!  Tony is a genXer….hilarious.  I stand corrected w/ apologies all around. 

      Hey Tony…I don’t buy into the stereotypes of X’ers either.  I DO believe in most of the stereotypes when it comes to the boomer-seeker sensitive-metrosexual-harley riding-mid life crisis pastor-guy who sees himself as the next Hybels/Warren.  I’ve met FAR too many of them and they are SOOOO similar.

      Regardless, my “boomer” comments are usually about cultural stuff, not necessarily age.  My best friend in ministry is a boomer…seriously!  That sounds cliche, but he’s definitely not the boomer stersotype…so I suppose they can break stereotypes as well.

      And for what its worth, I’m a happy, well-adjusted and optimistic X’er as well.  The future is bright from my viewpoint…as I believe is the case with most X’ers I know. 


      Oh…and no problem about the love—I mean it.  I don’t like everything you write, but I do like most of it.  Peace, man….


    11. rick on Tue, July 19, 2005

      MB…can’t speak for people’s motives, your right about that.  Burned?  No more burned than Martin Luther was burned by the Catholic Church.  I have a reformers heart and always seek to better the church to be more in the image of Jesus and on His mission.  Reformers will always have an “edge” to what they say and we probably need to be ok with that.

      I was, however, making a value judgment of various pastors’ ACTIONS, regardless of motives.  My theories as to their motives are just that—theories. 

      And no offense taken…these conversations must happen or we will lose a generation of baton passing…because in the same way the boomers basically said “see ya” to their parents and formed their own churches…emerging gernerations tend to be doing the same…generally speaking…and I only mean that in a non-broad sweeping way.


    12. Dean on Tue, July 19, 2005

      I’m kind of late getting into this post, but I just had lunch with the pastor of the church we have been attending for the past couple of months.  He told me that the elders of the congregation had decided to fast and pray and wait for the Lord to bring the next pastor to succeed the retiring pastor.  One thing eventually led to others and the pastor I had lunch with ultimately became the only candidate and the current pastor.  One of the guys who is a sharp businessman told the elders they were off their rocker to do a pastoral search that way, but as a very objective outsider, I can tell you that there is absolutely no doubt at all that God led in the process.  Sorry to dent the ideas of ingenuous human search mechanisms, but I think this methodology doesn’t depend on outward appearance but on spiritual seeking and discernment.  Any thoughts?

    13. Peter on Tue, July 19, 2005

      A couple of thoughts…

      One reader wrote “But I also believe that from time to time a Pastor needs to re-evaluate his staff”. Careful here, I just moved my family hundreds of miles to serve in a church in a new town and I would be sore, to say the least, if a year from now the church casually changes their mind toward me. I couldn’t afford to move very far again, and this is a small town… There aren’t a lot of positions for me here. There has to be a commitment to develop that person.

      I like your piece, Tony, a lot. One other thought. All of us folks that take jobs in new churches (rather than moving into full-time ministry in a church we’re already plugged into) need to be responsible to try our best to fit in to the new situation, too. It might mean taking on a few new interests so we have common ground with folks. It might mean lifestyle adjustments. It might mean a lot of things.

      We all have a responsibility to INTENTIONALLY get along as part of a team, not just fall into the “perfect” job chemistry-wise. Sometimes chemistry happens, and sometimes it takes work. Hopefully, we find ourselves in a situation where it’s a little bit of both. Of course, my new job seems to be perfect… but they don’t know me really really well yet…




    14. rick on Tue, July 19, 2005

      I’m probably somewhere between Tony’s thoughts and the process you described, Dean.  Though I fully empathize with what you’re saying (you know…the whole “being spiritual” thing), I can’t write off all of Tony’s stuff. 

      For instance, if you ARE going to do an outside search, how do you NOT do background checks and such?  I know that’s the obvious example, but background checks are a “mechanism” for the search process.  That’s all I got…


    15. Kerrie on Wed, July 20, 2005

      Wow - there is definatly some negitative thoughts abouthiring from outside of your church body. IT is difficult at times to find the right fit inside your current church, and being a genXer myself - i like trying to find the right place that fits my ministry ideals. And i agree - i interviewed witha church for over 6 months and was just tired of the process. But in the long run, i found an amazing ministry with a pastor and team i fit real wellw ith. And it was because we took time getting to know each other and becoming friends. The Sr pastor and I are good friends now, adn both sold out on trying to raise up other leaders in the church to lead ministry. So i think you have to have balance.

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