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Hiring and Firing Staff: You Need This Field Guide

Few pastors started out in ministry thinking they’d have to become semi-experts in Human Resources, but every pastor has to learn about hiring and firing and staff leadership at some point in their journey.

I’ve been in vocational ministry for 23 years and I’m still not an expert in HR, but I’ve had some great advice given to me over the years and I thought I’d share some of it with you today.

Make your hellos long.

A friend of mine once reminded me that pastors are often guilty of hiring people too quickly and letting people leave too slowly.

When hiring, take your time.

Add a few more steps and maybe even a few weeks to make sure the candidate is absolutely right for you. Yes, it’s costly to be without a much needed staff person, but it’s much more costly to hire the wrong person.

The method we use at our church is not perfect, but it is effective.

  • Step 1: Phone interview
  • Step 2: Face-to-face interview with supervisor
  • Step 3: Testing—CDAT (attitude), Jung Type (personality), Triple-Threat Leadership (leadership style), Spiritual Gifts
  • Step 4: Interview with elders
  • Step 5: Interview with key volunteers over dinner
  • Step 6: Dinner with supervisor, candidate and their spouses (if married)
  • Step 7: Job offer

Make your goodbyes short.

This statement applies to all staff exits whether voluntary or not. If a staff person expresses interest in leaving, but drags their feet, they will eventually become less and less committed to doing a great job.

This is not an intentional or evil choice by the staff person, it’s just human nature.

I heard Rick Warren once say, “Whatever has your attention has you.” If a staff person is enamored with another church or other ministry opportunities, they will eventually pay more attention to those dreams than their everyday duties. I know this to be true because I’ve been in this place myself.

If you have a staff person who wants to leave, let them. Help them leave well. Recognize their contributions to your church and send them off with love, but do it quickly.

Better to free that person up and allow your church to move on than to drag out the inevitable.