Put simply, hiring is RI$KY business. If you’ve ever made a bad hire, I don’t have to explain this to you. Saying yes to the wrong candidate is costly. In an article by David Fletcher on XPastor.com, he writes, “One ‘wrong fit’ on your staff can cost a bundle. My estimate is that a hiring mistake will cost between $288,000 and $455,000 [based on a $50K salary].” You can watch him do the math on hiring mistakes right here. The Harvard Business Review states that as much as 80 percent of employee turnover is the direct result of hiring mistakes.
I think you get the point—hiring the right candidate is critical.
That’s why we put together seven pro tips for hiring that churches often miss. We don’t want you to drop $300K (or more) of Kingdom funds on hiring mistakes when it should go toward Gospel-centered initiatives.
If you take these recruiting tips and apply them—and avoid the hiring mistakes—I firmly believe you will save thousands of dollars in the long run. Of course, the reverse is also true. If you ignore these pro tips for hiring, you could end up paying out a lot more than you ever imagined. But please don’t.
7 Church Hiring Mistakes That Could Cost You Thousands
1. Hiring without an in-depth background check with their previous ministry
It’s so easy to gloss over this action step and just check a box, but trust me, it doesn’t matter if someone on your team can vouch for them—or if their resume blows you away—if they have issues in their past ministry experience, it’s likely they’ll have issues with you. Make sure and have a real, honest talk with their previous employer(s).
Ask the tough and uncomfortable questions. And, if you feel like you’re just getting pat answers—request another reference. (If you’d like to find out more about the search process—or maybe you’re looking for a candidate—I highly recommend checking out ChurchJobFinder.com.)
2. Hiring without conversations on critical theological issues
You need to find out where the biggest theological/philosophical differences are and whether you can live with them—or they may be potential hot-button issues down the road. It’s amazing how many churches and search committees give candidates an easy pass on theological differences during the interview process. Don’t be one of them. Do your homework and involve theological experts during the interview process.
In his extensive study of interracial churches, George Yancy concludes that “theological differences on a congregational staff are much more deadly to the cohesiveness of that staff than racial differences” (Yancy, One Body, One Spirit, p. 96).
3. Hiring without asking the nitty-gritty personal questions
You’ve heard the stats, right? According to a Barna study most pastors (57 percent) and youth pastors (64 percent) admit they’ve struggled with porn, either currently or in the past. The vast majority of pastors who struggle with porn say this has significantly affected their ministries in a negative way.
You need to make sure to ask the tough life-questions: When was the last time you viewed pornography? Have you ever been addicted to pornography or any other substance—alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs? How did you break the cycle and where are you with that struggle today?
This isn’t meant to try to weed them out but to understand their struggles and to know, up front, both their scars and their views on holiness—and grace.
4. Hiring without clearly understanding leadership style and strengths.
First, you need to know what kind of leader you think will fit the culture of your ministry best. This doesn’t mean you need to filter out every candidate who doesn’t fit the description—but it does give you a starting point.
It’s wise to ask every candidate to fill out an evaluation like Strengths Finder 2.0 or Gallup’s Strength Center to find out where each candidate lands on the leadership scale and their unique combination of strengths.
There are so many different leadership styles and you want to know what will fit best with your culture—and communicate it clearly. So many churches hire based on charisma and past experience and totally forget that every leader has a unique wiring that will either endear them to your culture or prove to be a tension point.
5. Hiring with too much emphasis on the resume
A resume is a great starting point, but some churches put too much stock in past ministry experience or descriptions of ministry success. In this way, the resume can often cloud the judgment of search committees.
The resume is meant to be a launching point to identify potential candidates, but it’s not a good end-all for evaluating a potential fit. The resume just gets the ball rolling, but it doesn’t make up for live interaction, real teaching/preaching, and ministry interaction live and in person.
These are all critical aspects and should weigh just as much—if not more—than the paper resume when it comes to hiring.
Don’t get caught resume gazing. Count the real stuff. Anyone can write a beautiful work history, but that doesn’t mean they can recreate it with you.
6. Hiring with urgency and not prayer
Don’t make the mistake of doing all the legwork, but leaving out the most important aspect of any ministry decision: prayer.
Remember, before the Jesus chose his disciples, he went out to a mountainside to pray and spent the night with God.
Paul also wrote this: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6 NIV).
Take time to pray and fast, personally, and call on a larger group of leaders to do the same. This is perhaps the most important aspect of any hiring process within the church, but it’s amazing how often it’s overlooked.
Pray hard. Pray often. And involve others in specific prayer during the hiring process.
7. Hiring charisma over character
This one probably hurts more churches than all other hiring mistakes. It’s easy for us to be enamored by the bold and contagious traits of a charismatic leader and, in doing so, give a blind eye to serious red flags in character.
Pastor Rick Warren says, “Plenty of highly charismatic leaders have bombed out and failed because they lacked character, which trumps charisma every time.” Remember this as you go through the hiring process. Charisma isn’t bad, but if it’s not accompanied by solid character it’s a recipe for future ministry disaster.
Because it’s true: Character trumps charisma every time. Hiring matters. Hiring mistakes hurt.
Summing it all up, when it comes to hiring mistakes, don’t take shortcuts, don’t ignore red flags or fail to do the heavy lifting of prayer and evaluation. In the end, you might have to say no to multiple candidates, but with every no you’re literally stewarding your church’s financing (and future) with great wisdom.