An open church position poses an opportunity for your ministry to move forward or go backward. Despite relentless interviews and prayer, you never really know which way it will go until the new person is in the role, off and running (or crawling, as the case may be).
How can you know if you are about to choose the right person?
For the past few months I’ve been leading a team looking for our church’s next Director of Children’s Ministry (if you know of anyone who would be good for us, let me know, or email them this link!). In the past, I’ve hired administrative assistants and a part-time ministry director – all who turned out great. But I’ve never led a nationwide search for a full-time ministry staff team member.
Needless to say, I’ve approached this process with a bit of fear and trepidation.
Here are some principles that I keep coming back to during this process. I’m trying to ride the balance of being sensitive to the Spirit’s leading without letting an over-spiritualized mindset trump common sense.
1. Eschew standards that are according to the flesh (2 Cor. 5:16). Did they go to a great seminary? Do they have the right credentials? Are they well-dressed or good looking? None of these characteristics mean they aren’t the right person – the one you hire might have them all – but they don’t mean they are the right person either. It is easy to let things like these to cloud your judgment. Are they driven by the gospel? Do they exude love for God and neighbor? Are they spiritually gifted for this role? Are they humble, yet tenacious for God’s kingdom? These are the kinds of things to keep your eye out for.
2. “Like an archer who wounds everyone is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard” (Proverbs 26:10). There will be collateral damage if you hire the wrong person, and that damage will be done to people. Obviously the proverb itself points to a horrible candidate, but the principle applies to the less than ideal candidate, too. Don’t assume that you can isolate a talented, but volatile, applicant from the rest of the ministry team, and just let them do their thing. Aim for someone who does their ministry well and blesses those they come into contact with.
3. Wisdom accompanies an abundance of counselors (Prov. 11:14; 12:15; 24:6). Don’t assemble a search team to reinforce preconceived opinions or soapboxes. Bring on folks who have different perspectives. They need to share values and vision and theology, but they also need to cover the blind spots of others, and not be afraid to speak up when they disagree. Whoever is leading the team should listen to everyone’s feedback on an applicant, and then share their thoughts last.
4. First who, then what. I got this from Jim Collins in Good to Great. He argues, with data, that great organizations get the “right people on the bus” (hire them), and then figure out where they should “sit on the bus” (what their job should be). This isn’t exactly easy when you are hiring for a “what” like a leading a specific ministry. But still, try to envision how this person fits on your team before, although not at the expense of, finding out if they have the skills for the role.
5. Personality is important. Some may argue that when it comes to employing people, personality shouldn’t matter; whether or not they can do the job is all that is important. Isn’t it funny how sometimes personality is supposedly the most important thing, like in dating, but other times it’s the least important thing, like in hiring? The fact is, the person’s personality is very important. You hire a whole person, not just their skills, so make sure they are a good personality fit for your ministry staff and your church.
6. Hire for multiplication, not delegation. Delegation relies on a delegator, which doesn’t exactly lighten the load of the supervisor. Look for someone who can take the proverbial ball and run with it. A great hire is someone who works independently of their supervisor, but not independently of the church’s mission.
7. When in doubt, don’t hire. Thom Rainer mentioned in a recent podcast that churches tend to hire too fast and fire too slow, and I’ve felt the temptation to hire too fast. There have been a couple applicants whom our search team could have justified bringing to the next step, but we chose not to. We want to be really excited about the person we present to our church leadership and children’s ministry teachers.
8. Pray, pray, pray. Pray for wisdom, pray for patience, pray for God to be glorified, pray for the person who will eventually fill your role, pray for your church to embrace the new person when they come. And then rest in God’s sovereignty.