Our elders have recently been discussing a proposal for staffing our church. As I considered how best to move the discussion forward, I was intrigued to read Effective Staffing for Vital Churches: The essential guide to finding & keeping the right people, by Bill Easum and Bill Tenny-Brittian.
The title is a bit of a misnomer as the emphasis of the book is more on defining a church’s purpose. Staffing comes into play once you identify the purpose and then staff accordingly to accomplish the goal. Since the authors’ focus is on growth, they place a heavy emphasis on outreach. In light of many churches plateauing and/or shrinking, I think the emphasis is needed.
Below are several principles and quotes I found thought-provoking and helpful.
Refocusing a church requires a paradigm shift in the mindset of the leaders.
In order to make disciples, most church leaders have to make a radical paradigm shift, essentially from believing their primary job is to provide in-house programs or ministries to understanding that their primary job is to apprentice and equip leaders to live out the Christian life among their everyday neighbors and networks.
I have long maintained that as a pastor, I have three primary responsibilities—preach and teach, cast vision, and train and equip. There are many other duties and responsibilities, but I must keep these three priorities at the top. Each time I teach our membership class, I explain that the church did not hire me to do all the work. My task is to equip and train them to do the work (Ephesians 4:11-16). We want to be a church where “the members are the ministers, and the pastors/elders are the equippers.”
Another required paradigm shift is to go from being inward focused to outward focused.
Fact: most churches fail to break the two hundred barrier because they cannot embrace the reality that the church doesn’t exist for their sake, but for the sake of those who are not there yet. Until the pastor, the church leaders, and the congregation as a whole refocus their attention from themselves to those beyond their walls, they will not be able to see significant and sustainable growth.
Rather than waiting until we can afford to add staff, a church needs to add staff to prepare for future growth.
One of the axioms to growing a church is that creating space for growth always precedes significant growth. In other words, you have to be ready for growth before it will happen. … You’ll need to invest in your first hire before you can comfortably afford it.
In one sense, the order of staffing is a bit counter-intuitive. We think we should staff to take care of those who are already present. Parents tell us the church should add a youth pastor first. The authors argue that a church should start with a worship leader and then a children’s director/pastor (in that order).
The fact is, parents bring youth to church, not the other way around. So if you want to grow your church, the first hire you must make is one that will both attract and retain your mission target (your “audience”). We always recommend that a church’s first hire be a worship pastor/leader.
There are only two ministries that virtually guarantee church growth for the smaller church: indigenously targeted, quality worship that reaches younger adults and excellent children’s ministry. The axiom “Momma decides where the family will go to church and the kids decide if they go back” is as true today as it was in the 50’s when the phrase was coined. Get the family in with great worship. Keep them coming back with great children’s programming.
The authors explain that effective staffing requires a shift in mindset from taking care of people to equipping them for service, from inward focused to outward focused.
Two huge paradigms separate effective staff from ineffective staff. The actions of ineffective staff are determined by a paradigm that tells them, “Our role is to take care of people and to do ministry.” The actions of effective staff are determined by a paradigm that tells them, “Our role is to transform people.” The staff’s effectiveness depends on which paradigm fills their hearts.
The paradox of these two paradigms is that you can take care of people without transforming them—but you can’t transform people without first caring for them.
While I did not agree with everything the authors said, I found myself challenged and thinking how to implement the ideas in my situation. I found it especially thought-provoking since our elders have recently been talking about the issue of staffing.