Understanding the Position

March 13, 2014 — Leave a comment

As I’ve served in the role of Executive Pastor for the past two years, one of the key responsibilities I have is building a staff team.  With the help of Kevin Peck and Dave Barrett, I’ve developed a pretty thorough philosophy and process of staff hiring.  The following posts will develop these ideas:

This blog series will highlight some foundational ideas I’ve utilized in building the Campus and Missional Community team at The Austin Stone.

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Understanding the Position You’re Hiring

The following are some simple rules I have found to be useful when thinking about hiring a person into a role in ministry.

“Know Thyself”

Before you can hire anyone for a staff role, you must first understand what makes you tick as a leader.  I know I have a tendency to be calculated and cautious, and focus on long term investment.  Also, I know that I am fun-loving and driven, and you don’t know which one you’ll get on a given day.  Knowing myself and my team has helped me hire people who will work well with me, as well as challenge my thinking.

Know Your Church and Team Culture

Before hiring, it is important to have clarity on your convictions as a church (theological, philosophical and practical) in order to assess if an individual is a good match for your team.  These may be clearly written out, or implied, but it’s important to have a handle on what they are in order to communicate who you are to the candidate, and assess if the candidate is a good fit.

Also, if you staff consists of multiple teams, it’s critical to understand the nature of the team you are hiring for and what the unique pieces of that team’s culture are.  The more explicit you are about culture, the more likely you are to find a good fit.

Know the Position

After understanding culture, it’s also important to know the position itself.  In contrast to most organizations, however, I’ve found it is more important to highlight “areas of ownership” rather than responsibilities.  I would prefer to have someone who creatively solves a problem and takes initiative because they own an outcome, rather than simply hiring someone to execute a process.

Therefore, rather than using a traditional job description that focuses on the tasks someone should be accomplishing, we prefer to focus on what we desire to happen in result. In leadership, of course we do provide specifics on how we like certain things to be done, but we are far more flexible on the means than the ends. But we are a servant body, willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission God has placed before us. No one gets to say, “That’s not my job.”

You can see examples of these here:

Finally, we do not place an expected number of hours, as we are asking calling and ownership rather than simple execution.  Quite simply, we are looking for someone who will do what is required to accomplish the objective, not punch a time clock for a paycheck.

What have you found helpful to clarify as you are hiring people into a role?

Todd Engstrom

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Although I was raised in the church and had a knowledge of God, I didn’t embrace Jesus until I heard gospel preached and lived out by some Young Life leaders. God has proven faithful and good to me since that day, even in great suffering and loss. I have learned to treasure Romans 8:28 as a wellspring of hope and truth. God has blessed me with an amazing wife (Olivia), three sons (Micah, Hudson and Owen) and a daughter (Emmaline). Growing up in the northwest, the thought never crossed my mind that I would have four children who are native Texans. Despite landing in the south, I still watch Notre Dame games with my children every Saturday in hopes they will land at my alma mater.

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