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Over the past few weeks, I’ve focused on staffing in the local church.  This series will focus primarily on assessing candidates who emerge for potential roles on your team.  There are four primary areas of assessment that are crucial in assessing someone for a position on our staff:

  1. Calling
  2. Character
  3. Capacity/Competency
  4. Culture/Compatibility

This series will provide understanding and tools associated with how we assess these individual areas.

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Assessing Character

A crucial step in assessing the calling of a candidate is investigating their character. Pastoral ministry requires godly character, and too many churches compromise when it comes to this issue.  While a candidate can be wildly impressive in their skills, if they lack Godly character, they cannot be qualified for ministry.

Character and The Bible

As we consider hiring in ministry, we must first take our cues from the Scripture, which outlines two particular offices: elders and deacons.

If we are hiring for a pastoral position, we take our cues from 1 Timothy 3:1-7:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

For a non-pastoral position, we use 1 Timothy 3:8-13 as our guide:

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Now we realize that not every individual will fulfill these qualifications perfectly, but we desire to see a consistent pursuit of the qualities mentioned above from anyone we hire to be a part of our team.  We utilize a character assessment that asks directed questions consistent with these qualifications of every candidate. This character assessment is the first step in any serious consideration of a candidate.

Practical Considerations

With respect to character, we have found that there are a few key areas that we press into for inspection:

  • A clear and articulate knowledge of the gospel, and evidence that the gospel is still a truth that moves the individual.  The best question to ask is “when was the last time you wept in gratitude for what Jesus has done?”
  • An honest and gospel-centric view of sin in the individual’s life; a maturity in identification, confession and repentance of sin rather than a religious approach of minimizing or rationalizing sin.
  • A candid look at the marriage and family of the individual, focusing on questions about conflict and resolution, as well as healthy patterns of intentional pastoring and discipling of the spouse and children. For a husband, a focus on their leadership at home. For his wife, a look at her attitude of submission, a pattern of supporting his calling both inside and outside the home, and unity about the potential job opportunity. When we bring someone into the family by hiring them, we also bring their spouse into the family.
  • Honest assessments from previous employers regarding financial responsibility and interpersonal conflict.

These are simply snapshots of things we’ve found useful in assessment, and there is far more that could be used to assess character.

What have you found to be helpful in searching out the character of a candidate?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve focused on staffing in the local church.  This series will focus primarily on assessing candidates who emerge for potential roles on your team.  There are four primary areas of assessment that are crucial in assessing someone for a position on our staff:

  1. Calling
  2. Character
  3. Capacity/Competency
  4. Culture/Compatibility

This series will provide understanding and tools associated with how we assess these individual areas.

—–

Assessing Calling

Calling is a difficult thing to nail down, but it is the most fundamental question to answer when it comes to staffing.  I’ve written previously on some ideas related to calling here, but historically calling is broken down into three areas:

  • Internal Desire
  • External Conformation
  • Providential Opportunity
Tim Keller’s article at The Resurgence is a very helpful resource on the topic.

Two Questions

When it comes to staffing and calling, I think there are two crucial questions that we are attempting to answer:

  1. Is the candidate convinced of their calling to participate in the mission of God with your community?
  2. Is your community convinced of the calling of this individual to join your team?

Prayer is absolutely vital to answering those questions well, both for the candidate and the team doing the hiring.  The candidate must commit to prayerfully seeking the Lord to discern a calling, and the team must prayerfully go to the Lord to see if this is God’s provision for them.

In addition to prayer, I have found there are some helpful questions to ask when it comes to discernment on both sides.

The Candidate and Calling

For the individual to assess their calling, I have found these questions to be immensely helpful:

  • Would you worship with us and participate in our mission if you didn’t receive a paycheck?
  • Do you enjoy and trust the community and leadership that is already present?
  • Do you think the opportunity matches the gifts and skills that God has graciously given to you?
  • Can you support your family?
  • What will you do (or how will you engage through our church) if you don’t get this job?
Part of hiring well is ensuring the candidate has the opportunity to answer those questions with sufficient clarity.  I view the process of interviewing as an opportunity to provide an individual the  means to discern their calling, and consider it a joy to do so.  This helps me to adopt the posture of servanthood rather than critique in any dialogue I am having with a potential candidate, and allows them to thoughtfully and prayerfully.

The Current Team and Calling

If you are in the position of assessing and hiring candidates, the most important question you must answer is “do I believe God is calling this person to join our team?”.  Without being convinced of this, you will only be bought into the individual on a performance basis, rather than sticking through difficulties that are required to actually develop the person.

All of the assessments you do in character, competency and culture are aimed at helping you answer this question, but primarily this is the question you must answer with certainty.  If you’re going to ask someone to leave their previous calling behind, you had better be sure that God is moving and calling that person to be a part of your team!

Discerning Calling is Difficult

I would be remiss not to say that the only surefire guarantee of calling is found in the explicit words of God contained in Scripture.  In the Word we find God’s clear calling to make disciples for His glory, to love and serve Christ’s bride, and to worship God with all of our lives.  When it comes to hiring, I have found it is crucial to recognize that those must be the main priority of anyone’s life, and the questions of when, where and how those are pursued are always secondary.

Finally, the process of discerning calling requires a good deal of trust in God’s providence.  No assessment you can do, no interview you conduct, no research of experience will ever fully answer all the questions you have.  When I move forward with a candidate, I am trusting in God’s providence that through His word, the Christian community, and the perceived needs of the mission, I have a sufficient confirmation of His calling.

How do you think the idea of “calling” plays into staffing?

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?

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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The Basic Process of Hiring

After briefly looking at some core philosophical convictions, the natural question in hiring goes toward processes.  Here is a brief outline of the process of candidacy, interviewing, assessment and hiring:

  1. Thinking you might need to hire someone
  2. Understand the position you are trying to fill
  3. Identifying and recruiting potential candidates
  4. Assessing candidates through calling, culture, capacity/competency, and character
  5. Finalizing details for employment
  6. Getting off to a good start

We have found that in most circumstances of hiring, these are the stages you will go through, and the following posts will fill out in detail how we approach the different stages.

Do We Need to Hire?

The hiring process begins long before engaging with candidates. It begins when a leader first considers the possibility of hiring for a specific role in our staff. What roles to hire and when to hire them flow out of several key principles of our hiring strategy.

We are purposefully a lean organization. This is for four reasons

  1. Being lean is good stewardship of our financial resources
  2. Being lean allows us to have a culture of generosity and blessing for the employees we do have on staff
  3. Being lean helps us stay aligned with the biblical role of church leadership in Ephesians 4
  4. Being lean requires us to be good leaders and leader developers

This means that we want to be slow to hire, considering carefully the need and impact of bringing a particular role and particular individual on as a full-time church employee.

The philosophical convictions we have must be carefully weighed with respect to making a request or decision to hire. Our strategic leaders/elders need to be on board with any hire, not just for practical reasons, but also for philosophical ones. This team’s agreement is a key test of the decision to hire a role being in alignment with these philosophies.

When we do agree that a hire is going to be made, the next step is to understand the role.  I will cover that in the next post.

What have been key trigger points in understanding when to hire for you?

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.

—–

Making Disciples is the Job

In obedience to the command of Jesus to make disciples (Matthew 28), our staff is a discipleship structure before it is an organizational structure. Just as we hire staff with the aim to develop them, we expect that the aim of each staff person is to develop others.  To put it simply, a staff role is for the purpose of making disciples.

We don’t hire people primarily to do the tasks of ministry and therefore increase our staff to accomplish tasks. Instead, we hire people “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12).  We hire to increase our disciple-making capacity.

This means that we don’t use people to complete tasks, but we use tasks as a context for making disciples of people to make more disciples. We will not hire a position that we believe is an opportunity for a volunteer or intern to learn and grow, in order that they may be trained and deployed in Great Commission ministry.

Secondly, when we do have a person join our team, we are unequivocally expecting that person to make and multiply disciples and leaders.  Regardless of the particular role in ministry or department, the base expectation is that of replacing yourself over time by training new leaders.

Principles such as these drive our practices of staffing. Now, to help illustrate how some of these principles are applied, here is a sample of a few practical implications that we think through any time we first consider hiring a position.

Strategic alignment and the opportunity cost of hiring.
Is this the role that is most necessary and strategically aligned with where our church is headed in the near future? Does our church need this leadership role to be filled full-time more than any other role we could possibly hire right now?  If it isn’t, then we must work hard to grow a volunteer leader into that role.

Am I taking a development opportunity off the table?
Is this role a good candidate for the development of volunteers, interns, or residents? Our volunteers grow when they have real opportunities to grow in the context of real ministry. Additionally, there isn’t an office of “staff” in the bible…only elders and deacons, alongside covenant members of a church.  We don’t want to hire a role when God may have already provided for it through existing leaders in the church.  One of the key distinguishing factors of The Austin Stone is releasing emerging leaders to own significant areas of ministry.

Leadership development, not more task capacity.
Will this role significantly remove a bottleneck to developing more leaders for the care and mobilization of our body? We don’t hire people to make your job easier, or to help you get more of your tasks done. When you run out of time to make leaders in your ministry area, we’ll talk about hiring someone to help you make more leaders.

We want this individual to be in our family for the next 15 years.
When we hire someone, we must believe 1) we cannot do without them – the culture of our team and the effectiveness of our ministry as a team will be significantly hindered by not hiring this particular person, and 2) that this is a person whose life and whose discipleship that I, as a leader, am excited about investing deeply in.  If the church is a family, then I must be committed to that family for the long haul.

Even individual contributors are expected to lead.
A very few roles on our staff have specialized skill requirements that necessitate individual contribution. But even from these positions, we desire to develop other volunteers, interns, residents, or professionals of similar skills by leading them in their service to the church or ministry to the world as a context for community, growth and development.

When you consider staffing and disciple-making, what would you add to this list?