Verge 2014

March 24, 2014 — Leave a comment

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This week we begin our yearly Verge Conference at The Austin Stone.  For me, it is a chance to process through the past year as we pursue Christ and His mission, and connect with others who are doing the same.

If you are joining us in Austin, I’d love to connect with you!  You can always contact me here.

If you aren’t able to come, I’d encourage you to live stream some of the conference:

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Lastly, in my talk for this year, I’m going to continue from one that I gave in 2012.  I’d encourage you to watch it so that my talk this year will have more context:

I pray this conference is a blessing to all who participate!

After understanding your core philosophical convictions, building a healthy staff team requires an interview and hiring process.  At The Austin Stone, we have a process of candidacy, interviewing, assessment and hiring:

  1. Do We Need To Hire?
  2. What Role Are You Trying To Fill?
  3. Identifying Candidates for Your Team
  4. Recruiting Candidates for Your Team
I pray these posts are helpful to those of you hiring people, and those of you hoping to be hired!

—–

Recruiting Candidates

The following are the places to look for candidates, ordered according to priority and likelihood of finding a match:

  1. Internal to the church
  2. Direct relationship to our team (Friends)
  3. One relationships removed from our team (Friends of friends)
  4. Unsolicited or unknown candidates

Briefly, I will highlight the opportunities and possible difficulties of candidates from each area.

Internal Candidates

In an ideal world, we would always have someone ready to be hired for a position who has been developed internally in our churches.  Internal candidates are a symptom of a healthy culture of leadership development and are most often the most consistent with the DNA of the church.

With respect to hiring internally, there are several observations that I have made.  First, there is both a pro and a con with an internal candidate in that you typically know both their strengths and weaknesses very well.  In a hiring process, I have found that most people tend to weight the weaknesses of an internal candidate more heavily, and look more favorably on an external candidate.  Most people are predisposed to look favorably and hopefully on the unknown, so ensure that you take this into account if you are comparing two candidates.

Pros on Hiring Internally

  • Candidates have a much higher of likelihood of having the culture you are looking for
  • Preexisting relationships and community can make for a seamless transition in community
  • Typically you know what to expect with the individual

Cons on Hiring Internally

  • Because of a relationship, you may have a tendency to overreach on a candidate without the requisite skills or capacity you want
  • Assumed knowledge of the culture can often lead to conflict

Direct Relationships

This kind of hire has been the best pipeline for high-capacity, strong culture fit individuals who can contribute to the team right away.

Pros on Hiring External Direct Relationships

  • The preexisting relationship sets a good tone for culture fit
  • Higher likelihood of high capacity individuals with experience
  • Outside experience can contribute helpful knowledge and culture to your team

Cons on Hiring External Direct Relationships

  • Depending on the dynamic of the relationship, it can be difficult to cultivate an employee/employer dynamic
  • A possibility of unmet expectations based on the candidates understanding of the organization

Friends of Friends

This pool of people is most often tapped for most organizations.  Candidates are recommended based on knowledge of your organization and the candidate from another person.

Pros on Hiring Friends of Friends

  • The preexisting relationship sets a good tone for culture fit
  • Higher likelihood of high capacity individuals
  • Outside experience can contribute helpful knowledge and culture to your team

Cons on Hiring Friends of Friends

  • Depending on the dynamic of the relationship, it can be difficult to cultivate an employee/employer dynamic
  • It can be tempting to not fully explore the area of culture fit, making assumptions in this area based on the word of the outside recommender.

Unknown Candidates

Unknown candidates are interesting, because they are completely unknown quantities.  For the optimist, and unknown candidate has all the potential in the world, but for a pessimist, almost no potential.  Regardless of which way you see the fullness of the glass, these kinds of candidates present some interesting opportunities and challenges.

Pros on Unknown Candidates

  • A distinct possibility of a high capacity candidate emerging
  • If the role is well defined, there is a higher likelihood for expectation match
  • Outside experience can contribute helpful knowledge and culture to your team

Cons on Unknown Candidates

  • Unknown candidates carry a great risk when it comes to culture fit
  • A possibility of a person becoming a “hired hand” rather than a shepherd of the church

What else would you add to this list?

After understanding your core philosophical convictions, building a healthy staff team requires an interview and hiring process.  At The Austin Stone, we have a process of candidacy, interviewing, assessment and hiring:

  1. Do We Need To Hire?
  2. What Role Are You Trying To Fill?
  3. Identifying Candidates for Your Team
  4. Recruiting Candidates for Your Team
I pray these posts are helpful to those of you hiring people, and those of you hoping to be hired!

—–

Identifying Candidates

After understanding yourself and the role, the next step in building a staff team is to begin looking for individuals who might fit into your culture. Before we get into the details of searching, first let me highlight a few convictions about identifying candidates.

Beginning with Prayer

If there is one thing that I have learned in hiring people, it is that God is absolutely sovereign and the best thing we can do is pray for Him to act.  If you believe that you are in a place of needing to hire, begin to beg God that He would confirm that clearly by providing the called, qualified and gifted individual to join your team in that role.

Our Heavenly Father knows exactly what we need, love to give His children good gifts, and delights when we ask Him.  Additionally, being committed to prayer throughout the process will keep your firmly resolved in patiently waiting upon the Lord, rather than simply filling a role out of necessity or obligation.  Some of the most difficult times in leadership have come from being obedient to wait upon the Lord, but the team He has assembled is far better than any of my meager human efforts.

Always Looking for Good People

Adopting a posture of waiting is crucial, but so too is proactively pursuing opportunities the Lord may be putting in front of you.  I never want to miss a moment the Lord might be working, so I try to be diligently alert to His provision in circumstances and relationships.  Practically, I do this in two ways.

First, if someone is searching for a job and wants to talk to me, I try my absolute hardest to never say no.  Quite simply, I want to trust in God’s providence that the circumstance of someone reaching out to me may just be God’s nudging to consider this person.  At the very worst, I’ve been given an opportunity to encourage a brother or sister in Christ and provide some clarity in their calling, even if they would not be a good fit.

Second, regardless of available roles, we are always identifying candidates that would make a good fit for our team internally and outside our church community.  When you are on the lookout for candidates before a position is open, you typically have a good running list of people before the search ever begins.

Relationships Matter

Because we place such a high priority on operating as a family together, we highly value a prior relationship with a candidate and place a strong preference on knowing an individual over time.  Although you may receive an impressive resume, we’ve found that relationships matter far more with respect to long term performance and health.

Some folks would disagree with me on this particular issue, saying that I am limiting my available options.  While I would not discount a cold-call, a random resume, or a person I don’t know that is serving somewhere else, I have to focus my search somewhere.  The relationships that God has given me and my team, while small relative to the “open market”, represent the best possible place to search for those individuals who might fit well.  Secondly, those people we know have a much higher likelihood of joining our team for the sake of calling and culture, rather than a simple progression in their career.

When it comes to identifying candidates for positions, what have you found to be helpful to consider?

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.

—–

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.

—–

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?