austin stone church leadership

The Basic Process of Hiring

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?

austin stone church leadership

Making Disciples is The Job

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?

austin stone church leadership

Building a Staff Team

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.


Philosophical Considerations for Building a Staff Team

At The Austin Stone, when we are considering hiring staff, there are some key philosophical convictions that drive our methodology.  We are a church that is committed to making disciples of Jesus, being grounded in the word of God, and living with integrity out of our identity in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Because of these convictions, when it comes to a leading a church staff, I am compelled to primarily approach leadership through the lens of discipleship.

My first responsibility is to ensure that I am fostering the life of a staff member as a disciple – growing them in doctrine, character and skill over time.  Secondly, I am responsible for shaping a team culture that reflects our identities as Disciples, Family and Missionaries together. Finally, I am responsible to ensure the work we do is excellent and in line with God’s desire for our church to make and multiply disciples.

The Austin Stone is a church fiercely committed to the development of people, especially our staff.  We want to see people grow in their abilities over time and be afforded continued opportunities and challenged to grow.  Our conviction is that we use ministry to get people done, not people to get ministry done.

In combining these theological and practical considerations, I have come up with three foundational considerations for developing a healthy staff committed to the mission of God together.

People over Positions

First, when it comes to hiring staff, we must remember we are hiring a person, not a particular job function. While a particular need may exist within the team you are building, that need will be filled by a person who is created in the image of God, sinful and rebellious, but also redeemed by Christ, indwelled with the Holy Spirit, and called to the Great Commission.

For us, a job opening simply is an opportunity that God has providentially presented to add another person to our spiritual family.  Therefore, the key question we are asking around this particular is “is God calling this particular individual to join our team?”  We cannot dissociate the particular functions and role from the fact that a person will be filling that role!

The fundamental questions we are asking are therefore not necessarily tied to a job description, but very much centered on the called, qualified and gifted person.  Job descriptions are helpful, but getting the right person is the priority.

Culture over Competency

For us, the relationships we have are of much greater value than simply the performance of an individual.  Quite honestly, if someone doesn’t want to be a brother or sister in Christ first, and a co-worker second, then they will not fit with our team.

Additionally, if someone has a distinctly different way of seeing the world and philosophy of ministry, it is a recipe for difficulty.  We therefore look for individuals who will fit our culture well, and possibly bring new elements of culture that we lack.

That doesn’t mean that we simply overlook the competency of a person (quite the contrary!), but cultural fit is incredibly important.  We may have highly qualified and capable candidates, but if they don’t fit in the culture of our team, then we would have a difficult time confirming their calling to our church.

Development over Execution

If we have a distinct culture of discipleship and development, then our staff philosophy must reflect that culture as well.  We do not believe that someone has “arrived” by entering vocational ministry, but like everyone, still needs to be developed in their doctrine, character and skill. When considering a potential job opportunity, we have a desire to utilize it to develop an emerging leader more fully.

Therefore, we are looking for individuals not simply with proven competency in a role, but also potential capacity for future excellence, as well as a willingness to learn and grow.  This particular commitment helps us to continue looking to internal candidates for positions, instead of immediately looking to outside, experienced candidates for opportunities.

As you have been building teams, and potentially hiring staff, what defines the culture you are trying to create?

church leadership missional community

Groups Matter Initiative

Groupsmatter logo white

Regardless of how you think groups ought to be practiced in the local church, almost everyone would agree that groups matter.  In the context of smaller communities, people are known, loved, taught, challenged and led towards obedience to Jesus.  I am passionately convinced of the missional community strategy, but love groups in all shapes and sizes.

My friend Rick Howerton at Lifeway Christian Resources has a distinctive passion for groups as well.  His vision is:

A biblical small group within walking distance of every person on the planet making disciples that make disciples.

That’s a vision I can get behind!

As a leader in the local church, I also need accountability and goals that will stretch me, which is why I have pledged that our church will launch 100 new groups in this coming year.  Additionally, launching new groups is the single most effective way to connect people into the church community, and this will keep me and my team focused on the task of serving and loving our church well.

As you’re considering the coming year, I’d encourage you to check out Groups Matter, and consider how this effort can keep you accountable to the vision to see new disciples of Jesus made in your city and your neighborhood.

discipleship leadership

The Triperspectival Content of Biblical Leadership

Recently, I had a seminary assignment to write out a personal philosophy of leadership.  The process of clarifying and writing my thoughts was very helpful for me, and I thought I would share it as a series here on the blog.


The Tri-Perspectival Content of Biblical Leadership

Once a leader has listened to where an individual is, the next step is communicating where Jesus wants the person to go in a gracious yet challenging way.  Leadership is helping to provide doctrinal and biblical content, processing through the appetites and affections of the heart, and then tangibly giving steps of obedience forward to an individual or organization.  The primary role of a leader is that of a teacher, of a shepherd, and of a coach – leaders instruct in doctrine, help form character, and give practical wisdom to foster action.

Equipping the Whole Person

Primarily, the task of the biblical leader who has an understanding of the individual is to equip the whole person—their head, heart and hands.  The biblical leaders adopts the role of teacher in communicating the truths of God’s word, of shepherd in helping a person understand the affections and emotions of the heart, and coach in providing practical steps toward obedience to Jesus.  Biblical leadership does not simply content itself with singular attention toward one particular role, but seeks to be faithful to lead through all the faculties of a human.

Ephesians 4, verses 14 through 20 offer a compelling vision of Paul’s desire for the Ephesian church being rooted in the Trinitarian God.  The words he uses to exhort the church involve “being strengthened in Spirit in the inner man”, Christ “dwell[ing] in your hearts through faith”, “strength to comprehend…and know the love of Christ” and that would ultimately produce God’s greater glory.  Paul has a great understanding that humanity is composed of several faculties, and biblical leadership involves leading in all facets.  These faculties are often summarized tri-perspectivally as “head, heart and hands”.

Instructing the Head

“Head” knowledge is rooted primarily in the intellect. This is the type of knowledge that is associated with recalling facts, doctrine, and teaching. Head learners typically have a love for Scripture or knowledge and are able to affirm truths based on propositions or argumentation.  Doctrine rooted in the Word of God is the primary content of biblical leadership, as it is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

Shepherding the Heart

“Heart” knowledge is rooted primarily in the desire, will, or emotions. This is the type of knowledge that is often associated with shepherding, character, or relational care. Heart learners are often guided by feelings and are typically wonderful at shepherding the souls of those who are under their care. Things like worship environments make them feel closer to God and whenever they read the Scriptures, they typically are attracted to verses that speak of positive things, with more difficult truths being bypassed.  To simply teach something as true ignores that most decisions of a human are driven by desire, not simply by reason.  The biblical leader helps a person to understand what drives their affections, both positively and negatively, and thereby cultivates strong character rooted in sound doctrine.

Coaching the Hands

“Hands” knowledge is rooted primarily in action, or tasks. This is the type of knowledge that would most closely be related to coaching, skills, or assessment. It is the application of the knowledge from the head and the heart toward actually seeing change. Where Head and Heart learners simply feel or think about doing things, Hands learners actually execute them.  The role of a biblical leader is to not only teach the mind and shepherd the heart, but to equip and hold accountable to active obedience.


Biblical leadership recognizes that different situations demand different modes of leadership, and ultimately that obedience, affection and intellect are intricately interwoven.  Every leader has a bent towards one particular faculty, but the biblical leader values and understands all three faculties, employing them as Christ did throughout His earthly ministry.

Ultimately, discipleship and leadership is not simply meeting once a week over breakfast to have Bible study or calling the shots for an organization. Rather, discipleship and leadership is continually pointing the disciple to Christ in variety of contexts, situations, and locales with the hope of seeing them be turned more into the likeness of Christ over time. If your discipleship and leadership is not happening in a variety of contexts and various kinds of conversations, you’re not biblically leading.