5 Hiring and Firing Tips Executive Pastors Should Know

The main focus for many executive pastors is managing their church staff. They’re in the thick of it every day. They ensure sure that everyone is motivated and working together to fulfill the church’s mission.

This can be a rewarding responsibility or a soul-crushing one. If you want to enjoy working with your staff, you need to have some key staffing principles in place.

Here are five tips for hiring and firing that will help ease any staffing woes.

1. Hire for your culture first

When any organization hires, they tend to look for appropriate or transferable skills. That makes complete sense. Depending on what you’re hiring for, a strong skill-set can be important.

It’s a no-brainer: You want skill-level to correspond with the position and its responsibilities.
That said, skills might not be the most important thing to consider. You might have the most talented individual on the planet. Still, if they’re not a cultural fit for your church, then hiring them could be hard for everyone.

This means that you should be interviewing people with questions like these in mind:

  • Is the work that we expect this person to do going to be meaningful to them?
  • Are this person’s values in harmony with ours?
  • Does this applicant have an outlook and demeanor that would fit well with others?
  • Will this person perform in ways that are consistent with our work ethic and flow?

You can train for most church positions, but cultural fits can be a make-or-break issue. If a person shares the church’s vision, he or she will be more committed than someone hired to fill a skill-set.

2. Have clearly defined expectations

The burden is always on executive pastors to know exactly what people should be doing in their various positions. This doesn’t mean that you should micromanage. It means all hires should have a clear understanding of what their goals and expectations are.

Clearly defining your goals for every position helps individuals create their own roadmap. When all parties know what’s expected, you can objectively appraise their performance. And it’s easier to part ways when a staff member can’t deliver on goals the both of you agreed on.

3. Have a clearly defined discipline plan

Once you have someone on staff, you have a responsibility to help them succeed. To that end, you need a well-defined plan for helping struggling staff members.

You want to be able to:

  • Bring staff members’ behavior or performance up to organizational standards
  • Encourage their success within the standards your church has established
  • Create documentation that shows your good-faith attempt to help the employee meet expectations and goals

It can be a simple three-step process:

  1. Counsel: The executive pastor brings the problem to the staff member’s attention. Hopefully, that’s all that’s needed to turn things around.
  2. Written warning: This formally states the executive pastor’s problems with the employee’s behavior, sets up coaching, and communicates the potential consequences if things do not change.
  3. Termination: If the staff member has been adequately coached and the agreed-upon time period has passed with no improvement, the church and employee part ways.

No matter what, it should never be a surprise when you let someone go.

4. Motivate people as individuals

One of the problems with big businesses is they try to motivate all of their employees with the same carrot. Let’s be real: Not everyone is thrilled about Hawaiian-shirt day.

Churches typically have cultures that allow you to personalize your encouragement and motivation. This is why it’s important for executive pastors to know their staff. The better they know the people they work with, the easier it is to find an individual’s motivations.

Some people work hard when they feel encouraged, and others enjoy small rewards. Executive pastors that understand how their staff members think have an advantage in the management department.

5. Invest in legal HR advice

You’d be surprised by how many churches play fast and loose with state and federal employment requirements. It’s good every few years to bring in a human-resource consultant to ensure you’re using the best practices for:

  • Employment law
    • Wage and hour laws
    • Proper employment
  • Government-mandated benefits
  • Clergy benefits
  • Interviewing prospective employees
  • Risk and safety

You want someone to come in and uncover opportunities for improvements, suggest management practices, and help you get new systems into place. HR consultants can also help you develop action plans to improve morale, increase retention and workplace satisfaction, and get you squared away with processes to support your efforts at successful staff management.

Dear Executive Pastors, Make Sure You Have a Staffing Strategy

One of the most important things any church can do is develop a staffing plan. Knowing what positions you’re hiring for next (and why) is fundamental for strategic church growth. Your staffing plan can mean the difference between hiring people to fill a vacancy and actually hiring people to stimulate church growth.

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