10 Lessons about Hiring Church Pastors and Staff

As a pastor, I hired several staff members. As an interim pastor, I sometimes assisted in hiring others. As a consultant, I’ve walked alongside churches doing hiring. I’m always intrigued by what I learn, so here are some of those lessons:

  1. The potential staff member’s ministry history says a lot. That is, a track record of weak or ineffective ministry will tell you something about that leader. I would even want actual data to see if the potential leader’s ministry experienced numerical growth, though I wouldn’t limit my review to numbers.
  2. Some resumes won’t be entirely accurate. I don’t like admitting it, but verifying the information has become almost a necessity. Some applicants will offer misleading, inaccurate, or incomplete information.
  3. A messy resume is probably a sign of messy work. It’s not wise to think otherwise, even if you really like the candidate. The first impression you get from a resume is often accurate.
  4. References aren’t always that helpful. That’s because all of us include only positive references on our resume. Checking references is still imperative, but few people invite a search team to talk with others who are likely to give a negative view.
  5. The best potential staff members probably aren’t sending out their resumes. They’re happy where they’re serving, and they aren’t considering a move—though God may have other plans for them. Limiting our search to only submitted resumes is too narrowly focused.
  6. The recommendations of trusted friends can prove positive. While we may not always know the candidates well, knowing someone who does know them well is a plus. The more we can learn about candidates and their ministry, the better.
  7. The positives of hiring from within the church outweigh the negatives. I’ve tried to balance my assessment of this approach in this previous post, but my experience is that hiring people from within is often a solid approach. It certainly lessens the learning curve for both the candidate and the church.
  8. Unstated or assumed expectations can be a conflict waiting to happen. Clarity in expectations can help a candidate make a decision up front, and it can give direction and goals in the long run.
  9. Background checks are non-negotiable. Even when hiring from within, I would do background and credit checks. You never know what you might learn that will prove critical in the process.
  10. Partnering with a search firm is not ungodly. Asking experts to help guide your church through the process isn’t a problem; it’s when we lean only on that firm and don’t saturate the whole process in prayer that it becomes problematic.

What have you learned? What would you add to this list? 



  • Hey Chuck,
    I always enjoy reading your blog. It is the source of helpful and thought-provoking insights.
    With this one – from my experience, #7 & #10 give me pause. I do understand that hiring from within has it’s own set of pluses. However, the downside (as I have witnessed) can be disastrous. While I wouldn’t say ‘never’ hire from within, I would caution to walk carefully, do your due diligence, and have a clear understanding of expectations. The reason is this: If things go bad (and from time to time, they do) the minister from ‘within’ may well hold all the support over the ‘outsider’.
    With respect to ‘hiring firm’, I agree it is not ‘ungodly’, but it may be ‘unsmart’ (not a good word, but you get the idea). The Search Team from your congregation generally works from the humble attitude of not being experts at this endeavor, so they depend on the prayers of God’s people, keep this process in front of the people, and generally, remain open to all prospects and candidates – honestly seeking the Lord. The push back from me is this: the firms BELIEVE they ARE experts at hiring. My heart is that bringing on a new Ministry Staff person whether Senior Pastor or any other, should be a spiritual decision as opposed to finding the one who fits the corporate mold. I do know there are exceptions to this and many churches have been successful with their search by “Firm”. At the same time, some churches have used much money to contract a firm and the results have been less that favorable or spiritual.
    Thanks again for your writing, research, and influence.

  • David Frasure says:

    This goes with number eight. It might be good to communicate ahead of time the expectations if a staff member divorces or is convicted of a felony or is caught looking at porn, etc. you never think it will happen but it does.

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