The importance of staffing a church isn’t taught in seminary. It should be, but it isn’t, and that’s a crime. Because once a church crosses 100 in worship, finding the right staff becomes one of the most important steps a pastor can take. I’m convinced that not knowing how to find and hire the right staff is one of the reasons few churches grow beyond 125 in worship. A lone pastor can easily grow a church to over 100, but taking it beyond 200 requires more staff.

But leading a growing church is not just about hiring the right staff. The key to sustained growth is for the staff’s skill set to mature faster than the growth of the church. If the staff stops growing, the church stops growing. So being able to effectively mentor a staff is vital to the health of the church.

So what does it mean for a staff to mature? The simple answer is that over time each staff person moves from delegation to empowerment.

Delegation is telling a staff person what and how they must do something. Empowerment is allowing a staff person to do what they think needs to be done and how to accomplish it. Delegation takes some level of supervision, whereas empowerment takes little to no supervision because an empowered staff person can be trusted to always deliver the goods without supervision. Empowered staff has permission to take action on their own, without getting approval.

Over the years I’ve consulted with around seven hundred different churches. So I’ve seen a lot of staff and I’ve noticed a pattern. To illustrate this pattern, let’s say a church has ten full time program staff, not including the pastor. Invariably, two of the staff will be doing their job with not much supervision. They get their work done mostly through the volunteers they are coaching. Invariably, there will be two staff that aren’t doing their job and never will no matter how much help is given them. These two staff will tell me it’s impossible to find volunteers in the church. The other six staff will be all over the map. Some are worth investing in, some aren’t. Odds are, three to four of the six will never mature enough to reach empowerment. They will always require close supervision and if allowed to remain on staff they will diminish the effectiveness of the two empowered staff.

It’s easy to know what to do with the two who will never get it – let them go as soon as you can. It’s also easy to know what to do with the two who are functioning without supervision and have all the volunteers they need – give them a raise and ask them to mentor the six you’re not sure of.

Once you’ve removed the two ineffective staff and given a raise to the two empowered staff, you must focus on the six who require delegation and quickly decide who can and can’t make the grade. And then take the appropriate action.

My experience has been that once the six are identified, six months is all it takes to decide if they can move from delegation to empowerment. If they can’t make progress during that time, they never will. They should be given every possible training and mentoring the church can afford. But if after six months they haven’t shown considerable movement away from supervision, let them go. You’re better to go with ineffective staff for a short while than you are to keep them and allow them to drag down the effectiveness of the empowered staff.

Of course for staff to be empowered, there must be a clear vision, measurable goals, and a pastor who gives out clear expectations. Without clarity of vision, measureable goals, and clear expectations for each staff person, empowerment leads to chaos and ruin.

For example the pastor might say something like, “I want you to grow the youth department.” But that’s not measurable and there is no way for the youth pastor to know what the real expectation is. But if the expectation is, “The youth department must grow by 50% over the next two years through youth worship and small groups,” the youth pastor knows exactly what is expected as well as whether the expectation is being met.

If you have a staff person who is failing, I suggest you ask the person where you’ve failed them. You hired them and you should have been mentoring them, so take responsibility for part of their failure and offer your help with any resources you can afford. If after the six months they haven’t improved, then let them go.

Question: How have you seen staff empowerment done well? How have you seen it done poorly? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.