In a program based church the following model works very well in hiring staff.

Before advertising for the position, develop a clear Mission Statement setting out all of the expectations and objectives on which the person will be evaluated.  This way the person knew what was expected before joining the staff.

Next, advertise nationally through your  denominational paper and other avenues. The pastor or person in charge of hiring should screen the candidates. Talk  with up to ten of the candidates by phone and then select one or two to be interviewed in person.

Began the interview process at 8:00 a.m. and let the pastor spend an hour and a half with the person. Then, each thirty minutes thereafter, each staff person interviews the person.

At the end of the day, tabulate the results of all the interviews and take the information   the personnel committee that evening.  At this point,  the pastor recommends that the person either be issued an invitation to join the
staff or that the church should look further.

The lay personnel committee interviews the candidate, asking questions that were raised from the earlier interviews.  The committee either concurs the pastors recommendation or refuses it.  However, if they refuse the pastor’s recommendations often, the church needs another pastor.

The following model works well in a team based or lay driven model where the church itself has a very clear Mission Statement that is used often to determine the health of the church.

This process consists of five questions that are asked of the candidates by the Senior Pastor at  the beginning of the interview process.  The question are sequential, with each one built on the ones before it.  The next question is asked only if the candidate enthusiastically and adequately responds to the previous question. The interview is terminated without wasting any more time of the candidate or the church. It may be that you may ask the candidates to answer these questions before bringing them to your church for interviews.  Still, you would go through the following process eye-to-eye.   Here then are the questions.

Describe for me your spiritual journey.  More important than one’s skills or talents, attributes or qualities, is whether or not the person has been on and is on a spiritual journey. You want all of your staff to be spiritual giants.  Staff should be about kingdom business not just looking for a place to use their skills or merely earning a living.

I run into the two following examples most often.  The music director or organist who works in a church only because it is a place where they can use their talent.  If they were not directing he choir or playing the organ, they would not be in that church or perhaps any other church.  The other example is the business manager of financial person or secretary who works at the church only because it is a place to earn a living.   No one should work on a church staff simply to earn a living.  What you want are people who passionately yearn to pursue their spiritual journey as well as the journey of others.

Just being able to enthusiastically describe their journey is not enough.  The journey must be one that has prepared them for ministry in the 21st century.  I would use the following chart to evaluate their journey. This following chart comes from my book Growing Spiritual Redwoods.

Ineffective Paid Staff are: Effective Paid Staff are:
Committed to the church Committed to Christ
Managing committees Deploying missions
Holding offices Doing hands-on ministries
Making decisions Making disciples
Trained for membership On a life long quest for quality
Serving at the church Serving in the world
Preoccupied with raising money Preoccupied with rescuing people
Doing church work Finding personal fulfillment
Retiring from church work Pursuing constant personal growth
Surveying internal needs Sensitized to community
Eager to know everyone Eager for everyone to know God
Loyal to each other Drawn to the unchurched
Building faith on information Building faith on ex. with Christ
Perpetuating a heritage Visioning a future


If most of their spiritual journey is on the left side of the chart, the interview is over.  If most of it is on right side, then continue the interview.

How do you FEEL about our Mission, Vision, and Values Statements (referred to from now on as church culture)?  At this stage of the interview, look at the eyes of the candidate. Do they dance  and sparkle when the person answers this question.  Do they do so in such a way that you are convinced they really resonate with the church culture?  Does his/her response convince you that this person would be a great ambassador of your church culture? You are looking for staff who are so in love with your church culture that they are willing to set aside personal agendas and conduct their ministry based on what is best for the church in the long run.  Avoid like the plague recruiting anyone whom you suspect is only using this position as an opportunity for advancement to a better church.  You’re looking for people who are so in love with what they do and with whom they are doing it that they have no desire to leave even if offered a promotion.

Never, ever give the candidate a job description. You want to recruit people around your church culture not a job or task to perform.  You’re asking this person to join you on an adventure.  In most churches, you’re asking the person to take a journey where perhaps neither of you have gone before and therefore, a map must be drawn as you go. All a job description does is
discourages staff from taking a journey, becoming a  team player, being a life-time learner,  taking innovative risks, coloring outside the box, and looking for ways to expand their responsibilities. Job descriptions are the preclude to hearing “That’s not my job.” Such a statement should never be heard in a team based ministry.

All that is needed is the charge to find new people and equip them to use their spiritual gifts and to take responsibility for ministry.  Some call this the “Jesus model.” He was people oriented instead of task oriented.  To be the follower of Jesus is to look for people to whom we can say “follow me and I will make you fishers of people.”  The role of staff is the transformation of people, not the taking care of people.

What gifts do you bring that would add value to our church culture? Instead of asking the candidate to do something that the church feels it needs done, let the candidate explain to you how he/she would use their gifts to enhance the church culture.  Doing this helps insure that the person understands how his/her particular gifts bring more completeness of the Body.

How would you go about adding this value? Using this approach allows the Holy spirit to work more freely in your midst.  You may be surprised how often this approach leads to effective ministries that would otherwise never be discovered. It might be good at this point to explore if the candidate has any previous experience working in a team based environment or if the candidate has any feelings about working in such an environment.   Listen for such responses as  “I know I’ll need to put together a team because I don’t have all the necessary skills to do the kind of ministry that the culture calls for, but I’m open to learning it;” or “To be effective here I’ll have to develop and empower a team.”  Such responses are what you want to encourage in all leaders of the church

Those who make it to the end of the interview process are then interviewed by the appropriate staff interviews them.   A great method corporate discernment is to have as many appropriate paid and unpaid staff interview the candidate as possible. I would start the interview at 8:00 am with the Senior Pastor asking the above questions.    Then at thirty minute intervals, have the paid staff individually interview the candidate.  They will ask questions based on their role within the team.   Give each of them a sheet of paper that asks of them three things: Would you hire them, yes or no?  Could you work with this person? What further questions would you like asked of them by the Personnel Committee at the end of the interviews?

At the end of the interview process, the Senior Pastor tallies the interviews and lists the questions. If anyone one person says they could not work with this person, do not hire the candidate.  If two or more vote NO, do not hire this person.

Depending on the size of the church, this process could take all day or two days. At the end of the process, the senior pastor would meet again with the candidate. Part of the purpose of a grueling schedule is to see how the person’s stamina is holding out.   Don’t ever bring anyone on board who has low energy.  If the candidate did not pass the interview process, the Senior Pastor would meet with him/her and explain why.  The hope here is that the candidate might learn from the experience. If the candidate did pass the interview process, the Senior Pastor would ask the candidate the questions the staff compiled during the interview process.

Finally, the candidate is interviewed by the Personnel Committee.  In most church structures this committee has the final word.  This final word is a check and balance of the power of the Senior Pastor. The Senior Pastor meets with the committee prior to the candidate doing so and shares with them the results of the interviews as well as a recommendation about whether or not to hire the candidate.  In most well run organizations, if the Personnel Committee disagrees often with the Senior Pastor, the Senior Pastor is out of a job.