Like everything else in today’s world, the way spiritual redwood churches are staffing themselves is rapidly changing. Church leaders in declining churches are finding these changes extremely hard to comprehend, much less attempt. This inability to comprehend and make the necessary changes is a critical flaw in most declining churches. I think it is fair to say that how a church staffs, and what it expects its staff to accomplish is one of the most important decisions church leaders can make. A mistake here throws everything else out of balance.
While exploring these changes, it will become clear that before churches begin to add staff they must answer a basic question, “Do we want our paid staff to take care of our membership first, and then, if there is time increase church membership?” or “Do we want them to develop disciples who serve Christ and one another?” For most of the last fifty years, church leaders have acted as if they expected staff to take good care of the membership first, and if there is time left, increase the membership roles of the church.
Sooner or later such a decision is fatal because it is the exact opposite of what we see Jesus doing during his ministry. God simply will not honor such churches.
Spiritual redwood churches expect the efforts of paid and unpaid staff to result in transformed people who later become so equipped that they can take care of others instead of being cared for by church professionals. Such an expectation is causing enormous changes in the way these churches staff themselves.
Staff Must Ask, NOT “WHAT MUST I DO TODAY?”, BUT “WHO WILL I
MENTOR TODAY?”NOT “WHAT IS MY JOB?”, BUT “WHO WILL I DISCOVER?” NOT “HOW MUCH CAN I DO?”, BUT “HOW MANY OTHERS CAN I EQUIP?”
The Changes I Am Seeing
The primary change today in the area of church staff is the movement from paid staff doing ministries too paid and unpaid staff equipping others
to do ministries. Instead of staff going to work thinking about what they must do, staff goes to work dreaming about whom they might meet, transform, and mentors to be the ministers of Jesus Christ. Instead of trying to get a ministry done or a task performed, staff look for new people to mentor, equip, and send out into a ministry. The shift is from doing to finding.
The most fundamental staffing decision church leaders can ever make, is whether the staff is going to perform ministries on behalf of the laity or whether they are going to equip laity to do ministries. The former is not biblical; the latter are.
This movement away from staff as “doer” to staff as “equipper” is setting off a chain reaction of changes in the way effective staffs function.
From job descriptions to Mission Statements. Instead of asking new staff to fill
a position or job description, new staff are invited to join one of the church teams on an adventure to which they will add value through the exercise of their spiritual gifts and skills.
Instead of job descriptions they are given the mission of discovering new people and equipping them to use their spiritual gifts and to take responsibility for ministry to which this new staff person has been assigned. For example, instead of hiring someone to direct a choir, a person is hired to discover new people who love to sing. The new person is not evaluated on the quality of music (although quality is something to be sought after), but on how many people are experiencing authentic Christian transformation because of their participation in the music ministry.
Some people 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 therefore, the transformation and equipping of people, not the taking care of people or programs.
From credentialed professionals to authentic disciple makers. More and more
churches are hiring people from within their ranks rather than from the outside. Instead of looking for a credentialed Director of Education, they seek out members within their church who already show a gift for making disciples through the education ministry of the church.
The ability to grow people is more important to spiritual redwoods than what school a person attended. I will seldom see a degree listed as a requirement for staff in these thriving churches.
From the many to the few. These churches expect their staff to focus on three or
four people at a time and grow them deep in the faith and equip them to be disciple-makers who go and do the same with their networks.
From personal committees to executive pastors and teams. The larger churches
become, the more likely they are to either do away with the personnel committee or make the personnel committee the senior pastor’s accountability team without any responsibility for the rest of the staff. In turn, the senior pastor or executive pastor is held accountable for the ministry of the overall staff. The more advanced spiritual redwoods that are practicing permission giving team ministries allows each staff team to hire, evaluate, and terminate their team. If anyone on the team does not feel the candidate is right for their team, the person is not hired. I can see the day when instead of each staff person being
paid a salary, teams will be paid a salary and the teams will decide who gets what based on their contribution to the team the past year.
The worst mistakes I see churches make with their personnel committees is the
assigning of each one of the committee members to a staff person as a liaison. The theory is that this gives all of the staff access to the personnel committee. What really happens is that this contributes to “triangulation.” When a problem arises between two staff people, instead of them working it out together, the grieved staff person goes to their personnel committee liaison. Now three people are involved in the dispute. A better way is for there to be as little outside intervention as possible when it comes to problems among team
members. Maturity comes from having to work on the problem with the person who is causing the pain.
What Staff Should We Add First?
Without exception, the second paid staff person should be a full time worship
leader. In today’s world, music is as important if not more important than the sermon. Post moderns cannot worship apart from music. Music is the common median through which the gospel is shared today.
Most churches feel the need to hire a youth pastor as the first additional staff
person. Although such a person is important, a worship leader is more important. Often churches will bring an Associate Pastor on board as soon as they can. Some church members immediately assume that staffs have to be ordained. I’ve found that churches do not need two clergy until they grow to more than five or six hundred in worship. In most cases’ clergy are too expensive and all want to do the same thing that the senior pastor does – and few want to be the “youth pastor.” When the time comes for a second staff person, think “a worship leader.”
Emerging Staff Titles
Changing times require different kinds of staff. The most obvious change is from
the Choir Director to the Worship Leader, who is responsible for a large cadre of paid and unpaid technicians/engineers such as, sound, lighting, graphic design, multimedia, drama,and computer programming. It is not unusual for the weekend worship at Ginghamsburg
United Methodist Church of Tipp City, Ohio to require more than one hundred people to bring about the worship experience.
Some other new paid staff titles are Small Groups Leader instead of Director of
Education, Information Officer instead of Business Manager, Team Leader instead of Committee Chair, Lay Mobilizer instead of Volunteer Coordinator, and the granddaddy change of them all, Keyboardist instead of Organist. Why not email me some of the new titles you are using in your church? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
When Will It All End
These changes in the way churches staff themselves are just beginning. It is too
soon to even be asking “When will it all end?” These changes will require a total change of heart in those long-standing church leaders who pay most of the bills in dying churches, if these churches are to make the necessary transition from the modern to the postmodern (or as I like to call it, the Pre-Christian) world. Asking our long standing, faithful members to make these changes will be much like asking Congress to vote for a pay cut. In most churches this will never happen without an intervention of God. I know a lot of people who are praying for just that.
For more see Bill Easum, Unfreezing Moves by Abingdon