Staffing the 21st Century Church

SB paintsChurch staffing issues were not covered in my seminary.  Managing, hiring, firing, supervising, developing staff was not on anybody’s radar as we were consumed with exegeting the Gospels and working out our own understanding of Reformed theology.  But in Real World Church, I found that staffing – from volunteer management to personnel issues – took an enormous amount of time.

Common wisdom once said that there should be a pastor for every 300 members and if your church is currently staffed like that, it’s almost certain that your church is stuck if not declining because of it.

Bill Tenny-Brittian – whose work I regularly read – suggests that the traditional model for staffing has been a pastor for every 100-125 members.  Good luck with that in this economy – although if a church expects to have a personal relationship with their pastor, this is probably about right.

Creative staffing is one of my favorite things.  Working with a team of appropriately gifted human beings is really, really fun and it makes everybody better leaders.  I’m a big fan of calling everybody The Minister of _____ or coming up with creative job titles:

  • The Minister of Community Discipleship (the person who does all his/her ministry out in the streets, in coffee shops, in bars, in town board meetings)
  • The Minister of Worship Arts (the person who creates glorious space that inspires spiritual connections via lights and cloth and paint and rocks)
  • The Minister of Relocation (the person who coordinates helping people move into new apartments, into assisted living, into moving vans to head to a different city)
  • The Flower Czars/Czarinas (the ones who brighten our worship and work spaces with fresh plants or deliver flowers to those whose lives need brightening)
  • The Signage Artists (the ones who create welcoming directional signs for the building or helpful informational signs for special events)

Everybody gets to be a minister or leader in a healthy church, keeping in mind that just because you want to be The Minister of Liturgical Dancing doesn’t mean you get to do this.  Vocational call has to do with obvious gifts and the affirmation of the community, as well as the needs of the community.

Bill Tenny-Brittian wrote in this article that a healthy church staff includes people responsible for these four tasks:

  • Bringing people into the community of faith
  • Retaining them
  • Disciple-ing them
  • Deploying them out into the community to serve

Who currently does this in your church?

The short answer should be All Of Us – at least on some level.  But somebody obviously needs to coordinate each of these tasks.

  • Who heads up making connections with people who are currently not in the church?  
  • Who leads efforts for making people feel at home and deepening relationships within the faith community?  
  • Who mentors people spiritually?  
  • Who prepares the community for following Jesus out in their work places and the other places out in the world where God’s heart is broken?

While we tend to staff churches based on problem solving (Somebody’s got to visit the sick!  Somebody’s got to preach!) imagine a church lead by a team that focussed on Tenny-Brittian’s four basic tasks.  I see a pastor’s role as a teacher, especially as a person trained to equip others for ministry based on solid Biblical exegesis and solid theological reflection.  Too many pastors are putting out fires or badly juggling management tasks.

I’m wondering if new churches or redeveloping churches would be best served by a team of at least four people who might be called:

  • Minister of Connections (connecting with local businesses, schools, hangouts)
  • Minister of Lavish Hospitality (modeling and training others how to love/welcome/support the faith community)
  • Teaching Pastor (curating content for Biblical and theological conversations and gatherings)
  • Minister of Deployment (discerning gifts, connecting people with local/global needs)

I would love to be part of this  staff.

Photo of the Rev. Shawna Bowman by Deanne Snedeker Medina

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4 responses to “Staffing the 21st Century Church

  1. oh, me too! Jan – if there were to be a learning event or series of on this topic model – what might it look like, to you? If you are interested in brainstorming with me – let me know and we’ll set a time to chat.

  2. Thanks for this Jan. Great post. I’d like to be part of this staff too! Now, let me see if I can create this in my setting(s)…

  3. Dan Anderson-Little

    How about Minister of Spontaneous Fun so when we take ourselves too seriously, someone has the job of making us all lighten up by bringing in margaritas or starting a line dance or sending us all into the local neighborhood to recruit neighbors for a water balloon fight (warm weather only!).

  4. thanks for the article, great content. We lovingly call the drummer in our praise band the “minister of percussion!”

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