Crafting a Church Staff

Senior Pastor.  Associate Pastor.  Christian Educator.  Minister of Music.

Staff

This is the classic model of a traditional church program staff for a congregation of between 250 and 600 members.  Or at least it used to be.

Traditional congregations are staffing in creative ways in the 21st Century Church and one of the exciting opportunities is the crafting of the church staff.  This is something we don’t learn in seminary, probably because church staffing is so contextual.

Usually staff issues involve (soul-sucking) activities like putting out staff fires, managing people, and finding somebody – anybody – with a pulse and no misconduct history to fill in a necessary position.  Again, we didn’t learn how to finesse all this in seminary.

And working with a team should be a joy, not a burden.  Creating a fabulous staff and working on a common mission is one of the most fun parts of professional ministry.  I have adored working with atypical staffers – hired not because of their degrees or even their experience (or lack of it) but because they had the right gifts needed for a certain time.

Not only because we cannot financially afford to staff churches the way we staffed them 10-20 years ago, but we cannot theologically afford it either.  Working with a fresh kind of staff is crucial for the future church.

Image is a mosaic of staffers from an imaginary church.  Imagine who does what.

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6 responses to “Crafting a Church Staff

  1. Christine Chakoian

    Amen, Jan. And I have never felt so blessed with colleagues as I do now.
    The other key (that I learned from John Buchanan) is this: once people are on staff, you will discover gifts you didn’t know they had … the church’s needs may change … other colleagues may come or go … gifts emerge from the congregation. Life together isn’t static. All of which is to say, changing job descriptions, sometimes radically, can free up the right gifts for the right time. Which in the end is much more fun!

  2. I resonate with this post (!!!!) and agree with Christine. Healthy churches adapt and embrace the gifts of those they’ve called. We see that all the time with staff and members of the congregation. It makes life interesting and joyful.

  3. My NextChurch staff is lay-lead, lay-empowered. The kind of church staffing in the above comments can only happen in large churches. I’m thinking the professionally trained pastor, educator, musician, etc., serve multiple small churches as “trainers” for ministry.

  4. This post, and many of your others on this subject, just triggered a thought. In my technical job many of the older, experienced, and successful experts step down (retire) from the organization and become consultants and advisers. Makes me think many of those Associate Pastor positions could be filled that way? That could open up Pastor jobs for newer ideas and risk taking while providing experienced resources. Just a thought…

  5. In a church averaging 180 in attendance in the poorest large city in the US, we have a more or less traditional solo pastor. As Dave suggests, our de facto associate pastor is a retired teaching elder who volunteers his time. I am a lay person with an academic degree who is getting to do Christian education and some worship planning. We have another woman who spends one day each week coordinating an outreach effort with the high school across the street and teaching occasional classes. Our choir director is a jr. high band teacher. Our visitation team is a variety of volunteers. Some of us receive minimal stipends; some are entirely volunteering. Our youth director is a seminary student in a Spanish language seminary program who had been a clp in a latino ministry and decided he wanted the education. We have a full time office administrator and full time facilities manager, a part-time secretary and a part-time groundskeeper.

    It’s creative and it’s working, and it’s giving people a chance to explore our gifts, but it’s taking its toll on the pastor. We need to take the next step toward independence in these roles, but it’s so fluid and thus far she (with a lot of help from the Holy Spirit) is the one who holds it together.

    • Thanks so much for this comment. I agree that it’s emotionally and spiritually taxing to recruit, train, manage, evaluate, and recognize volunteers – or paid staff for that matter. It is a FT job in and of itself. Your pastor sounds like a rock star. Some churches are hiring a Volunteer Coordinator (paid to oversee the whole recruiting/training/etc. of volunteers.) This makes more sense to me than a traditional Associate Pastor, if you ask me, especially for a congregation your size.

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