Read part one and two of this series.

Once you have established the giftedness of the first leader or first few leaders, begin to assess what’s missing. Do you have a strong teacher and shepherd, but no evangelist? Do you have a passionate Prophet calling everyone to repentance and service of the poor but no shepherd? Do you have loving pastors but no one gifted to build systems or teams? Knowing what you have and what you don’t have is critical in making the right next hire.

Perfect Fit or Best Available?

Each Spring the management of NFL teams prepare for the draft of college players. Some organizations look to fill immediate needs, others draft the best available player. Most do a combination of both based on the situation.

After you have done the hard work of self-awareness amongst the existing leader(s) and identified gaps that need to be filled you will have to make a similar choice. Let’s say your church has a strong teacher and a gifted shepherd but still needs a prophet, an evangelist, apostolic leader, and an administrator. You would like one of each. You pray for as such. But first things first you will likely grow one leader at a time. Which gifting do you prioritize? If a dynamic administrator shows up do you grab her? Or do you wait on an Evangelist because your a church plant isn’t seeing the evangelistic growth you expected? These are the prayerfully discerned decision you must face. As with much of leading, ambiguity clouds and there is no one, right answer. Fill a perfect fit in the area of greatest need when you can. When no such leader emerges, go with the best available. Pray without ceasing that God continues to send diversely gifted laborers suited for the season.

Staff or Non-staff or Bi-vocational?

There are many ways to build a team. In fact, every team is unique with a different set of gifts, personalities, values, and experiences. Even when teams stay together for a long time, they change from year to year. The learn and grow, the shift and adapt. Building a strong team will always involve a balance of gifts, needs, and financial realities. If money were no issue, you would conduct a national search and find the best available for each role on the team. Money is always an issue so make compromises and get creative. Determine your budget. Brainstorm different financial configurations.

Not having money is not an excuse for not building a team. The first guy I “hired” was invited by me to raise his complete salary for 5 years. He did, after some training, in 6 weeks. Some churches have staff 3-4 bi-vocational leaders where the salary would only support 1.5 full-time equippers.

Hiring a Strong Team

“Hire like your life depends on it. It does.” – Reid Hoffman, Founder of PayPal

Don’t make the mistake of hiring the first person to come along. I interviewed 9 couples before finding the right staff elder fit in the first church I planted. We hosted many of the couples for the weekend, spent lots of time, incurred financial cost and still came to several dead-ends. But working on finding the right person is forward motion. You are opening doors to discover the right one to walk through. Avoid the tendency to assume the best about everyone in hiring. Kick the tires. Punch the gas on the test drive to find the top speed. Ask hard questions. Be a skeptic. Try to discover all the reasons it won’t work.

It’s in your best interest to be as explicit as possible about your vision, team definition, core value, and core focus. Don’t sugar coat things that are broken. Don’t “sell” a candidate on coming to join the team. Be honest about your church, work hard to get the honest truth about the fitness of the candidate.

Check References – Ask for 3 references, then ask for 3 more.

Have various perspectives conduct interviews. Remember, track record trumps everything. King David killed lions and bears as a boy and then went on to kill a giant as a man. The past foreshadows the future.

“Potential” is mostly preordained disappointment. With one exception being exceptional young leaders. No one who is 40+ should mostly be thought of in terms of “potential” if there is no evidence in the track record of any related competency.

*Warning #2* When hiring, like attract like.

The mistake I see time and again involves leaders recruiting new team members who share their identical gifts. Shepherds enjoy being around other shepherds. Evangelists want more evangelists (see also the College Parachurch ministry). Prophets retweet one another’s zingers. Teachers swap book lists. Rather than doubling-down on strength, look for gaps and fill them with diversely gifted leaders. This is God’s desire, with each part properly fitted together growing up into maturing in Christ (Eph 4).

Review gift inventories, don’t overly weight these, just see them as another data point to consider.

Work through the 4 C’s with a particular candidate in mind.

  • Character – Does this person have the proven character of an elder or deacon?
  • Competency –  Has this person proven gifted in this role in the past? Where and when? Are you sure?
  • Chemistry –  Do current team members enjoy hanging out with this person? Do things seem to click? Or do you have trouble relating in a natural way? If so pay attention to that. Teams are like marriages which is to say, atmospheric. You don’t want to find yourself suffocating with a bad cultural fit.
  • Context – Where you are in the world matters. Rural southern boys aren’t always a fit in Manhattan. Cultural Elites don’t always jive with small-town America. Blue Collar, White Collar, educated or less educated, it all matters. Love covers a multitude of cultural sins, but why stack the deck against yourself culturally? There are exceptions, but mostly you should avoid drastic cultural disconnect whenever possible.

It takes time, intentionality and money to hire well. But I know of little else more critical to the long term viability of an organization. Get the right people, in the right seats, with clarity and look out. Now let’s turn to how to arrive that clarity as a new team emerges.

Key Questions

  1. How much monthly attention do you currently give to building out the team?
  2. How self-aware are you as a leader? How have you discovered your gifts?
  3. What is the greatest current leadership need in your church?
  4. What is your current hiring process?

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