When Is It Smart to Create a New Position?





Dan-Reiland-Pastor-CoachFeeling under pressure? Overworked? Are you and your team working hard but can’t seem to keep up, let alone get ahead?

You are not alone. This is a very common church staff scenario. What you do about it can be a game-changer.

In more than 20 years of creating new positions and hiring staff, I’ve lived with the tension of needing to know how many staff is the right number, what positions are the right positions and when is the right time to hire more people. The thing that increases the tension is that there are so many different opinions about the answers to those questions.

Crystal-clear vision and strategic alignment can help minimize the differing opinions, but because there is always more than one way to successfully design a team, the tension of knowing which way is best will always exist. And, candidly, having the right people is more important than the right positions—but there is a healthy balance.

Let’s start with some thoughts about why you should not establish a new role or position to hire.

Grumbling staff members. You might be surprised about how true the old saying is: “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.” True as it may be, if you do give in to an underperforming, whiny staff member who wants you to hire them more help, it will kill the morale of your team. Do not cater to complaining staff members, and if they have a bad attitude, release them from their job! Never pay for a bad attitude. You can get that for free.

Atypical projects. There are seasonal initiatives and a variety of projects that come up across any church calendar year. If your team is truly stretched too far, many of these projects can be handled by short-term, contract-based hires. Don’t hire a new position to get a one-off project done, even if you think you have a near continuous stream of projects coming up.

Temporary workload increases. This is a little different than the "contained project" kind of work mentioned above. There are sometimes brief increases in workload for your existing positions. The temptation is to overreact and solve the pressure by hiring another person to help get the work done. Then that position is quickly rationalized because all jobs migrate toward justifying their existence. It’s better to tough it out, re-prioritize the work and let something else wait, or ask a volunteer to help.

If a volunteer can do it. We are often tempted to hire someone to get a job done that a good volunteer can do. It’s faster and easier to hire someone but often not any more effective—and certainly not wise, in terms of the budget impact. More important than the budget is allowing the gifts and passion God has given the body of Christ to rise up, get involved and make a difference.

Non-performing staff member. I have traveled to churches and coached leaders that literally refused to make the tough decision to release a staff member that would not or could not get the job done. Instead, they kept moving the “underperformer” from position to position. In a few cases, they made up a job for this person to do. Bad call. Nothing more needs to be said on this point.

Good Reasons to Create a New Position

Let me say that in nearly all cases it is wise to hire new positions only when the church is growing. The idea of “staffing for growth” only works if the church is currently growing. Adding staff (new positions) to a stalled or declining church with the hopes that one staff member will cause the church to start growing again is nearly always a false hope.

It is better to first evaluate the staff you have to understand why the church is not growing and make any tough decisions that are necessary. Get the church growing again, and then add a position. That said, I would challenge you further with the following thoughts to consider before adding a position to your team.

1. Momentum precedes the position. This picks up where the above opening paragraph leaves off. Grow a ministry area before you add staff. This is always tricky with a church plant. But even in the case of a startup, there is general ministry momentum. A vision is clear, money has been raised, and general support has been generated from a church or denomination before anyone receives a paycheck. Bottom line: Grow the ministry, then add staff. Push repeat.

2. The position advances your vision. You will want to create positions to relieve pressure and get rid of stuff you don’t want to do. These administrative and support positions are important, but they do not grow your church. They help you keep the people you have (defense), but they do not reach new people (offense). Put your new position emphasis on creating roles that help expand your kingdom reach first. Design new positions that clearly advance the vision. Be much slower to hire supportive roles.

3. The position expands your ministry. There is a difference between hiring to get more of the same done and expanding your ministry. At 12Stone Church, we use a multisite model. One of our primary growth engines is adding new campuses. More of the same—and that’s a good thing. However, to expand the idea of what we do requires doing something different.  For example, we launched an online campus. Doing church online is a different idea with a different approach and different measurement. We hired a bright young leader named Matt Hayes into a new position. The scope of our ministry was expanded, and it’s doing great!

4. You have the necessary financial margin. Having the money is not a reason by itself to create a new position. I once sat in a board meeting while consulting for a church, and the chairman was excited about hiring someone to take care of the church facilities. He said, “Why not? We have the money!” Wow. Not smart. But it is smart to be able to afford a new staff position. Many of my colleagues have stepped out in faith to raise money for a new position, and while I don’t criticize that, I want you to know that is a great risk based on some pretty big assumptions. In that scenario, I would challenge you to realistically build at least one-half the salary into the budget before raising the rest.

5. It allows you to focus on your priorities. Why you hire is as important as what position you create. For example, far too often an administrative assistant is hired to make someone’s life easier. Bad call. A good assistant should make you more productive, not more comfortable. When you hire staff to “free you up” in order to focus on key priorities, you actually have to tenaciously tend to those priorities. It is altogether too easy to allow the newly found time to get sucked in the lost grind of more stuff to do.

Action steps before you hire:

  • Write a detailed job description.
  • Make sure your key leaders are in agreement.
  • Identify how you will fund the new position.

Of course, there is always more to it than can be covered in a brief article, but these thoughts will provide a great launchpad for further discussion with your team. Hire smart!


Dan Reiland is executive pastor of 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., listed in Outreach magazine as the No. 1 fastest-growing church in America in 2010. He has worked closely with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY. His semi-monthly e-newsletter, The Pastor’s Coach, is distributed to more than 40,000 subscribers. Dan is the author of Amplified Leadership, released in January 2012.

For the original article, visit danreiland.com.

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