Crucial Paradigms for Hiring the Right Staff

(Unsplash/Paul Bence)

I deal with pastors often who are trying to make leadership decisions. The topic of one of our most frequent discussions, and honestly one of the hardest things we do as leaders, is attempting to add quality and qualified staff to the team.

When you go to look for a new staff member, I think it helps to have a paradigm through which you are seeking the next person. The more homework you do on the front end of the selection process the better chance you'll have of finding the right fit. Any good selection firm (and this is a great option sometimes) is going to really try to help you discern what type of person will be a best fit for the job.

This is not a comprehensive post for this process, but I do hope I can help you think a little bigger picture when hiring the next person. We often think of Bill Hybels' script: "chemistry, competence and character." I have added a fourth C to those words. You can read it in this post.

But, I think there are even more questions we have to ask ourselves when hiring someone new for the team. One policy change we made when I arrived at the very established church where I lead is that whenever someone leaves our staff (and this is at any level or position) we would reevaluate everything. We may or may not need to replace the person with the same position or the same type person. This has been invaluable, I believe, in seeing the success we have had in revitalization.

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So, the next time you have an open position, let me give you a few more "c-words" to ask yourself. Which of these would be most helpful to me at this time in my leadership?

Someone who complements you: This person can do more of what you do. If you are strategic—they are strategic. If you are a relational leader, they will be very relational. It could be there's just not enough of you to go around, but you need more of what you bring to the church or organization.

We did this recently in hiring an executive pastor. We actually have two executive pastors now. The one we had is a very relational leader. We absolutely need that for our team. The one we added is like me—more strategic. And we needed this too, as our church continues to grow and change.

Someone who completes you: What are you missing that you simply can't bring to the team? It could be because you aren't wired that way or you no longer have the margin of time to provide it. This person will fill in gaps you have in your leadership. And we all have them.

The relational executive pastor I mentioned before does this for me. It's not that I'm anti-relationships, but I am more of a strategic leader. I can neglect the relational part if I'm not careful.

Another position we hired early in my tenure was a senior adult pastor. We had a part-time one already, but we added a full-time person still in the prime of his career. This was absolutely needed. We have a huge senior population, and some of them considered me still a kid (at age 48 when I started). Having someone they trusted in between our ages was huge for my leadership.

Someone who competes with you: This is a rarer type, but there are times when you need someone like this. This type of person could be needed as you are looking to transition out as a leader or if you are large enough (or missional enough) to be investing in the next generation of leaders.

This person eventually wants your job. They want to do what you do someday, perhaps even more than the position for which you are hiring them. And, if they are really good, at times, they are going to appear to be in direct competition for your job.

We just did this one in the hiring of my son, Nate, as college and teaching pastor. I expect he will be a senior pastor—certainly a senior leader—someday. He doesn't necessarily compete with me, because he is not the heir apparent replacement for me (even though some think he is). He's only 26 years old and won't most likely be ready or want to assume leadership at this church. But he is a gifted communicator and leader. (I am very careful not to brag on him in the church. I may share the strategic reasons for this in another post.) He's only been with us a few months, and already, he's challenging me to be a better leader.

You could probably improve on my terminology here. The paradigm, however, is what I believe is most important. You have to decide what you want or need in the person you are hiring. This is beneficial for you and the person who will come to work with you. And, it can hopefully help you avoid making a mistake in hiring.

Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky.

This article originally appeared at

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