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Managing church employees is every bit as challenging as managing people in any other setting.  A church is only as strong as the people who do the work and weak employees can affect the customer experience and the ability to meet objectives.  Having a strong church staff requires:

“Get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, the right people in the right seats and then figure out where to drive.”

Jim Collins – Good to Great 

Getting the right people on the bus involves a great recruitment strategy that includes screening, interviewing, orientation and training.  Each step of the hiring process can significantly affect the job candidate experience so structure and consistency is important.

1 | The Role of the Personnel Committee

The personnel committee is accountable to the governing board of the congregation. It exists to provide oversight to the church’s employment relationships, primarily through the creation of employment policy. The specific responsibilities of the Personnel Committee will vary, depending upon the size of the congregation, and whether or not the staff team is large enough to have its own HR Director.
Typical Practices of a Personnel Committee

  • Propose employment policies to the governing board.
  • Make policy recommendations regarding overall salary administration.
  • Serve as an advisory board to the head of staff on personnel related issues, as requested.
  • Provide oversight to the overall annual performance review process, to insure that the process was conducted in a timely manner and with integrity.
  • Act as an arbitrator on staff team issues that involve potential policy violations, only after those issues have been appropriately vetted through normal supervisory channels.
  • Assist the governing board in preparing for its annual performance review of the senior clergy leader.
  • Work with the head of staff and employees on the design of job descriptions, when asked to do so by the head of staff.
  • Serve as a witness during disciplinary employment conversations, when requested to do so by the head of staff.

It is NOT the role of the Personnel Committee to:

  • Meet with employees to hear their complaints, without the supervisor present. (Unless the complaint involves misconduct behaviors that threaten the safety or well-being of the employee).
  • Conduct the head of staff performance review on behalf of the governing board, without board input and/or approval.

Most congregations either have a personnel team in place to help manage the hiring of a new employee, or they may assemble a team specifically charged with hiring a person to fill a ministry position.  These individuals typically:

  • Create/update the ministry description
  • Identify the most important characteristics and qualities of the candidate must possess in order to be successful in this position.
  • List where, when and how the position will be publicized.
  • Determine what a competitive compensation/benefits package looks like for the position.
  • Determine an interview process along with procedures to keeping candidates and members of the congregation abreast of the hiring steps.
  • Assemble, or become the interview team.

Create an interview process that includes

  • the collection of resumes and job applications
  • initial screening procedures
  • information to be gathered beyond the application and resume
  • questions to be raised during phone interviews
  • questions to be asked during the initial onsite interview
  • deciding when and with whom the candidates would meet with  key staff members or Board/committee members
  • Checking references and completing background checks
  • Formally offering the position to a candidate, and
  • Informing the congregation when a candidate has been selected.

It’s recommended that the hiring team identify who will coordinate each of the tasks listed above and to determine who is in charge of the overall process.

  1. Not Knowing What You Are Looking For. If you’ve completed the careful work of assembling a job description you won’t make this mistake.
  2. Inadequate Interview Preparation. Interviewers who don’t plan ahead risk not getting the quality of information that is necessary to make a good hiring decision.
  3. Poor Selection of Interview Questions. Questions should be developed to reveal a candidate’s technical skills, knowledge, behaviors, likes, dislikes, and key motivators. It’s not enough to know whether a candidate can do the job. It’s equally important to know whether the person will fit your organization and whether the candidate will be motivated to do the job.
  4. Hiring Too Quickly. Hiring quickly relieves impatient hiring managers and overwhelmed team members, but in their haste to relieve the business burden, many managers overlook signs of trouble and don’t do their full due diligence.
  5. No Awareness of the Halo Effect. The halo effect occurs when you like a candidate because you find that you have something in common with that person. The halo effect can blind you to a candidate’s liabilities.
  6. Hiring People Just Like You. Many managers believe that the key to hiring the best person for the job is to go with their gut and trust their intuition. Unfortunately, too often this results in hiring someone whose style and viewpoints are just like your own.
  7. Raising Standards Unrealistically. Some managers will use a large pool of candidates to look for the person with the highest level of qualifications. This approach leads to hiring people who are overqualified for the position and under challenged by it.
  8. Using Only One Interviewer. Exposing the candidate to a variety of interviewers will help to reveal aspects of the candidate that you may not have seen yourself.
  9. No Interviewing Process. Avoid using a highly subjective approach. Give top priority to defining a process that is well-thought out, and structured.
  10. Not Checking References Thoroughly. If you are being held accountable for the hiring decision, you should do the reference checks. Look for consistency between the interview and the references.
  11. Not pursuing the yellow flags that were at the back of your mind. Not listening to your gut.
  12. Not asking other key influencers what they REALLY thought.
  13. Thinking that the hire’s glaring deficiencies could be fixed over time.
  14. Rushing the process.
  15. Being too nice in the process and not asking the tough questions.
  16. Spending too little time in prayer and discernment.
  17. Not asking each person on the hiring team, “If you were the only one making this decision, who would you hire?”

There should be focused strategy to recruit the best and brightest for the ministry.  Questions leaders must ask before advertising a job opening include:

  1. How broad geographically will we cast our net for a potential job applicant?
  2. Are we open to inviting people beyond our denominational or Christian tradition to apply?
  3. Which qualifications on the job description are non-negotiable?
  4. What’s compensation/benefits are being provided by other congregations who currently employ a person in a similar position?
  5. How many hours of employment can we offer an applicant, given our financial constraints?
  6. What is our policy or stance toward hiring a member of our faith community?

If your congregation’s financial resources limit your capacity to hire a person for the number of hours you had hoped for, consider reducing the number of hours for the position along with downsizing the roles and responsibilities of the position. People should be compensated adequately for the time they invest and the church shouldn’t underpay them because of limited funds. Many congregations will add one or two weeks of additional vacation to compensate for limited salaries.

Make sure that you’re allocating sufficient funds to cover mileage expenses, cellphone use and continuing education.

Promoting the Position
Listed below are some ways to get the word out about your job opening:

  • Contacting denominational judicatories, colleges, seminaries and para-church organizations.
  • Utilize people’s networks of relationships.
  • Use social media platforms to advertise the position.
  • Ask colleagues from other congregations if they’re aware of any potential candidates.

Post your position on your website and direct candidates to download the job description and to submit their resume to a specified email address. Some congregations have applicants complete an online job application form. People shouldn’t have to call the church to find out how to apply for a position.


It’s important for new employees  to go through an orientation process. This is typically done by the person who supervises them, or by a member of the HR team.   Smaller organizations that don’t hire people on a daily basis, don’t typically have systems and processes in place to ensure a smooth orientation process.  A simple solution to this is to create a new employee orientation checklist that is used the first days or weeks of a new employee.

To create a new employee orientation check list, simply gather a group of employees and ask them, what kind of information was important for you to know when you were first hired?  Here are some examples of things that could be part of a new employee orientation:

Review of Policies

  • Employee policies
  • Office hours
  • Employee benefits
  • Vacation request process
  • Who to call when sick

Office Tour

  • Office/campus tour – where to find coffee, where to eat lunch, light switches, alarm systems, etc. 
  • How to use the phone system, retrieve voicemail, etc.
  • Where to find office supplies
  • Where to pick up mail
  • Keys to facility
  • How to operate office machines, ie:  copy machine
  • How to login to computers, wireless systems, etc.
  • Any pertinent passwords

Compensation Process

  • When is payday
  • How are hours tracked and recorded
  • Health insurance
  • Retirement contribution


  • Organizational chart
  • Confidentiality
  • Staff meeting schedule
  • Staff covenant
  • Computer passwords
  • Voicemail etiquette
  • Email etiquette
  • Overtime
  • Lunch/break times
  • What are the social norms of the organization, for example employees are expected to hang out together at lunch.
  • Expectations related to interaction with congregants, volunteers,  other employees
  • Accessibility when out of the office
  • Performance review process

Ministry Team Orientation

  • Walk through job description in more detail
  • Share roles and responsibilities of team members (perhaps include job descriptions)
  • Share sample annual goals from other employees
  • Review congregational goals along with ministry team goals
  • Team expectations
  • Employee mentor options
  • List of coworkers (provide roster)

This checklist should be completed and signed within 7 days of hire date and placed in their employee file.


There’s an ongoing process for managing the performance of team members that helps ensure that each person is spending time on the right (most pressing or important) things, performing their tasks in ways that are efficient and impactful, and are continuing to enhance their skills that will address the future needs of the organization.  Listed below are some of the basic steps:

1. Set Clear Expectations

  • Review/update job description, listing essential functions, core competencies, goals and lines of communication
  • Link staff team goals to congregation goals.
  • Establish expectations; determine measurable benchmarks
  • Develop commitment and buy-in to goal outcomes

2. Manage or Check-In on a Monthly or Quarterly Basis:

  • Track actual performance against goals and benchmarks
  • Coach toward improved performance (this is an ongoing process)
  • Reinforce positive behaviors and performance outcomes

3. REVIEW past performance; create a PLAN for moving forward

  • Compare actual results to expected results
  • Receive and provide feedback related to expected results
  • Explore opportunities for improving performance in areas that are vitally important
  • Recalibrate expectations for the next performance management cycle, typically through establishing specific goals for the upcoming year

Essential Elements of a Good Performance Management Plan

  • A well written and comprehensive employment policy handbook.
  • Every employee has one clearly identified supervisor.
  • Every member of the staff team has a current job description that defines the unique essential functions and core competencies of the role.
  • Every member of the team has a set of performance goals that are linked to the overall strategy of the congregation.
  • A single head of staff exists, who is accountable to the governing board.
  • All supervisors are members of the staff team (staff members are not supervised by lay leaders or committees, with the exception of the head of staff who is accountable to the governing board).
  • Every supervisor had enough capacity in their schedule to meet one on one, in a regularly scheduled meeting, with each employee: Every two-three weeks (or more frequently) for check-in, feedback, and prioritization of tasks; Quarterly, for a goals review update; Annually for an overall performance evaluation.

Rate the following items below from 1 – 5 (very descriptive) that describe to your habits and behaviors.
Then respond to the questions below in preparation for performance “check-in” or review time.

1. The Ability to Maintain Personal, Professional, and Spiritual Balance

___ I have a spiritual director or friend with whom I meet monthly for prayer and reflection.

___ I pray, worship, and read scriptures in settings not related to my role or function of ministry.

___ I take “days/time off” consistently each week.

___ I take all of my vacation and continuing education time.

___ I have friends that I regularly see who are not members of the congregation.

___ I engage in physical exercise on a regular basis, eat a balanced diet, and am not overweight.

___ I regularly pursue interests and hobbies outside the church.

___ I have learning goals for myself each year and encourage other staff/leaders to do the same.

2. The Ability to Guide Transformational Faith Experience

___ I have a plan for nurturing members/new believers into spiritual maturity.

___ I equip households how to have caring conversations and devotions on a regular basis.

___ I have identified key individuals that I am “walking alongside” to nurture a vibrant faith.

The Ability to Develop and Communicate a Vision

___ I share my personal vision for the congregation annually with members and church leaders.

___ I find tangible ways to keep the vision in front of members at all times.

___ I equip congregational leaders I work with on ways to articulate our mission, vision and values.

___ My sermons, newsletter articles and reports often refer directly to our mission, vision and values.

3. The Ability to Interpret and Lead Change

___ I have equipped myself /leaders with a basic working knowledge of how to facilitate change.

___ I am able to create a sense of urgency that motivates others to consider the need for change.

___ I am a student of the culture in which I live and reflect on what it means for the congregation.

4. The Ability to Promote and Lead Spiritual Formation

___ My preaching and storytelling focuses on transforming lives and equipping disciples.

___ I regularly invite people into ministry based on their gifts and passions.

___ I’ve identified individuals who I’ll encourage in growing as a disciple of Christ.

5. The Ability to Identify, Develop and Support Lay Leaders

___ I have a plan for developing the leaders I work with on a regular basis.

___ I meet one-on-one with key leaders to offer encouragement, training and support.

___ I serve as a “coach” to my leaders and pray for them regularly.

Questions to respond to during review or “check-in” time

  1. What has been your biggest surprise so far this year?
  2. What has been your biggest disappointment? What’s been most challenging for you?
  3. What have been your most significant accomplishments (for the quarter? for the year?)
  4. What have you been learning? What do you see as your growth areas?
  5. List your 90 day & 1 year goals (What do you need to begin doing? quit doing? do differently?).
  6. How would you describe your spiritual life? your experience working here?
  7. What do you need from your supervisor/staff/volunteers to do your best work?
  8. What do the people you lead need most from you?

Preparing for a DAILY Performance Conversation

  • Before you say anything, check your attitude and emotions. When you think about this performance problem, how is your mood? Do you have any preconceived attitudes about this employee? Have you written off this employee?
  • Is the performance problem important? Are you willing to terminate this employee if they fail to improve in this area?
    Identify the problem and describe the expected performance standard. What is the problem? What is the performance goal? Are the problem and performance goal, as written, observable and measurable?
  • Anticipate sidestracks: How might this employee try to divert your attention from the issue? What are you likely to do to alleviate your own discomfort that may end up sidetracking the conversation?

Facilitating the DAILY Conversation

  1. State what you observed in concrete terms: Yesterday in the staff meeting I noticed….
  2. Describe the impact: I felt (or others experienced)…
  3. Wait for a Response……………………… (Silence is golden!)
  4. Remind them of the standard: Remember that…, or right now we are talking about…
  5. Ask for, or suggest, a specific solution: Next time, …

Preparing for the QUARTERLY Performance Conversation

  • The staff person prepares for the conversation by providing written notes to the senior clergy outlining responses to the topics above.
  • The written notes are shared with the senior clergy in advance of the conversation.
  • The senior clergy drafts a brief (1 page) written response memo within 48 hours noting issues of agreement from the conversation as well as topics that should be revisited in the subsequent performance management conversation.

Facilitating the QUARTERLY Performance Conversation

  • What actions have you taken? These should be the details of performance over the last three months. The staff person should briefly include appropriate details and specifics
  • What discoveries have you made? This should be an account of formal and informal learning done in the past three months. What are the new insights and where did they come from?
  • What partnerships have you built? What new relationships have been built, or old relationships strengthened? It is important that the staff person take responsibility for building his or her network of relationships.
  • What is your main focus for the next 3 months? What are the primary goals that will get your priority attention over the next three months?
  • What are you planning to learn over the next three months?
  • What new partnerships (new relationships or strengthening of old relationships) are you hoping to build over the next three months?

Preparing for an ANNUAL Performance Review

  • Make certain that the evaluation tool addresses the ‘real’ responsibilities, traits and attributes of the job that is being performed, not generic ministry categories.
  • Make sure that the evaluation tool is consistent with the required responsibilities, traits and attributes of the job as described on the staff member’s job description. Provide plenty of room on the form for you to include concrete behavioral examples of performance that you want to encourage or discourage. Provide a place on the review form for establishing future performance and ministry goals.
  • When selecting your performance evaluation tool, try to avoid or steer clear of the following potential pitfalls.
  • Avoid using forms that are supposed to evaluate any kind of ministry in any kind of context. Generic forms inevitably lead you down the path of evaluating your staff member on things they have no control over, or things that are irrelevant to the performance of their ministry.
  • Never force-rank your employees. Force ranking of employees really serves no usual purpose (even for determining pay increases). Don’t select an evaluation tool that takes you down that path.
  • Be wary of rating systems, especially ones that use arbitrary descriptors of performance acceptability. A common rating scheme that is often lethal in the evaluation meeting is the following: poor, unacceptable, average, above average, excellent. What is an average employee? How will you objectively justify any of these designations to the employee?

Facilitating the ANNUAL Performance Review Conversation

  1. Lead from Strength: Begin with the strengths of the employee.
  2. Address weaknesses: but acknowledge that most weakness result from over-functioning in an area of strength. We begin to over function in something at which we are accomplished, to compensate for or avoid a weakness in another area. For example, if a supervisor who doesn’t know how to motivate volunteers ends up micromanaging those volunteers. You can point out that the employee is over relying on his planning and organizing skills to compensate for his insecurity in motivating others. This results in volunteers feeling overly-controlled.
    Helping employees recognize that their weakness is actually a result of over-functioning in an area of competency helps them to be less defensive about the criticism.
  3. When an employee demonstrates a weakness in a particulate competency or essential function, invite conversation to distinguish between:
  4. Missing information/knowledge (the employee doesn’t know what is expected or how to do what is being asked) such as inadequate resources or capacity (the employee doesn’t have the materials, tools or time needed to complete the expected task, or the overall work environment prevents effective performance.), the absence of motivation (the employee doesn’t want to do the task, doesn’t feel appropriately rewarded or recognized for engaging the task, or doesn’t believe that task is a worthwhile investment of her time.)
  1. What are the issues or challenges that could bring health and hope to the congregation during this three month period?
  2. What are the resources available to facilitate any process work that is done?
  3. Do the people in our church understand the concept of sabbatical?
  4. What can we do to help them with an understanding?  (It can take up to 2 years for proper preparation of the membership)
  5. Are the leaders of our congregation supportive of the concept of ministry sabbatical?
  6. Is there sufficient trust in our relationship to have a sabbatical?
  7. Is there an understanding that sabbatical time will provide the opportunity for health and growth for the congregation as well as the ministry leader?
  8. Is there a policy in place for sabbaticals for all the ministry leaders here?  (A policy is a first step.)
  9. Is there a plan in place to make provisions for ongoing ministry during the ministry leader’s absence related to pastoral care, administrative oversight, supervision of staff, management of programs, and pulpit supply?
  10. Should we create a committee or task force to help manage the sabbatical planning?
  11. Would we benefit from teams that would manage areas of ministry in the ministry leader’s absence?
  12. Are there other trusted people available to fill in for the ministry leader during the sabbatical time?
  13. What will the sabbatical cost?  (Normally the ministry leader’s full salary and benefits are paid during the sabbatical time.  Car allowance/mileage may or may not be included)
  14. What additional costs will there be to the church?
  15. What additional costs will the ministry leader experience during the sabbatical?
  16. What personal or professional issues does the ministry leader hope to address during the sabbatical?
  17. What issues should the congregation be addressing during this time?
  18. As the time for sabbatical comes closer would it be possible to plan a special blessing or liturgy to mark the event?
  19. Is there a re-entry plan in place prior to the sabbatical beginning?
  20. How will the ministry leader report on the sabbatical experience?
  21. Whom does the ministry leader need to spend intentional time reconnecting with when returning?
  22. What roles will need to be re-negotiated?
  23. What expectations will need to be addressed?
  24. Would the ministry leader benefit from a coach as the sabbatical plan is developed?
  25. Would the congregation benefit from coaching to develop a sabbatical policy and plan?
  26. Will the ministry leader be able to maintain a “complete absence” from the congregation even when remaining in town?
  27. How will emergency situations be handled?
  28. Will there be any restrictions placed on the ministry leader following the sabbatical?
  29. What should the ministry leader be doing intentionally to prepare staff, leaders and members for the sabbatical?
  30. How do we see this sabbatical helping the congregation with renewal?
  31. How can a sabbatical help in maintaining long term relationships with professional church ministry leaders?
  32. What will be different for the ministry leader and the congregation during the sabbatical time?
  33. What will remain the same for the ministry leader and for the congregation?
  34. What ethical issues should be discussed prior to the sabbatical?  (e.g. Is it appropriate to use sabbatical time to explore or pursue other jobs or calls?  Is it appropriate for the church to review its relationship with the ministry leader who is gone?)

Bringing closure to an employee’s time is important – for the employee ad the congregation.  Here some suggestions for navigating this transition well.

  1. Leave deliberately.  When it’s time to go, g. 
  2. Go graciously. Has your theology changed to the extent that you need to join a different church? Have the needs of your family or your work schedule compelled you to make a move? Fine. Move, but move graciously. Resist the temptation to concentrate on the warts and blemishes of the church you are leaving. (You’ll find, soon enough, that your new church has a few of these too!) It is important that you leave your church graciously and join your new church graciously.
  3. Go thankfully. I write as a man who has been a pastor of the same church for almost three decades. During these years many people have left our church (some of them because of me). To be honest, some of the people who have left I don’t miss much. And others I miss sorely. But I always appreciate the one who takes the trouble to say good-bye.
  4. Ask for an exit interview. Embarrassing or awkward as it may be, have an exit interview with one of the leaders, elders, or pastors of the church you are leaving. Explain the reasons for your departure, express your gratitude for their hard work, and commit yourself to praying for the church with which you will no longer be associated.
  5. Bring closure to relationships. Have a farewell party.  Enjoy a dinner together with staff members or a ministry team. Write letters to express your heartfelt gratitude.

Tips for helping your pastor transition to a new ministry setting

  • Say goodbye to your current pastor in a healthy way
  • Show love, regard, and even grief, for your departing pastor. This is one of the best things you can do for the new pastor.
  • Acknowledge the change in public ways. Especially in the case of a much-beloved pastor, this allows the congregation better to let go and receive the new pastor.
  • Provide the congregation the opportunity to say thank you and goodbye to the outgoing pastor, even if things have not always gone well.
  • Find appropriate occasions — in worship and at other times — to thank the outgoing pastor.
  • Express appreciation in ways that are consistent with what you have done in the past.
  • Consider giving the pastor the last two weeks off. This helps the pastor enter the new situation rested and gives an emotional buffer between one pastor’s last Sunday and another pastor’s first Sunday.
  • Plan goodbye celebrations prior to the beginning of the two weeks off.
  • Provide information to the local media about the outgoing pastor’s accomplishments and future plans.
  • Do not invite the former pastor to return for weddings, funerals, or baptisms. This allows your former pastor to engage fully with his or her new congregation, and it establishes your new pastor as everyone’s pastor from the beginning.

Tips for Pastors leaving a ministry setting

  • Maintain good successor relations
  • Work with the congregation to prepare the way for your successor.
  • Work with your successor to provide good information about the congregation.
  • Spend significant time with your successor with an agreed-upon agenda.
  • Talk about your successor only in positive terms.
  • Avoid making comparisons between yourself and your successor.
  • Approach the move with a generous and graceful spirit
  • Share ownership for the move, and avoid blaming others.
  • Avoid making inappropriate use of closure to address unresolved problems.
  • Be gracious to everyone, especially those with whom you have had difficulty.
  • Provide good records and administrative wrap-up
  • Prepare essential lists for your successor, and be sure important files are up to date.
  • Make sure church bills are paid through the month you leave.
  • Ensure that denominational giving is up to date.
  • Never leave any unpaid personal bills in the community.
  • Do not take church records with you.
  • Plan for appropriate goodbyes, grief, and closure rituals
  • Provide adequate rituals to mark your leaving and the coming of your successor.
  • Find appropriate ways to say goodbye and grieve with the congregation.
  • Encourage loved ones to grieve the transition, and grieve with them.
  • Grant and ask for forgiveness where needed, and tell the people you love them.
  • Arrange personal visits and write personal notes where appropriate.
  • Clarify your new relationship with the church
  • Clarify in spoken and written communication your new relationship with the people.
  • Be clear that you will not be returning for pastoral roles.
  • Take time to teach the congregation about closure and boundaries.
  • Affirm love and friendship while releasing persons from pastoral relationships.
  • Keep working
  • Continue vital ministry, avoid emotional withdrawal, and do not initiate major new programs in the closing months.
  • Settle as many hanging difficulties as possible, including (and especially) staff difficulties.
  • Leave the parsonage and office clean and in order.

Tips for Pastors beginning ministry a a new setting

  • Learn about the new congregation and the surrounding community
  • Allow 6–18 months to get to know the people and community.
  • Learn the history of the congregation.
  • Learn about the mission and vision of the congregation and their place in the life of the people.
  • Study data (worship and financial statistics, community demographics, etc.) to understand the church and community.
  • Make careful assessments of strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and opportunities.
  • Spend time with people and build relationships
  • Make building relationships your highest priority, visiting as many people as you can.
  • Visit people with pastoral needs and also those with key leadership responsibilities.
  • Ask everyone you visit to suggest others with whom you should be talking.
  • Meet with the pastoral relations/personnel committee early and regularly.
  • Pay particular attention to pastoral care and preaching.
    Meet community leaders including other clergy. Be visible in the community.
  • Develop a plan to get to know the people, communicate that plan, and stay faithful to it.
  • Be cautious about making immediate changes
  • Do not change things at first, especially worship.
  • Listen and observe with an open mind to discover strengths and needs.
  • Earn the right to change things before initiating changes.
  • Build trust
  • Express joy in being in your new ministry setting.
  • Be authentic, honest, and genuine.
  • Let people get to know you, and allow the congregation time to learn to trust you.
  • Focus on the congregation and its future, not your agenda.
  • If you introduce yourself in writing, have others read what you write to make sure you are not communicating unintended signals.
  • Honor your predecessor’s ministry.
  • Do not criticize the former pastor, even if criticism is warranted.
  • Honor the progress and achievements accomplished before you arrived.
  • Assure people it is all right to grieve the loss of their former pastor.
  • Honor traditions long enough to understand the positive motivation behind them.
  • Throughout it all, keep in mind: Avoid talking about your previous congregation.
  • Do not complain, criticize, or make excessive demands. And be patient.

Prepare to welcome your new pastor

  • Open your hearts and decide that you are going to love your new pastor.
    Begin praying daily for the new pastor and family, even as you continue to pray for your departing pastor and family.
  • Invite church members individually to send cards of welcome and encouragement to the incoming pastor.
  • Know that welcoming your new pastor in genuine and effective ways lays the ground work for a healthy and vital relationship and the development of stable, long-term ministries together.
  • Appoint a specific liaison person to whom the pastor can go for help and information during the transition.

Make things move-in ready

Make sure the parsonage and pastor’s office are clean and ready. Offer to provide help or a cleaning service if needed.
Determine if the parsonage is in need of repairs or painting. Consult the outgoing and incoming pastors about timing so as not to disrupt the lives of either party. Do not ask a new pastor to move into a parsonage “under construction.”
Consult the new pastor on any paint, design, or furnishings issues.
Offer to have someone cut the parsonage grass.
Make sure the new pastor and church officials are clear on how moving expenses are paid and all matters related to compensation, benefits, and reimbursement policies.

Welcome your pastor on moving day

Stock the parsonage refrigerator and pantry with some staples.
Make sure there are kid-friendly foods and snacks in the refrigerator if children are arriving.
Have a small group on hand to greet the new pastor and family when they arrive and to help as needed.
Offer child care if there is an infant or toddler in the household.
Invite children in the household to do things with others of their same age.
Welcome any youth in the household by having church youth group members stop by and offer to show them around.

Continue the welcome during the entry period

  • Take food over for the first few days. Many churches continue the practice of having a “pounding” for the new pastor when persons bring food items.
  • Provide a map with directions to local dry cleaners, grocery store, drug store, veterinarian, etc., and information on local options for internet and cable television providers.
  • Give gift certificates to several of your favorite restaurants in the community.
  • Give the pastor and family a welcome reception on the first Sunday.
  • Plan a worship celebration of the new appointment.
  • Invite the new pastor to any social events held by Sunday School classes or other groups in the early months.
  • Make sure the pastor’s spouse and children, if applicable, are invited to Sunday School and other appropriate small groups.
  • Continue to remember your new pastor and family in your daily prayers.
  • Help the new pastor become familiar with the congregation
    Introduce yourself to the pastor repeatedly! You have one name to learn; your pastor has many names to learn.
  • Wear name tags. Even if name tags are not a tradition, the congregation can wear them for a few weeks to help the pastor learn names.
  • Provide a current pictorial directory of all the church members, if available.
  • Provide an up-to-date list of all church committees and officers.
  • Provide the new pastor with a tour of where things are kept inside the church and perhaps a floor plan of the facilities.
  • Orient the new pastor to information systems and the way records are kept.
  • Make sure the pastor has a list of home bound or nursing home members, a list of those struggling with long term illness, and a list of those still in grief over recent deaths in the family. Better yet, take the pastor for an introduction to each of these households.
  • Have an appropriate person offer to go with the pastor for introductions and support if there are particularly urgent pastoral situations (a member near death or the family of a member who has just died).
  • Have a lay official offer to take the pastor to meet church members in their businesses or other work settings, if they are easily accessible.
  • Offer to help arrange small group sessions to meet and talk with the congregation.
  • Create a “church yellow pages’” (a list of people in the church who have specific skills that a newcomer may find beneficial…. auto mechanic, doctor, dentist, dry cleaners, book store, office supply, etc.).
  • Help the new pastor connect to the community
  • Provide local media with information about the new pastor.
  • Provide a list of hospitals, nursing homes, and community service agencies.
  • Introduce your new pastor to other clergy in the community. Provide information on any ecumenical activities or associations.
  • Introduce the new pastor to public and community leaders.
  • Ask church members in civic clubs to take the new pastor to one of their meetings.

A leader is forward-thinking who often creates chaos out of order to initiate disruption change.  A manager is typically detailed-oriented, reality-based and seeks to create order out of chaos, often by creating systems (procedures and practices) that

I knew I had to discern some the culture in order to answer their original question. After further talks, I don’t know for sure why the previous directors left. There could have been many reasons, but in hearing their vision, what they want in a director, and the culture of the organization, it was easy to diagnose their problem. They were approaching their search process in the wrong direction.

I told them as gently as I knew how:

You don’t want someone to lead. You want someone to manage.

Many times we hire a leader when really we want a manager…and vice-versa. When we do there is always a misfit of culture and expectations.

The truth is they didn’t want an executive director to lead them towards a renewed, even God-given vision. They wanted a person to manage the complicated and man-made operations they currently have in place. I wasn’t trying to be cruel, but to help eliminate future disappointment if they know in advance what they are looking for in a new person.

In any organization, it is important to know the difference. Do you want a leader or a manager?

(By the way, this happens in churches sometimes too by the expectation placed upon the pastor that may or may not fit the pastor’s wiring and experience.)

Leaders lead change. Managers guide systems.

During our discussion, it became apparent to me that the previous new directors came and were quickly warned by the board or discovered the hard way, what couldn’t be touched. They were handed stacks of policies. They were directed to the path of continuity. And they expected that the organization would grow again if current structures, which have worked previously, were managed well.

That, in my opinion, is the organization’s problem in keeping directors. They did indeed find leaders, but they expected them to be managers.

If you want someone to take what you already have and keep it running. Get a manager. The best you can find. With a pure heart. Good intentions. Great training. Let them go to work maintaining what you currently have. You’ll be happy.

If you want someone to take you to new places, even better places than you’ve been before, find a leader. Let them lead. Get behind them and hold on tight, because it will be a bumpy ride, then you can celebrate the new when it comes.

I am not pretending it will be easy to go the leader route. It won’t be. It will be tense many times. Uncomfortable. Stretching. Maybe even miserable at times. Change is hard. Managing existing is always easier than leading to new. It just makes a difference what you are looking for in the new executive director and if you what type expectations you place upon him or her. And, (this was the harder part of the discussion) you may have to change who you are as an organization, as a board, and what you are willing to do to embrace change, before you find the next director.

It was a hard conversation. Thankfully it ended well. But, they didn’t ask for my management expertise. (That’s limited anyway.) They asked for my leadership advice.

So, my bottom line leadership advice is they will have to change what they are doing (in how they allow a new director to lead) to get what they claim to want.

Have you made the mistake of hiring a leader when you were really looking for a manager?

“The ‘who’ questions come before the ‘what’ questions-before vision, before strategy, before tactics. First who, then what- as a rigorous discipline, consistently applied.” -Jim Collins (Good to Great)
There are four widely used interview types: 
  1. Traditional Interviews tend to focus on question that are leading or are resume and background based. Examples: Tell me about yourself? What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Why should we hire you? Where do you want to be five years from now
  2. Situational Interviews put candidates into hypothetical situations; they may start out with How would you…? What would you do if…
  3. Case Interviews involve presenting the candidate with a hypothetical case and asking the candidate to think out loud so that the direction of thinking becomes apparent. The candidate is asked to analyze the problem, ask pertinent questions, evaluate the situation, and propose solutions and conclusions.
  4. Behavioral Based Interviews are distinct in five ways:
    • You ask the candidate to describe how he actually did behave in a particular situation, rather than how he would behave. Behavioral based interviewing rests on the premise that past performance is the best predictor of future success.
    • You ask an initial question and then follow up with several probing questions. You keep digging to get at the core of the story.
    • You ask the candidate for details so that she can’t theorize, fabricate, or generalize answers.
    • The interview is a structured process focusing on predetermined competencies, giving you more control and direction so that you don’t go off course with irrelevant conversation.
    • You take structured notes to document facts so that later you can rate all of your candidates accurately against consistent standards.
Behavioral Based Interviewing
A Five Step Process
  1. Define what you’re looking for. Understand the job and the congregation (its values, goals and unique culture).
  2. Prepare a job description. We’ve already learned the importance of doing this and how to do it!
  3. Identify the core competencies- Again, you’ve already done your homework and have completed this task. Good for you!
Examples of behavioral-based interview questions: 
  • Describe an instance when you had to think on your feet to extricate yourself from a difficult situation. 
  • Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
  • Describe a time when time limitations forced you to choose between completing two very important pastoral tasks. What criteria did you use to make your choice?
  • Describe a time when you had to use written communication skills to get an important point across.
  • Give me an example of a time when you were able to successfully communicate with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).
  • Tell of a time when you worked with a staff member who was not completing his or her share of the work.
  • Describe a situation in which you had to arrive at a compromise or guide others to a compromise.
  • Tell about a time when you had to resolve a conflict between two staff members or two board members.
  • What approach did you take?
  • Tell of some situations in which you have had to adjust quickly to changes over which you had no control
  • What was the impact of the change on you?
  • Describe some times when you were not very satisfied or pleased with your performance. What did you do about it

Structure and Conduct the Interview
  1. Introduction: (3-5 minutes of a 60 minute interview). During this time you are seeking to build rapport, provide background Information about the position and the congregation and communicate expectations about the interview.
  2. Process Interviewer’s Questions/Candidate’s Answers (45 minutes of a 60 minutes interview). Start out with your traditional questions using the candidate’s resume as a guide. Find out the basics you need to know about their background.Devote at least 25 minutes to behavioral based questions addressing the competencies of the position you have identified.Pace yourself according to the number of competencies that you have identified. Make sure that the candidate does most of the talking during this time. Control the interview. Probe for information,Take descriptive notes. Save evaluative work for after the interview
  3. Candidate’s Questions (10 minutes in a 60 minute interview). Most candidates will have prepared questions to show that they are very interested in the position. Save enough time to let them ask their questions. You can tell a great deal about a candidate by the quality of the questions they ask you.
  4. Interview Close (3-5 minutes of a 60 minute interview). Sell the ministry position, sell the congregation and communicate next steps.

Personal Competencies

These are competencies that allow an individual to be effective in the daily conduct of their work lives.

  • Attention to Detail: Consistently attends to the many small pieces which must be assembled into an organized whole; follows up on missing or out of balance items; resolves unanswered questions needed to address a problem; keeps the larger picture in mind while tending to the smallest of details.
  • Aesthetic Awareness: Demonstrates a natural awareness about the effective organization of space for different purposes; possesses a natural orientation towards cleanliness and orderliness of space; appreciates the value of and need for sacred space and knows how to physically tend to it.
  • Creativity and Innovation: Generates new ideas; makes new connections among existing ideas to create fresh approaches; takes acceptable risks in pursuit of innovation; learns from mistakes; has good judgment about which creative ideas and suggestions will work.
  • Compassion and Care: Exudes a natural sense of care for the well-being of others; responds with empathy to the life circumstances of others; communicates a sense of support in his or her very presence; demonstrates appropriate and boundaried expressions of care.
  • Ethics and Values: Honors the core values and beliefs of the organization in his/her choice of behaviors; consistently embodies appropriate behavioral choices in both stressful and non-stressful situations; practices the behaviors he/she advocates to others.
  • Influencing Others: Encourages others to cooperate, participate, provide resources or make decisions, in service to the work at hand; uses verbal and nonverbal skills to communicate respect for others, and to generate energy passion and commitment to an idea; creates an environment that others want to participate in.
  • Informing Others: Provides the information people need to know to do their jobs well; helps people understand the information and knowledge and its relevance to the task at hand; is timely and transparent in the sharing of information;
  • Initiative: Enjoys working hard; is action oriented and energetic about worthwhile activities; not fearful of taking calculated risks; seizes opportunities; sets demanding but achievable objectives for self and others.
  • Integrity and Trust: Is seen as trustworthy by others; practices direct, honest and transparent communication; keeps confidences; admits mistakes; doesn’t operate with hidden agendas; responds to situations with constancy and reliability.
  • Interpersonal Skills: Establishes good working relationships with all others who are relevant to the completion of work; works well with people at all levels of the congregation; builds appropriate rapport; considers the impact of his/her actions on others; uses diplomacy and tact; is approachable; avoids communication triangles.
  • Listening: Engages in thoughtful and attentive listening; listens beneath the surface for real intent that may contradict the spoken message; overcomes personal bias to genuinely hear the ideas and concerns of another; can describe the perspective of another, even when he/she disagrees.
  • Mission Ownership: Demonstrates understanding and full support of the mission, vision, values and beliefs of the congregation; can demonstrate those values to others; consistently behaves in a manner congruent with the mission, vision, values and beliefs.
  • Personal Resilience: Can effectively cope with change and uncertainty; can shift gears comfortably; can decide and act without having the total picture; isn’t upset when things are up in the air; can comfortably handle risk and uncertainty; is flexible.
  • Self-Development: Sets appropriate personal work objectives, measures own progress, identifies personal gaps in knowledge, understanding and skill; undertakes appropriate activities to develop needed skills; seeks regular feedback on performance; knows personal strengths and weaknesses, is sensitive to changing personal and organizational requirements and changes accordingly.
  • Self-Differentiation: Demonstrates strong and appropriate personal boundaries in relationships; has a healthy appreciation of self, without being egotistical; is emotionally mature; can maintain a non-anxious presence in the midst of turmoil; not overly dependent upon outside affirmation; works to build a strong personal support system.
  • Technical Expertise: Acquires and demonstrates the technical skills required to proficiently execute the essential functions of the job; understands which skills are lacking and seeks to develop those skills; continually works toward the mastery of technical proficiency.
  • Time Management: Is able and willing to focus time on tasks that contribute to organizational goals; Uses time effectively and efficiently; values time and respects the time of others; concentrates his/her efforts on the most important priorities; can appropriately balance priorities.
  • Verbal Communication: Is able to deliver a message clearly, articulately and with appropriate emotion in a variety of settings; demonstrates communication styles appropriate to the situation at hand; adjusts the message, without losing the essence of the message, depending upon the circumstance and the listener;
  • Written Communication: Is able to write clearly and succinctly; employs correct grammar, punctuation and patterns of speech; clearly delivers message in a tone appropriate to the context.

Organizational Competencies

These competencies allow an individual to operate effectively in an organizational setting.

  • Conflict Management: Understands the dynamics of human negotiation among conflicting interest groups and how to achieve mutual agreement; embraces constructive conflict as a means to promote growth; reads situations quickly; can find common ground and get cooperation with minimal anxiety.
  • Decision Making and Problem Solving: Uses sound logic to approach difficult problems and apply effective solutions; can distinguish between symptoms, causes and implied solutions; decides in a timely manner based upon a blend of research, experience, risk-taking and judgment.
  • Helping Orientation: Demonstrates concern for and attends to the needs of the congregation’s internal and external constituents ; projects a sense of empathy and understanding when dealing with members and friends of the congregation; is able and willing to supply answers and resources that others finds satisfying.
  • Negotiation: Skillfully navigates potentially contentious situations with other staff, lay leaders and members; can settle differences with minimal conflict; can gain compliance or commitment while keeping relationships healthy; can be direct and forceful as well as diplomatic; gains trust of others quickly.
  • Organizational Knowledge: Knowledgeable about how congregational communication, decision making and leadership works; knows how to get things done through formal and informal decision making channels; can maneuver through charged political situations effectively and quietly; anticipates organizational barriers are and plans his/her approach accordingly.
  • Priority Setting: Spends his/her time and directs the time of others to what is important; quickly zones in on the critical issue, and ignores or minimizes distractions; can sense what will help or hinder accomplishing a goal; eliminates roadblocks; demonstrates focus.
  • Project Management: Identifies the key objectives and scope of a proposed project; garners needed resources and project support, develops a realistic and thorough plan for achieving key objectives, keeps team members briefed on progress, implements action plans, communicates progress to sponsors, identifies and resolves barriers and problems.
  • Team Orientation: demonstrates interest, skill and success in team environments; promotes group goals ahead of personal agendas; steps up to offer self as a resource to other members of the team; understands and supports the importance of teamwork; shares credit for success with others, takes responsibility for his or her part in team failures.

Supervisory Competencies

These are competencies that allow an individual to be effective in the supervision of others.

  • Delegation: Clearly and comfortably delegates both routine and important tasks and decisions; appropriately shares authority and responsibility; creates accountability; sets clear objectives and measures, monitors process, progress and results; builds feedback loops into the work; trusts people to perform their own work.
  • Developing Others: Provides others with challenging and stretching tasks; holds frequent developmental discussions; is aware of the developmental aspirations of others; encourages people to accept challenging assignments.
  • Hiring and Staffing: Identifies new talent; attracts and hires the best people; clearly defines the essential functions and core competencies of a role before hiring; is not afraid of selecting strong people; does not discriminate in hiring practices; seeks to strengthen the team through the addition of diversity.
  • Motivating Others: Creates a climate in which people want to do their best; can motivate employees, volunteers and members; empowers others; invites shared input and decision making; makes each individual feel that his/her work is important.
  • Supervising Work: Is good at establishing clear expectations and setting clear direction; sets stretching objectives; distributes the workload appropriately; provides regular and ongoing feedback about performance; proactively deals with substandard performance; engages disciplinary processes in a timely manner.
  • Teambuilding: Blends people into teams when appropriate; leads the team successfully through difficulties and challenges, including conflict, diversity and inclusion issues within the team; creates strong morale and spirit in his/her team; shares wins and successes; defines success in terms of the whole team; creates a feeling of belonging and pride in the team.

Managerial Competencies

These are the competencies that describe effective management behaviors.

  • Change Management: Seeks organizational innovation with a purpose; leads others in innovative activity; creates a prudent risk-taking environment; embraces life-long learning for oneself and for others; accepts the mistakes of others and turns them into learning opportunities; identifies alternatives to status quo and advocates system changes when barriers to change are identified.
  • Diversity Management: Manages all kinds and classes of people equitably; committed to the promotion of equal opportunity; ensures ongoing consultation with people that represent all types of difference; ensures that processes and practices are adaptable to different needs, abilities and ways of working.
  • Fundraising: Thinks innovatively about new sources for funding the ministries of the congregation; coordinates and executes venues for fundraising in accordance with congregational policy; is willing and able to ask others to contribute financially; coordinates fundraising efforts with the larger stewardship efforts of the congregation.
  • Leadership Development: Encourages others to discover and engage their giftedness and skills in service to the larger community; calls out the best in others; supports others in the development of their skills and abilities; actively seeks to engage others more directly in the leadership life of the congregation; thinks strategically about the continual need for a next generation of leaders and works to build the leadership base.
  • People/Volunteer Management: Provides direction, gains commitment, facilitates change and achieves results through the efficient, creative and responsible deployment of volunteers; engages people in their areas of giftedness and passion.
  • Process Management: Good at figuring out the processes necessary to get things done; knows how to organize people and activities; understands how to separate and combine tasks into efficient work flow; knows what to measure and how to measure it; can see opportunities for synergy and integration; can simplify complex processes and create policy for repetitive processes.
  • Strategic Management: Is future oriented and can visualize the larger picture of where the organization is heading; identifies and prioritizes strategic objectives that are consistent with the vision of the organization; creates effective breakthrough objectives to carry out strategies; balances risk with desired outcomes.
  • Vision and Purpose Management: Establish a clear, achievable and compelling vision and core purpose; articulates possibilities; is optimistic; creates mileposts and symbols to rally support behind the vision; makes the vision sharable by everyone.

Pastoral/Program Competencies

These are the competencies describing effective behaviors of tasks that are more pastoral or ministerial in nature. (Note: The language in these competencies needs to be significantly shaped in accordance with the theology and polity of your congregation.)

  • Hospitality/Accessibility: Generates a sense of hospitality and or accessibility by his or her very presence; communicates a sense of availability, warmth, openness and approachability; fosters natural connections between members of the congregation and with visitors; supports a culture of welcoming and connection in the life of the congregation.
  • Spiritual Maturity: Shows strong personal depth and spiritual grounding; demonstrates integrity by walking the talk, and by responding with constancy of purpose; is seen by others as trustworthy and authentic; nurtures a rich spiritual life; seeks the wisdom and guidance of appropriate mentors; is able to articulate a clear and consistent theology.
  • Preaching: Is a consistently effective preacher; able to inspire from the pulpit; communicates a clear, consistent and relevant message through sermons that are carefully prepared and artfully delivered; projects the identity and character of the congregation through a pulpit presence.
  • Teaching: Designs effective lesson plans and facilitates learning experiences in both small and large group settings; selects teaching topics that are relevant, provocative and contribute to a deeper understanding of scripture, theology and spiritual practice; uses a variety of teaching topics to maintain interest and build connection.
  • Worship Leadership: Designs and facilitates relevant and inspiring worship; combines elements of theology, music and art to promote experiences of the sacred; crafts worship flow that reinforces a theme or purpose; fosters worship moments that invite participants into an encounter with the divine; creates liturgical moments that embrace the work of the people in worship.
  • Stewardship: Promotes stewardship as a principle that guides both individual and congregational life; encourages generosity in the sharing of time, talent and finances; promotes a culture of abundance; supports leadership in the development of a comprehensive stewardship program.
  • Social Witness: Demonstrates a personal conviction to truth and justice; leads the congregation in its articulation of a social witness; advocates on behalf of the marginalized and the disenfranchised; encourages and exhorts others to do the same; encourages the development of congregational programs and ministries that allow the congregation to live out its social witness.
  • Pastoral Care/Counseling: Demonstrates the ministry of presence; creates a spirit of openness that invites those who are spiritually or emotionally troubled to confide in her/him; demonstrates appropriate pastoral care boundaries, recognizing his or her own limitations as a care provider; respects confidences; appropriately refers congregants along to other professional care providers as warranted.
  • Visitation: Moves comfortably and easily around those who are ill or suffering; generates a sense of calm, hopeful presence; offers appropriate prayers and facilitates rituals that invite healing; demonstrates appropriate personal boundaries when caring for the ill and dying; stands as a calm, sure presence in the face of death.
  • Spiritual Formation/Discipleship: Demonstrates an understanding of spiritual formation/ discipleship as journey or process; invites others into reflection about personal spiritual journey; teaches a variety of spiritual practices to lead others in deepening and developing spirituality; creates teaching and small group environments that promote discipleship.
  • Evangelism/Witness: Stands ready to communicate and spread a message of good news, based upon the congregation’s mission; articulates the message for members of the congregation, encouraging them to become evangelists and witnesses as well; supports a culture of evangelism, witness and ministry growth outside the walls of the congregation.
  • Membership Development: Supports the membership process of the congregation with a well defined articulation of membership and its benefits; actively connects visitors with the life of the congregations in ways that support membership commitment and growth; understands the membership process of the congregation as a system that incorporates hospitality, welcome, orientation, membership and deployment.

Upon receiving applications and resumes, an initial screening process should take place, filtering out candidates that do not meet the basic criteria for the position, and possibly ranking candidates to determine which one would be invited to interview for the position.

Some congregations ask those being invited to be interviewed by a HR team to provide more information about their experience, background and perspectives via an online survey.  This allows those leading the interviews to spend less time on background information and to go deeper into specific topics.

The interview process provides the congregation and the candidate being interviewed an opportunity to determine if this is a “good fit” for all parties involved. Before interviewing a candidate consider what essentials skills and qualities that person needs to possess. Can they articulate a clear, compelling vision and create “buy-in” from youth, parents and other stakeholders? Do they know how to build leadership teams and how to equip and empower others to share the ministry? Do they have the organizational skills to manage events, projects, policies, and people? Do they practice their faith daily and model what you’d like to see in young people and their parents? Do they have the willingness and capacity to reach out, befriend and engage people that are not currently involved in the congregation’s ministries? Does their ministry philosophy view faith formation as a lifelong process? Does it lift up parents as the primary faith shapers, and understand home as church, too? Listed below are some sample interview questions you may wish to ask during the interview process.

  1. What interests you in this position?
  2. Tell us a little about your background, interests, and training.
  3. Tell us about your faith journey. What are your plans for your own personal/spiritual development?
  4. In what ways do you practice your faith on a daily/weekly basis?
  5. What training and experience have you had to date with leading children, youth and family ministries?
  6. What are the things you are proud of in your current ministry setting? What challenges have you experienced?
  7. How do you balance the demands of ministry with your personal needs or the needs of your family?
  8. What are the theological or philosophical underpinnings that will guide your ministry efforts?
  9. How comfortable are you with the theological/doctrinal positions of our congregation/denomination?
  10. If you were selected for this position, describe how your ministry might unfold here over the next 2 years.
  11. Assuming you were hired, and that you stay here for three or more years, what would you want people from this congregation to remember you for? What would you do the first 90 days of your ministry?
  12. By the time a child would graduate from high school, what would you want him/her to know, practice, value or experience as a result of being involved with your ministry?
  13. What hopes/expectations do you have for parents? In what ways would you involve them in your ministry?
  14. What hopes/expectations do you have for children and youth, and how would you involve them?
  15. What do you look for in a volunteer children’s or youth ministry leader?
  16. How would you equip and support your ministry team leaders, and nurture their spiritual growth?
  17. If you found that a volunteer leader was not a good fit, or behaved inappropriately, what would you do?
  18. Describe some of the methods you use to involve others in your ministry setting.
  19. Tell us about a project or ministry program that you initiated and implemented successfully.
  20. What experience have you had leading Bible studies? Small groups? Trips & retreats? Leading Worship?
  21. What experience have you had leading Christmas programs? VBS? Confirmation?
  22. Would you say that you are “people-oriented” or “task-oriented”?
  23. What do you see as your personal strengths? What are your weaknesses?
  24. How do you handle conflict? Unfounded criticism? Ministry failure or disappointment?
  25. How do you manage unrealistic expectations? Church politics? Triangulation?
  26. What are your thoughts about change?
  27. How would you describe your leadership style?
  28. How would you describe your learning style?
  29. What do you consider to be the primary factors that form faith in young people?
  30. What do you feel are the most important issues facing young people today?
  31. If a young person approached you with an issue that was beyond your expertise, what would you do?
  32. What areas of ministry do you feel that you could benefit from additional training?
  33. How would you equip parents and grandparents to be faith shapers for their children and grandchildren?
  34. Share your perspective on our denomination’s/congregational stance on ___________ (list critical issues).
  35. What do you need from the members of this congregation in order to do your best work?
  36. What aspects of congregational ministry are life draining for you? What would cause you to leave?
  37. Share your hopes for this congregation.
  38. Describe a time when you have used your creativity to make a difference.
  39. If you were selected for this position, when could you start?
  40. What questions do you have, or what additional comments would you like to offer at this time?

Questions that should not be asked during an interview

  1. How old are you?
  2. Do you have any disabilities?
  3. Have you ever been arrested?  Filed for bankruptcy?
  4. What’s your marital status (married, single, divorced, engaged)?
  5. Whom do you live with?
  6. Do you plan to have a family? When?
  7. How many kids do you have?
  8. What are your childcare arrangements?

Question you may wish to ask during an interview if you’re applying for a position

Questions you should ask in an interview:

  1. How would you describe the company’s culture and leadership philosophy?
  2. Can you please show me some examples of projects that I’d be working on?
  3. What is the single largest problem facing your staff, and would I be in a position to help you solve this problem?
  4. What specific qualities and skills are you looking for in the job candidate?
  5. Is this a new position, or did someone leave? If someone left, why did they leave or what did they go on to do?
  6. What is the typical career trajectory for a person in this position?
  7. What would you say are the three most important skills needed to excel in this position?
  8. Who would be my manager, and will I have the opportunity to meet him or her?
  9. Why do you like working here?
  10. What does a typical day or week look like for the person in this position?  Is there travel, flextime, etc?
  11. How do you see this position contributing to the success of the organization?
  12. What do you think distinguishes this company from its competitors, both from a public and employee perspective?
  13. Does the company offer continued education and professional training?
  14. How can I best contribute to the department?
  15. What particular achievements would equate to success at this job? What would success look like?
  16. Are you most interested in a candidate who works independently, on a team, cross-functionally, or through a combination of them all? Can you give me an example?
  17. What is your ideal communication style with your staff? Do you meet regularly with your team, rely heavily on e-mail, use status reports or work primarily through other means?
  18. How do you see me as a candidate for the job in comparison with an ideal candidate?
  19. Do you have any concerns about me or about my qualifications that may prevent you from selecting me for the job?
  20. What is the next step? When do you think you will be making a decision?
  1. When churches are hiring for positions, they should be looking for the best person for the job. Sounds obvious, right? But some churches make compromises when hiring people, especially when they hire from within the congregation.

    Keep in mind the “3 Cs” when hiring a person:

    • Are they competent? (Do they have they necessary skills and experience to do what we’ve asked them to do?)
    • Is there good chemistry? (Will the person fit in well with other team members and with the culture of the organization?)
    • Are they willing to continuously innovate and improve?  (Do they see themselves as lifelong learners who are curious to find ways to improve their impact and effectiveness?)

    Sometime a church hires someone because “they needed a job.” In these situations, it’s rarely a good fit.  Keep in mind that you’re hiring someone who has the greatest capacity to help the organization fulfill its mission and vision.  Focus on the congregation’s purpose rather than the needs of the individual. Keep in mind Spock’s (from Star Trek) quote, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” There are stories where a church  grace by someone worked out perfectly and was one of the best hires ever. But that seems to be more of an exception than the rule.

    The church should be faithful stewards and hire the best person for the position they are seeking to fill. That’s the grace-filled thing to do for the entire community.


There are not many people who will tell you (honestly) that they like conducting performance evaluations.  But, performance evaluations, that are done right, should be a positive experience for employees, particularly if there is a reward benefit to performing well.

The performance appraisal process  should be an ongoing system that climaxes with the employee evaluation and the setting of goals for the coming year. It should be a time of reflection, celebration and forward thinking. And, employees who are incorporated into the process of defining goals are typically more successful at completing them because they have an understanding of the expectations.

“Effective performance management systems have a well-articulated process for accomplishing evaluation activities, with defined roles and timelines for both managers and employees. Performance management systems need to be strategic, intentional and focused on the contributions that employee makes toward the fulfillment of the congregation’s mission.

1. Determine Budgeted Percentage Increases
Churches should include salary increase percentages into the annual budget. This means that at the beginning of the church budgeting cycle, there should be discussions that determine a raise dollar pool. This pool should then be used to reward employees who do a good job and help the organization fulfill its mission.

An important aspect of this is to let employees know how much is in the raise pool so you can manage their pay increase expectations. There is nothing worse than having a high performing employee who expects a 5% increase when there has only been 3% budgeted. Managing expectations helps to bridge the pay increase reality gap.

2. Create A Timeline
No one likes surprises so it can be helpful to create a timeline that lets employees know when to expect to receive their annual performance appraisal, establish employee goals for the next cycle, update job descriptions and finally when they can expect an increase in pay – assuming they met all the criteria for a pay increase.

3. Gather Performance Documents
Now is when you will be thankful that you kept organized notes and files on all of your employees.  Go through these notes on each of your employees as a reminder of those things that the employee did well as well as those things that required coaching or redirection. Then review the employee goals from the last review cycle. Make a list of examples to use on the appraisal form. Use this information as a reference as you fill out the performance appraisal form.

4. Schedule Time to Write Performance Evaluations
When you manage the work of others, this can be one of the most important times of the year, because you hold the key to developing, managing and ultimately rewarding your employees.

Writing the performance evaluation fairly, takes time. Be sure to block out adequate time on your calendar to allow for the time it deserves. A rule of thumb is one hour for each employee. You owe it to your employees to take the time and thought for how you will evaluate and develop them.

5. Seek an Objective Review
We all come to work with unconscious biases that can impact how we might rate an employee, so be aware of those rater biases and find a peer who knows the employee to review your ratings and comments.  Allowing someone objective to look at it gives you the opportunity to flush out any blind spots you might have. Most would prefer a peer to point out where we might have missed something rather than an argumentative and defensive employee. The goal is to be objective, and if you are, with specific examples it makes it difficult for the employee to argue.

6. Schedule Time To Conduct the Evaluation
Be sure to schedule ample time to meet with the employee so you are able to discuss observations, development opportunities as well as answer any questions the employee may have.  Remember you always want to do these kind of reviews in a neutral location (not your office) to ensure you make the employee feel as comfortable as possible.

7. Celebrate Successes
It is easy to lose sight of the many accomplishments that occur over the course of a year which makes it so important to highlight those successes, acknowledge the employee’s contribution and thank them for being a part of the team. This is as much a part of the process as addressing issues where the employee has not met expectations.

8. Share Raise Information
Sharing raise information should be an appreciative and celebratory time. However, if you have an employee who is receiving a less than average raise, it is your responsibility to explain to them the “why” behind that decision.  Make sure they understand what it was that they did, or didn’t do that influenced their rating and give them pointers on how to improve their performance.

Regardless of the process or system for doing performance evaluations, it can be a period of high stress – and even paranoia.  However, the more time, effort and preparation you devote to it the more likely it will result in a meeting with your employee that acknowledges their efforts and rewards them for their contributions.


Hiring & Firing
Generally speaking, the pastor should handle the hiring and discharging of the employees. Additionally, the pastor should have the freedom and flexibility to choose his or her own staff. Boards should not tie the pastor’s hand in this matter.


Compensation Policies

All policies and guidelines should respect the privacy of the employee as well as fit the needs of the members who provide the funding for those positions. Larger churches may want to consider a pastoral staff policy and a non-pastoral staff policy. The levels of responsibilities are different; therefore the salaries will be different. Staff to be compensated often include the Senior Pastor, Associate Pastors, Youth & Family Pastor, Children’s Ministry Director, Church Administrator, Worship and Arts Minister,  an Accountant/ Book keeper, Custodians/ Property Maintenance, support staff and contract employees.

When choosing to set salaries and packages for these positions ensure you do your research of what is fair and average in the church environment. Look at ministries in your area along with your church budget in order to determine what is fair and feasible.

It’s true that churches cannot compete with the public and private sector. Churches and other nonprofit because they are organizations must raise their funds dependant upon free will gifts or contributions. Having said that, churches should be fair in their employee compensation. Remember, these people have families, responsibilities, needs, wants, and desires like anyone else.

Determining Fair Compensation
This is not hard to do. Remember that old saying,“ Compare apples to apples.” Here’s how! Call other churches in your area of a comparable size, income, and if possible domination and see if they will share with you their salary range for certain positions. Repeat the same procedure by contacting churches in the same region of the country. Gather information compiled by the denominational headquarters.

How are compensation profiles broken down?

  1. Base salary.
  2. Retirement Plans. Many churches are classified as 501 (c)( 3) nonprofit organizations. Because of this the option for employees to contribute into a 403( b)-retirement plan is possible. This particular plan is easy to set up and easy to join. Employees can opt into this plan at any time. It should be set so that the minimum contribution to this plan be $ 25 per pay period. This plan offers a convenient, regular savings program for employees.Most denominations have a recommended contribution percentage. Find out what your denominational policies are.
  3. Health Insurance. All full-time, salaried church employees should be offered medical insurance to cover them and their family. Employees should apply for medical insurance per their church policy. This can be anywhere between 30-90 days. Many churches also provide prescription drug programs that help employees lower their prescription costs.
  4. Dental and Vision Insurance. This is another benefit for employees which should be offered in the same way as medical insurance is offered. Some options will have the employer to pay half of the procedure done, leaving the other half for the employee. Be sure to shop around for what health plans work best for your ministry and your employees.
  5. Life and Long Term Disability Insurance. As a ministry, life insurance should only be offered to specific employees. The life insurance policy should cover three times the annual salary of the person who is being covered. In some policies the church will pay half, leaving the other half for the employee to pay.
  6. Housing Allowance. Find out what your denomination recommends as the standard contribution.
  7. Continuing Education. This amount can vary from $250 to $2000 depending on the roles and responsibilities of the employee.  Most clergy have at least one week of paid continuing education – many have two weeks or more.
  8. Mileage Reimbursement. If the church expects an employee to use their personal vehicle for church business and errands, the church should at least be willing to reimburse the employee for mileage. The church must have a system by which mileage is logged and employees are reimbursed at the rate established by the IRS.
  9. Cellphone Reimbursement. This amount varies among congregations from at little as $35/month to as much as $100/month.
  10. Paid Holidays. The church should have an established written policy on paid holidays observed by the church. At minimum, paid holidays should include the following: New Years Eve & New Years Day, Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday, Good Friday (if no special services are planned), Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve & Christmas Day
  11. Paid Sick Leave. The church should have established written policy on paid sick leave for employees. To be fair and competitive, I would recommend investigating other churches in your vicinity about their sick leave policy. Consider whether sick leave will include funerals, maternity leave, and short trips to the doctor or dentist.

Payroll and Time Keeping within the church
The needs of the church vary from week to week, however all paid employees should have a standard for the amount of time and hours they will put into the job. The church administrator, along with the finance persons should coordinate how employees are paid. Salaries and wage break downs should be determined by the church administrator. There are many systems your church can use in order to process payroll. Many banks will offer your church a Payroll system in order to help keep track of who is being paid and what they are being paid. Some sources, like ADP, are convenient in that they take care of your quarterly tax filings, produce W2s and keep files up to date with tax laws that could affect your payroll. If your ministry is still writing checks, by hand, from the general account, look into a technology grounded system that works for your ministry. Some companies also produce 1099 statements on a yearly basis. Payroll information should include:

  • Payroll totals
  • Hours and earnings analysis or both
  • Analysis of o Federal income tax
  • SUI/ SDI State Taxes o City Taxes
  • Miscellaneous information
  • Taxable liability
  • Federal deposit.
  • Net pays, meaning total net amount of negotiable checks plus adjustments pays, but not including direct deposits
  • Net cash, meaning total net amount of negotiable checks plus the total amount of direct deposits.

Staff Appreciation and Recognition
The Church Administrator is responsible for keeping the moral of the church staff high! For this reason it is their responsibility to plan and coordinate events and activities that will recognize the great work of the staff.

Employee Birthday Recognition
Each month our staff hosts a staff birthday lunch at the church. All persons who are celebrating their birthdays in that month will select a menu of their choice. A volunteer from the church will prepare the meal and serve the entire staff following the last staff meeting of the month.

Staff Appreciation
Every year our ministry has a staff appreciation Sunday. Members are encouraged to give a separate offering to show their love and appreciation for the staff. Whatever is collected is either divided among the staff or used in a corporate manner. Each ministry is petitioned to give their particular Each ministry is petitioned to give their particular ministry leader special tokens of love.

Holiday Parties/ Birthday Celebrations/ Employee Appreciations
During the holidays or a staff members birthday it is recommended the Church Administrator to provide an event for the staff. This can be done at a staff member’s house or a local restaurant. Staff appreciations should be fun and enjoyable moments for the entire staff (i.e. Employment Date Anniversary, Christmas Bonus, etc).

Legal Compliance
It is a good recommendation for the church to keep an attorney on retainer. Each year there are many employment legislations that are passed. It is important the church administrator becomes abreast in these new laws and policies. Church Administrators should be aware of seminars and forums discussing these issues. The church administrator should also be subscribed to legal publications and books regarding employment opportunities. As a church you must abide by certain federal and state laws. Here are a few that hold great importance:

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
This particular act is also known as the wage/ hour law. This law is enforced by the Wage and Hour division of the U.S. Department of Labor. There are 4 essential elements to this act. The elements include: minimum wage requirements, overtime requirements, child labor regulation and equal pay provisions.

Equal Pay Act
This act prohibits discrimination of wages or salary on the basis of sex or sexual orientation. In essence you cannot pay a man higher than a woman for doing the same equivalent job. If it is deemed the same qualifications, This particular act only applies to employers who have 20 or more employees. This act prevents discrimination in the hiring process on individuals who are age 40 and over. This particular act only applies to employers who have 20 or more employees. This act prevents discrimination in the hiring process on individuals who are age 40 and over. Family and Medical Leave Act This act was designed for employers who have a total of 50 employees or more. The employee must be employed for 12 months and have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours within the previous 12 months to qualify. As a church you are required to offer your employee up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during any 12 month period for the following reasons:

  1. Birth of a new born child to the employee
  2. The placement of a child for adoption or foster care with an employee.
  3. Caring for an immediate family member who has a serious health condition.
  4. Self care for an employee who may have a serious health condition.

Employers often think of employee discipline as a necessary evil, the first step in a process that will ultimately lead to termination. While that may be true in many cases, employee discipline can and should be used to promote positive changes in employee performance. Here are just a few of the reasons why supervisors need to become more proactive about managing chronic underperformance.

  • Employee turnover is extremely expensive. (It is accepted as an industry standard that the cost of replacing a professional is roughly equivalent to the annual salary of the position. The cost of replacing a pastor is even higher.)
  • If you wait too long to address poor performance, an employee’s behavior may be so entrenched, and you may be so exasperated, that termination is inevitable.
  • Ignoring poor performance can result in employees passing on bad behaviors and approaches to future ministers and church staff members.
  • If you don’t discipline properly, employees are not prepared for ultimate consequences and may be shocked/unprepared when fired.
    Using Discipline Fairly

Before taking disciplinary action against an employee, supervisors should ask themselves:

  • Do I have personal or reliable information about the facts? Am I relying on rumors or jumping to conclusions?
  • If I discipline this employee, will that be consistent with the way I’ve treated other employees in similar situations in the past? Am I prepared to treat other employees the same way in the future?
  • Did the employee know, or should the employee have known, that this behavior would lead to disciplinary action?
  • Is the rule or job requirement the employee violated reasonable?
  • Is it possible that the employee had a legitimate excuse for this behavior?
  • Am I willing to thoroughly document in writing the events leading to this disciplinary action?
  • Am I willing to follow through with further disciplinary action if the initial steps I take do not produce positive results?
  • How would this situation sound to others if they heard about it on the news or read it on the front page of the local paper?

When disciplining or terminating an employee, focus on behavior not on attitude. Behavior is objective and attitude is subjective. Behavior describes something one can observe an employee doing or failing to do. Attitude is something the employee feels inside.

Step One: Oral Warning
Have a face to face meeting in which you confront the employee about a problem. The warning does not need to be threatening or hostile; however it should be direct and clearly communicate the problem and possible consequences. Specifically, the employee should be told:

  1. Why performance is inadequate;
  2. What level of performance is expected;
  3. A deadline for improved performance; and
  4. The consequences of failure to improve performance.

Document the oral warning in writing as proof that the disciplinary system was followed, Although the documentation should be brief and state the facts, it should clearly reflect what was said to the employee, without adding opinions.

Step Two: Written Warning
If the oral warning does not work, the supervisor should proceed to Step Two, the written warning. In some cases it is appropriate to skip an oral warning and start with a written warning, depending upon the gravity of the employee’s conduct. The written warning should communicate the same four points to the employee that were outlined above in the oral warning.
A written warning should be signed by the employee. Additionally, a witness should be present when the warning is delivered. If the employee refuses to sign the warning, the witness can sign a statement that the warning was given to the employee.

Step Three: Probation (Second Written Warning)
Probation is the last step in the progressive disciplinary system before termination. It’s the employee’s last chance to avoid being fired. As with written warnings, meetings in which employees are put on probation should include a witness. Employees should sign documentation about the meeting. In the meeting and in the documentation, the church should make it clear that the next step is termination if there is no improvement.

Step Four: Termination
If you have engaged the progressive discipline system properly, the final step of termination should not surprise the employee. In some very serious cases, termination without warning may be appropriate.

When preparing for termination, be certain that prior documentation shows the steps the church took to follow the progressive disciplinary procedure.

Terminations should be handled confidentially. Schedule the termination when the meeting is not likely to attract a lot of attention from other employees. Respect the employee’s dignity and try to think of how to avoid having the employee pack personal items or clean out a desk in front of the entire staff.

A termination meeting shouldn’t take much time. A witness should be present with the employee and the person delivering the message. Remind the employee of the previous steps in the process, and then simply explain that enough progress has not been noted and the employment relationship is being terminated.

Using Discretion When There’s Cause for Termination

The goal of any termination process should be to deal appropriately and fairly with the cause for the termination, while demonstrating compassion and care for the affected employee.

  1. Serious Infractions: Often referred to as a dismissal for cause (e.g. theft, child abuse or endangerment, deliberate damage to church property, threatened or actual physical assault, falsification of payroll or other financial records, intoxication on the job, and other illegal or dangerous activity.) These types of circumstances should be spelled out in your employee manual or in an employment contract, if one exists. The employee is often dismissed immediately without severance pay.
  2. Behaviors incompatible with the teachings/values of your church: It is best to have a signed behavioral covenant in place that clearly outlines your expectations around staff team behavior. A defined process of pastoral counseling is advisable before any termination, allowing for the possibility of a commitment to change the behavior. If there is no change, termination may be inevitable. If severance is provided, it should be administered consistently from one situation to the next.
  3. Inadequate job performance: If performance fails to measure up to documented standards a performance improvement plan should be designed and reviewed with the employee, providing measurable targets for improvement. If poor performance continues, follow a multi-step process of verbal and written warning followed by probation and ultimately dismissal. (See the 4 step disciplinary process laid out on the next pages.) The objective is to create clear expectations around performance standards so that the employee improves his or her performance, or realize that the job is not a fit and other employment must be sought. In these situations severance is typically offered and tied to length of service.
  4. Reductions in staff for financial reasons: It is important to let employees know as far in advance as possible. Whenever possible, severance should be offered, possibly using benevolence funds for this purpose.

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding a pastoral transition, change is difficult for everyone involved. Whenever a leader steps down from their church, the church staff and congregation will have many questions and will experience a variety of emotional reactions.But it is possible to navigate these transitions with discernment. There are several steps an outgoing Pastor and the church leaders can take to make a transition the least bumpy it can be. It is vital for the long-term health of the church for the leaders to think through the following steps before a pastoral transition takes place.

1. Focus solely on what needs to be known & who needs to know it.

During a pastoral transition, follow this rule of thumb: over-communicate with the internal senior leadership team, hear the concerns of the entire church staff, and help the staff feel part of the solution.

Ensure that both the outgoing leader and the remaining staff members have the same answer to the question, “What’s the whole story?” Whatever the story is, it needs to be consistent and honest. Document the details so that everyone is on the same page. Documentation is also necessary for legal purposes.

Remember that not everyone needs the whole story. What concentric circles need to know what parts of the story? Does the congregation need to know the whole story? Make sure that everyone on the staff has an honest, consistent story that is communicated to the church body and the community at large.

Tell the whole truth to whom the whole truth is due. – R.C. Sproul

Also, announce information sooner than later. Waiting can lead to frustration and mistrust on the part of staff and congregation, as word will inevitably get out ahead of time. When you make the transition announcement, focus on closing that announcement by casting the big picture vision and future for the church versus focusing too closely on unnecessary details. Remember to address how destructive gossip and speculation can be. Also, if necessary, provide counselors for the staff and congregants if the transition involves grief or betrayal of trust.

Step 2: Create a transition and communication timeline for the internal staff.

It’s extremely important to have a clear plan in place for when the steps of the transition will take place – and what will be communicated during each step. This timeline should include the following elements:

Key dates in the transition
Key people involved in each step of the transition
Next steps (for the family involved, for the staff, for the congregation)
Facts that should be communicated after/before each step of the transition, to whom, by whom, and by what means (in person, letter, email, website, announcement from the pulpit, etc.)
A point person to field questions and inquiries once an announcement is made A script of appropriate responses to frequently asked questions

Step 3: Consider hiring outside help.

It can be very helpful for church leaders to seek succession consultation. An experienced consultant can advise you on what steps to take when during a transition, as well as how to communicate the transition.

In addition to a Consultant, a PR firm can also be helpful in certain situations. When a prominent Senior Pastor steps down because of a moral failure or another messy situation, we recommend hiring a PR firm to help you navigate the nuances that may come with a “fallen” community leader in the spotlight. Do your research and collect references on the PR firms you are considering to ensure you find the best one for your situation.

Step 4:  Honor the family involved.

The key church leaders involved in managing the transition must discuss the following questions and decide what is best for the family who is involved and affected.

If other family members are on staff, do they stay on the team or transition out? How do we provide space and opportunities for healing and/or sabbatical?
What will severance look like for transitioning the Pastor? Consider giving severance to the wounded spouse. It may not be the right answer for every church but worth discussing.

Encourage prayer for the family, both individually and corporately.


Exit interviews should be standard policy for all congregations.  It helps bring closure to relationships, can help foster healing in some settings, and usually surfaces issues that congregational leaders need to tend to in the future.  Listed below are a few suggestions for conducting an exit interview.

  1. Keep it in the vault.  The only way an employee will open up is if they know that you are keeping the information they share confidential. Remind the interviewee that you are legally bound not to talk about this interview or their performance in a future reference call. Encourage them to be honest and assure them of your confidentiality.
  2. Put it in neutral. A neutral third party should conduct exit interviews. The employee’s immediate supervisor should never do them. In a large organization, the Human Resources Department usually runs these, but chances are your church doesn’t have one of those. If you oversaw the team member who is leaving, consider having someone else on your team do the interview. Trusted board members or volunteer leaders are a good resource if you’re on a very small church team. If the end of this person’s employment is heated or politically charged, consider bringing in an outside third party to conduct the interview. In any event, find an interviewer that will engender trust and calm for the outgoing employee. That will foster a “safe” environment and give you the best chance at getting real, honest, and helpful feedback.
  3. Set the table. When the interview starts, let the employee know that this is not about them, but about you. This is not a look at their work, but a chance for the team to learn how to do a better job. You’re not going to criticize their work or anything they say, but you want to see what working on your church team was like from their perspective.
  4. Keep it short. Exit interviews do not need to be (nor should they be) lengthy. There are a few important and to-the-point questions that need to be asked (keep reading), and the time spent on them shouldn’t be more than an hour. Don’t draw it out.

Now that you have the right expectations and the four rules, here are five questions you can ask during the exit interview to make it as effective as possible.

1. Did you feel recognized?
Every article and study I’ve read on company culture and employee retention consistently lists employee recognition as a key factor of employee satisfaction. Like any personal relationship, when people don’t feel that their work (or presence) is noticed or appreciated, they become dissatisfied and might begin looking for a new job. Ask your outgoing team member if they felt recognized and appreciated for their work, both from their immediate supervisor and the church leaders over them, if applicable.

2. Did you know what to do?
People love having goals. When goals are absent, dissatisfaction sets in. Over and over, I hear candidates who I interview tell me that they didn’t have a clear set of goals and expectations put before them. Ask your departing employee if they felt they had clear, attainable goals and knew what was expected of them.

3. Did the job you interviewed for match the job you found yourself in?
Far too often, recruiting feels like a fraternity rush, only to have the first day on the job feel like the first day as a lowly pledge. There’s a war for talent out there, and that leads many church leaders to try hard to put a good first impression forward in interviewing that they don’t represent the reality of the workplace or its culture. The best employers I know match the interview process with the real work environment. Also, sometimes employers depict job responsibilities unrealistically. Did the job description say that this employee would have teaching opportunities, only for that employee to find those opportunities were years away and they didn’t have a chance to grow into new roles? Ask your departing team member if the job they interviewed for was what they expected, and if it wasn’t, was it positive (their role grew) or negative?

4. Can you name three cultural values of the company and give an example of each in real time?
If your exiting employees doesn’t know your church’s or ministry’s values, then chances are a lot of the other teammates don’t either. Take this opportunity to see if the culture you’re trying to instill through your team’s values is getting through to your staff and sticking.
5. Did we equip you with the tools you needed to do your job?
Asking people to do a job and not giving them the tools to perform makes for unhappy campers. If the leadership at your church isn’t equipping and empowering your church staff members, this is something you need to know and correct. Ask your outgoing employee for specific examples if they felt they were not empowered or given the tools to do any part of their job. When you have realistic expectations, conduct exit interviews properly, and ask straightforward and effective questions, you’ll find that exit interviews are invaluable for getting honest feedback on what it’s like to work on your church team, enhancing your church staff culture, and ultimately improving employee satisfaction and staff retention long-term.


Applicants should go through the process of job application, interviews, reference checks, background checks, orientation and job training.  It is important to have a structured and streamlined process to ensure new employees are screened for the best fit.  It is far better to delay a hiring decision than to hire the wrong person – no matter how desperate the need is to fill the position!

The hiring process should be streamlined with a structured process for communicating with job applicants.  Applicants should be considered a church group group where we seek to create a for them a positive view and experience with your congregation. Every applicant should be given the courtesy of consistent and clear communication. Anticipate what kind of information a job applicant might need or find helpful and build your communication strategies around this criteria.

For example, when someone applies for a job, there should be an acknowledgement letter sent immediately to let the applicant know that the application was received.  Communication should be made with the applicant at 3 critical steps in the process :

    1. When their application is received;
    2.  When an interview is scheduled;
    3. When the position the applicant applied for is filled – whether they got the job or not.

It is common courtesy to let applicants know that they are no longer in the running for the job which also helps to avoid follow-up phone calls.

The HR team should set expectations for when the applicant might hear back.  For instance, if it is common for applications to be reviewed by several people before an interview is scheduled and that process typically takes weeks or even months, let the applicant know so that they have a realistic expectation for when they might hear about the job. And if things change, and the process is expected to take a little longer, another courtesy communication should be made to the applicant.  Always error on the side of too much communication.  Often the failure to communicate effectively id due to not identifying beforehand who will be the point person for communicating with applicants. Clarify expectations around communication before beginning the hiring process.


Board members are responsible for tending to the “ends” (outcomes/goals) and “means” (policies/limitations) of their organization.Every congregation needs to have the following policies in place to do their job well. Take time to identify which policies may need to be added or updated at your congregation.

  1. Attendance Policies (standard work week, recording time worked, expectations around office hours, meal and rest
  2. Authorization of the head of staff role
  3. Background Checks (health examinations, drug testing, credit checks, bonding requirements, driving record)
  4. Benefits (health care, pension/retirement plans, unemployment compensation, worker’s compensation)
  5. Compensation (overtime, pay periods, wage increases)
  6. Complaint and Grievance Process
  7. Confidentiality of Information
  8. Disciplinary Process
  9. Equal Employment Opportunity
  10. Email, Blog & Social Networking Policy
  11. Employment at Will
  12. Employee Harassment
  13. Employment vs. Membership Relationships
  14. Ethics for Ministry Professionals
  15. Expectations of Volunteer Staff Members
  16. Expense Reporting and Reimbursement
  17. Role of the Personnel Committee
  18. Performance Management Process (job descriptions, quarterly goals review, annual performance evaluation)
  19. Personnel Files
  20. Personal Computers
  21. Proof of U.S. Citizenship and Right to Work
  22. Provisions for time off (requesting time off, holidays, vacation, sick leave, personal days, leave of absence,
    bereavement leave, jury duty, family leave)
  23. Relatives and Employment
  24. Sabbatical policy
  25. Continuing Education policy
  26. Sexual Misconduct
  27. Solicitation
  28. Standards of Conduct (congregational funds, property, records, rules of conduct)
  29. Terms of Call or Dismissal (for clergy staff)
  30. Workplace Safety /Workplace Violence