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A lot of churches start with the who’s and then try to figure out the what’s. They hire for the positions they think they’re supposed to have, and then they write job descriptions (sometimes) and give assignments and create work for those people to do.

I’d say this whole approach lacks wisdom and in the worst cases, misuses Kingdom resources. Why would you hire people and then come up with things for them to do? Isn’t that backwards?

In my opinion, it’s better to start with the what’s and then find the who’s. And clearly defining the what’s without a bias for the way things have always been done is harder than it sounds. You have to ask yourself tough questions that may mean some positions are no longer necessary, or some that you’ve never even considered should be.

Your staff positions should support the growth engines of your church, both spiritual growth and numeric growth.

Some questions to ask yourself (if you dare):

  • What are the growth engines of your church? Where do you see the greatest growth in numbers and in discipleship?
  • Which parts of your church’s vision require seasoned leadership experience, specialized expertise, and/or a predictable investment of time?
  • Which parts of the vision could be accomplished by quality volunteers?
  • Which parts should be carried out by volunteers? (I make this distinction because churches have traditionally hired pastors to do things the church members should be equipped to do, like visiting the home-bound or sick, praying for people in need, spending time with students, etc. If you’re going to hire a pastor to do these things, it’s better to hire one with a high capacity to build teams and equip people to do ministry. They should be investing in people to multiply their efforts.)
  • Where do you feel you are currently falling short in accomplishing your vision? What could remedy the situation?
  • What staff positions no longer make sense?

Figuring out the what’s first can make a big difference in your approach to staffing. It’s why we work with churches on strategic planning before we review their staffing and structure. If you’re clear on vision, you can get creative in execution. Have any of you shaken up your structure to better accomplish your vision? I’d love to hear what’s working for you.


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