MINISTRY STAFF WITHOUT MINISTRY EXPERIENCE (Part 2 of 2)
by Jeff Hagan
(Tacoma, WA, USA)
I'd like to encourage you to take out the resumes you have filed a way as “not a fit” and look at them anew keeping in mind what other experience they might have and determine if it can transfer into the kind of duties you have in mind for the open position. You may be surprised at how many of the skills may be adaptable to your specific needs.
With that said, following are some reasons and/or areas where someone with no ministry experience might fit perfectly into the position of a church staff member. Contemplate whether or not these reasons/areas may or may not line up with the specific traits and skills you're looking for in a new staff member.*
First, they are motivated by life-changing causes If you read up on “millennials” you will find a wealth of information that states they believe in working for companies or organizations that are driven by a cause. They believe in the mission of the institution. If they feel a new call to help the Church reach the lost their passion and desire could be a benefit to all those involved.
When someone chooses to work in an environment where the primary purpose is driven by a cause it gives a glimpse into that individuals heart and priorities. Regardless of what their past work experience shows, those whose experience has been focused on a particular mission shows their aims and goals go beyond themselves.
Second, they can typically handle many responsibilities at once Review their duties and/or accomplishments to see how many “hats” they had to wear. Anyone who has been in ministry for any amount of time realizes the importance of being able to “wear many hats,” especially pastors. If their background is in small to medium size companies, faith based organizations, or non-profits, chances are the staff was not large and the employees were expected to multi-task and wear a variety of “hats,” work more hours, and were heavily relied on to get things done.
Third, the culture (whether you like the term or not) can benefit from an “outside” employee This kind of relates back to cause or purpose. If the culture of an organization, or church, is effective it will mirror the cause of an organization, or church.
“The culture at every church or any place of work is going to vary greatly. As I mentioned before, churches and ministry organizations are rooted in similar overarching goals. These goals will hopefully shape of the culture of not only the prospective employees prior place of work, but also your own church. Finding alignment in culture is one of the most important considerations of a new hire, as well as one of the most nuanced. Looking at someone who has worked in a similar culture space is a good start. If they fit your culture, and you can teach them the technical skills they need to perform the tasks within the ministry role, they might be a better fit than you think.”**
Fourth, relationships are where they get much of their drive If you've ever worked on church staff you know that both the staff and the congregation are built upon the foundation of learning the stories of others, relating with them, and serving them as well. If you can find someone that has discovered the the importance of putting in the time it takes to truly get to know others it will be natural for them to enter into the community of the church. Be sure to ask candidates about their past working relationships. Customer care, supervision of others, client relations, counseling experience, and more could all cross over well into a role in ministry that includes caring for others.
Fifth, often times these people are people of character
“Transparency, honesty, and integrity is an obligation for any organization.”*** This character will be most often be revealed when you do work and personal references and carry out the background check. These are important steps in a ministry related position. If they are a person of integrity they will be one who operates in authenticity and will be familiar with being open and honest and those are the types of people needed on a church staff.
Always keep in the forefront of your mind the opening you are hiring for and determine if their other experience(s) will stand up in comparison to the skills needed for the position you are looking to fill. When a “risk” is taken in hiring someone with potential as opposed to position specific experience it can be an exceptional way to grow and develop a leader from your own staff.
The points listed so far are great for most church positions, nearly all church positions. However, let's not be unrealistic in regards to the position of a Lead or Senior pastor. People expect more direct and formal education when it comes to the one who preaches and teaches on a regular basis. They need to be equipped to “feed the sheep.” Even then, the rigid pattern of most denominations is not always the best method for determining what would make an effective leader, preacher, and pastor. Let's take a few minutes to examine that issue.
Senior, Lead, or even Associate Pastor Recruitment The traditional method, give or take, for this type of recruitment requires the candidate to have pastoral experience over “x” amount of people for “x” amount of years. And prior to one's pastoral experience they are typically required to have four years of bible college and three years of seminary training. In many denominations they also expect you to continue your formal education for another year of full time study to obtain a ThM degree and even further. You're held in the highest esteem if you continue two more years of formal full time study to earn your ThD.
The problem with this is it eliminates an extreme number of qualified pastoral candidates. Doctrine is important, theology is important, but why not simply test their biblical knowledge by way of a written test? A person can come out of an Ivy League Seminary with all of the degrees mentioned above yet still believe God is a force, a woman, and that the Scriptures are not even inspired as the only rule for faith and practice. What good is an education if they can graduate without believing the most basic of fundamental Christian beliefs. I think a case by case situation would be much more appropriate and effective.
Interview them, have them take a written exam developed by your church, have them submit the manuscripts of a sermon, and have them submit two or three audio sermons. This can go a long way in determining if their doctrine and theology is a fit for your church. It can give you a far more accurate picture than determining this information simply because they have a bunch of letters following their name.
Even still, simply because someone has been a pastor for three years doesn't necessarily make him less desirable a candidate than one who has been a pastor for ten. And one who has been on the pastoral staff of a church of 200 makes them no less capable of being on the pastoral staff of a church of 2,000.
What I'm getting at is open your minds. Consider and examine people and talents and skills on an individual basis rather than relying on some list including “must haves.” Of course I'm not saying to throw caution to the wind, if that's what you get from this article then you haven't read it properly. I'm merely trying to portray that it can be extremely beneficial to your church to think out of the box and go beyond the traditional means when hiring personnel for your church staff.
*Outline pattern follows the aforementioned vandrerbloom.com article entitled “Why Non-Ministry Experience Is Valuable On Your Church Staff,” by Nicole Cochran, 10-2-16
**Cochran, “Why Non-Ministry...”