- The church moves into a maintenance mode. To be sure, there are decisions and actions that need to be postponed until the new pastor gets on board. But neither the Great Commission nor the Great Commandment takes a vacation. There is still much work to be done.
- The church allows the interim pastor to be a candidate for pastor. I know. I will get some pushback here. But I have seen so many disasters befall a church when the person in the interim pulpit gets favored status. The downside outweighs the benefits.
- The process of finding a pastor becomes a “beauty contest.” Several candidates are paraded before the church or key groups in the church. Factions decide their favorite candidate. Tensions grow. Consider instead dealing with one or a very few candidates at a time.
- The search process is handled poorly. To be fair, most church members and leaders have never been a part of a search process. They are doing the best they know how. Over the past several years, I have become a strong proponent of getting outside expertise and help. As William Vanderbloemen said on one of our podcasts, “The worst hire a church can make is the wrong hire.”
- The church leaves personnel problems for the next pastor to handle. Don’t neglect making the tough decisions. If you delay these decisions, you are already setting up your next pastor to have problems and enemies at the onset.
- The church fails to deal with sacred cows. Like the personnel issues noted above, don’t set up the next pastor for failure. If there are some sensitive issues to handle, do it during the interim period. Don’t wait.
- The church fills key staff positions in the interim period. If at all possible, let the next pastor have an influential role in choosing staff members who will be a part of the leadership team. It is a much better alternative than moving forward and leaving the pastor with no say in one of the most important aspects of ministry.
“Interim” sounds like a pregnant pause anticipating something down the road. So when you put the adjective in front of “pastor” or “church,” it just feels like less than ideal. It does not have to be that way. The interim period between two pastors can be a time of great benefit for churches. It is for that reason I encourage churches not to make mistakes common during this interim time. Here are seven of them:
The pastor has resigned or retired. That pastor was in the pulpit 45 times a year. Should a staff person become the interim preacher until the new pastor arrives? Like many other situations in a church, the non-answer is, “It depends.” Rather than provide definitive guidelines, here are some questions to consider:
- Does the staff member have a capacity to preach on a regular basis? You would assume the staff member already has full-time responsibilities. If sermon preparation takes fifteen to twenty hours a week, from where will those hours come?
- Is the staff member already taking on other additional responsibilities in the absence of a pastor? This issue is again one of capacity. The pastoral vacancy means that someone not only has to take care of the preaching, but others have to take care of all the other responsibilities of the pastor.
- Will the staff member become a candidate to be the pastor? In most cases, we recommend that whoever is filling the pulpit should not be a candidate for pastor. The weekly presence of that person can cause many church members to default to the staff member instead of seriously considering other candidates.
- Are there serious financial problems in the church? Perhaps the church was barely meeting budget before the pastor left. Now the congregation has some financial breathing room without the personnel costs associated with the former pastor. Perhaps it is best to have a staff member preach, assuming that person will result in no increase or a modest increase in expenses to the church.
- Is the staff member a capable preacher? The preaching of the Word is too important to settle for mediocrity.
- Are there an abundance of capable interim pastors or preachers in the area? Because of some of the issues noted thus far, it might be best to let someone outside the church fill the pulpit.
- Is the pastoral vacancy expected to be long-term? Of course, this question cannot always be answered definitively. But if there are expectations that it will be many months before a new pastor arrives, it might be best to secure an outside interim preacher instead of wearing out the current staff.
If you think one of the six reasons is high salaries for each person on staff, you would be wrong. While there are certainly some exceptions to my statement, they would be outliers. Repeated studies demonstrate we are not paying individuals too much; instead the total personnel costs are often too high. Here are six of the most common reasons why:
- Churches do not regularly evaluate their staff needs. Like many other aspects of church, we assume the way we’ve always done it is the best path for the future. The best question for a church to ask is: How would we staff our church if we started from scratch?
- We are fearful of making tough decisions. Personnel decisions are not easy. They are fraught with emotions and critics. Many leaders, therefore, do nothing. Fear drives their lack of decision-making.
- We think in terms of personalities instead of stewardship. “We are a Christian organization; we can’t act like a secular company.” A leader in a church recently made that statement to me. He was referring to a church staff person who no longer had a productive role and, to add fuel to the fire, was downright lazy. Rather than being concerned with the overall stewardship needs of the church, though, the leader decided to let the non-productive and slothful staff person continue in his role.
- We do not outsource. I’ve mentioned on a number of occasions that churches try to do too many functions beyond their core internally. I’ve also noted that many churches could be much more efficient if they outsourced bookkeeping and finance (the example I have given is MAG Bookkeeping); website development (Mere Church); website maintenance and strategy (Render); writing (Ellipsis); and assistant/secretarial (eaHELP). Churches are likely wasting millions of dollars collectively in America.
- We are not equipping the laity. There are some functions that should be led by paid staff. But there are others that could be handled extremely well by volunteers.
- Many churches have a pay-to-minister mentality. I refer to these churches as “country club churches.” The members perceive their tithes and offerings to be akin to dues. Since they pay their dues, someone should do the work for them. Ministry is all about paying for others to do the work, rather than doing the work of ministry themselves.
There are staff teams that share the same space, have their bios listed on the same website, and park in the same parking lots but are not aligned around the same mission and values. An unaligned team shows up to the same place with different agendas. They share the same office space but pull in different directions. An aligned team is very different. They are deeply committed to the same mission and rally around the same values. An aligned team inevitably makes a bigger impact, as their focus is sharp and their shared commitment encourages one another. So how can leaders work to increase the alignment on the teams they lead?
1. Emphasize values when hiring.When you emphasize values in hiring, you attract those who already hold to the same values. And you enable those who would not be a fit to opt out. In my role at LifeWay Christian Resources, I am responsible for leading the Resources division. I meet with most people who are being hired onto our team for one last interview. The person has met with many other leaders before our meeting so in this interview I am looking for two things: (1) Has our team properly and passionately shared our values with this candidate? (2) Does this person already believe in the values we hold to? A big part of the “final interview” is my checking our interview process. If our values are crystal clear, I believe we will attract the right people and repel those who should not be on our team. I also walk through our values with the person and ask for commitment to them.
2. Frame training around your values.For alignment to be driven into a culture, values must be seen more than on a wall. They must show up in regular conversations and in training. By framing the training you provide your team around the values, you show how the values are fleshed out in daily work. So when you gather with your staff for times of development, choose a value to provide tangible training around.
3. Celebrate living examples.Vision is best caught via people, not via paper. By telling stories of how the values are lived out, people can see tangible examples of how the values inform work. As an example, in our quarterly division meetings—we give an award for each value and tell stories that show how the values are being lived out. When you push for alignment you make it increasingly uncomfortable for people who aren’t committed to the values. And increasingly life-giving for those who are passionate about what the team is passionate about. Read the full article 3 Ways to Increase Alignment on the Team You Lead that appeared first on EricGeiger.com. Used by permission.
There are varying opinions as to the importance of intelligence when bringing someone on your team. For a season, Google notoriously asked potential hires for their SAT scores because they believed that intelligence was a critical predictor of performance. Imagine being asked to call your mommy to see if she kept an old record of your score. Google has since dropped the practice because they found it did not predict anything. In recent years, more attention has been given to “emotional intelligence” (EQ) than intellect (IQ). The “emotional intelligence” term has been popularized, in part, because of author and researcher Daniel Goleman. In his popular books Emotional Intelligence and Primal Leadership, Goleman writes that the most effective leaders are emotionally intelligent. They have the ability to manage their emotions, to genuinely connect with people, to offer kindness and empathy, to lead with joy and inspiration, and to display the master skill of patience. While I don’t dismiss intellect completely, I agree with Goleman in that emotional intelligence is more important. Here are three reasons why:
1. People are led most effectively by their hearts, not just their heads.People who are intellectually smart but relationally dumb have a tendency to lead with logic and dismiss people’s hearts. Leaders who lead with their heads and not their hearts fail to leverage the conviction and shared values of people. Leaders who lead with their heads and not their hearts focus on the direction while losing sight of the people.
2. People care that their leaders care.People cannot stand the feeling of being manipulated, and when they sense someone is only directing them for his/her own benefit, they stop following. Great leaders actually care for the people they are leading, not only the results the people produce. While this may seem basic, care and concern is the foundation for what is called “emotional intelligence.” Leaders who are emotionally intelligent deeply care for the people they serve.
3. Leadership that is Christian is the most effective leadership.Emotional intelligence is not the same thing as extroversion. What then does it mean to be emotionally bright? Many of the qualities identified in Goleman’s research (kindness, patience, joy) are the fruit of a person walking with the Lord. The fruit of a believer who is filled with the Spirit of God is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The most effective leadership comes from people fully submitted to the Spirit. Christian leadership is the most effective leadership because God enables His people to love people, to lead with joy, to bring peace to conflict, to display patience, to offer kindness and gentleness, and to control emotions. So learn from Google’s adjustment. Intelligence alone is very incomplete. Read the full article 3 Reasons Emotional Intelligence Wins When Choosing Leaders that appeared first on EricGeiger.com. Used by permission.
As God’s people, we are to live the reality of who He has declared us to be. He has rescued us and given us an incredible identity as His children, His bride, His priests, and His friends. As God’s people, our activity must be rooted in the identity He has graciously given us. The same is true for those of us who lead in ministry. Here are six essential identities of a ministry leader:
1. Theologian: Teach and guard doctrine.Without the Word of God, a ministry has nothing transformational to offer because the Lord uses His truth to change hearts and sanctify people. If leaders are not consumed with the Word, ministry will be shallow and discipleship will be scarce. Ministry leaders must care deeply about what the church believes about God. They must be continually teaching and guarding the faith delivered to the saints once for all (Jude 3) and guarding the flock from false doctrine (Acts 20:28-30). The sheep can be severely harmed if ministry leaders stop teaching the truth and guarding the flock from error.
2. Missionary: Champion mission.As we follow Jesus, we follow Him knowing His heart is to seek and save that which is lost (Luke 19:10). Believers are invited to join Jesus on His mission of making disciples of every nation, of pursuing and rescuing people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. The commission the Lord has given His people must consume a ministry, and this will only happen as ministry leaders continually remind God’s people of their holy mission.
3. Shepherd: Love people.Without love for people, ministry leaders are merely clanging cymbals, making noise without making an impact. People need to be loved to receive care. While expressing love for people in a ministry will mean distributing care through others and not feverishly attempting to meet every need, a loving shepherd wants the sheep to be cared for. The apostle Peter challenged pastors to willingly and freely shepherd God’s people (1 Peter 5:2), and the Lord rebuked leaders in Jeremiah’s day for failing to attend to people (Jeremiah 23:1-2).
4. Equipper: Develop people to minister.There is a typical approach to local church ministry, and then there is the biblical approach. Typically pastors or other staff persons are hired to perform ministry. When this happens, many of God’s people are sidelined and a church’s ministry is reduced to what can occur through a few people. The biblical approach looks very different. Pastors are to prepare others for ministry, not perform all of the ministry themselves (Ephesians 4:11-13). When pastors/teachers train and prepare God’s people for ministry, the result is the body of Christ is built up. Quite simply, a failure to equip people for ministry results in an unhealthy church.
5. Steward: Faithfully manage resources.In his letter to Titus, the apostle Paul called the overseer “God’s administrator” or “God’s steward” (Titus 1:7). Ministry leaders are stewards, not owners, as Jesus owns His Church. Jesus promised to build His Church, not ours (Matthew 16:18)! The resources the Lord blesses a church with are ultimately for Him. The ministry leader, as a faithful steward, is responsible to ensure the resources are managed faithfully and leveraged to advance the mission. The ministry leader must not be a lover of money (1 Timothy 3:3) but one who is generous because Christ has been generous to us.
6. Strategist: Provide a clear how.A church needs godly, Spirit-filled leadership much, much more than a church needs strategic leadership, but a ministry benefits greatly from both. When a ministry leader leads well, the ministry leader will give strategic direction as an administrator or steward (Titus 1:7). Martyn Lloyd-Jones said: A pastor is a man who is given charge of souls… He is the guardian, the custodian, the protector, the organizer, the director, and the ruler of the flock. To organize and direct the flock well requires ministry strategy. Strategy is essentially how the mission is accomplished. A ministry leader must do more than declare the mission of making disciples; a ministry leader must provide a clear process for discipleship. Read the full article 6 Essential Identities of a Ministry Leader that appeared first on EricGeiger.com. Used by permission.
If you are responsible for leading a group of people, you know how important building a team is. The people on the team form the culture and fulfill the mission you have embraced. Just as the flavor of soup changes with each ingredient, each new team member changes the collective flavor of a team. If a wrong player is added to the team, the collective culture and effectiveness of the team is harmed. For this reason, many have heralded the maxim, “Hire slowly, fire quickly.” I remember hearing the maxim and thinking it sounded cruel. The longer I have led, the more I have found it to be true. I believe the maxim for at least four reasons:
1. Every hire is a risk.Every hire is a risk. Some argue that proven track records eliminate the risk, but in reality a great history only minimizes the risk. Even when hiring someone who has a proven track record, it is hard to separate the individual’s performance from the organization’s performance. The risk in hiring can be minimized, but it can’t be eliminated. By “hiring slowly,” leaders minimize the risk. It takes time to ensure there is chemistry, to ensure the person is aligned to the values and direction of the ministry/organization, and the wise leader invests this time.
2. Negativity poisons a culture.Sadly, negative team members impact a culture more than positive team members do. A wise leader longs for people with critical minds but is deeply leery of people with critical spirits. When leaders allow negative and apathetic people to continue to exist on a team, the whole team suffers. In reality, the leader is not caring for the people well. When it is clear that “this is not a fit,” a courageous leader makes the call for the good of the whole.
3. A lack of trust slows everything.When competence and chemistry are in low amounts, so is trust. In his book Speed of Trust, Stephen Covey articulates that people move quickly and decisively when there are high levels of trust among people serving alongside one another. When trust is low, people waste insane amounts of time skirting around issues, working around people, and covering their tracks. When the wrong players are ‘off-boarded,’ trust escalates.
4. The wrong players create extra, non-valuable work.The wrong team members have much worse than a zero-sum impact on the team. They actually create more work for everyone else. There is nothing wrong with extra work if it is fruitful. But the wrong players have a tendency to create extra work that is not fruitful or helpful. Often in attempts to justify their existence on a team, they move in directions that distract others from work that is essential. At first I winced when I heard the maxim. Now I tend to nod. Read the full article 4 Reasons I Believe “Hire Slowly, Fire Quickly” that appeared first on EricGeiger.com. Used by permission.
There it was: another email. This one had a clear and poignant subject: “Pastor Search Committee Nightmare.” It was one of hundreds of similar pieces of communication I have received from pastors. The pastor receives a contact from a search committee. Often times the pastor is invited to go to the church for an on-site interview. This particular pastor had flown to the church several weeks earlier. Everything seemed to go well. The search committee promised to follow up. The pastor left with a sense that this church would be his next church. Then silence. Nothing. Crickets. The pastor’s wife was looking at the prospective church’s Facebook page one day. She saw that the church was announcing the calling of a new pastor. But they had never followed up with this pastor. Totally unacceptable. Here are five of the headaches a pastor experiences when a search committee fails to communicate. Please read these carefully if you are a part of a church that is seeking a pastor.
- Disruption. The moment a pastor is contacted by a search committee, there is disruption in the pastor’s life and the family as well. That disruption does not end until some type of closure takes place.
- Lack of focus. It is difficult for a pastor to focus on the ministry of his current church while the possibility exists that he may be moving to another church.
- Guilt. Because of the lack of focus in the current ministry, many pastors feel guilty that they aren’t giving their all to the church.
- Frustration. The prolonged periods of silence are frustrating. There is no excuse for the lack of communication.
- Anxiety. The pastor is often concerned that the possibility of his departure will get out to church members and compromise the current ministry.
Zappos famously guards their culture. Because they know each person brought on the team will either contribute to or corrode a healthy culture, they pay people not to accept a job after going through orientation. Even if a person is talented, they don’t want the person to stay if the person does not believe in the values they espouse. So how do you evaluate fit or chemistry during an interview? Here are three essentials:
1. Know your team’s actual values.In 2008, Mike Krzyzewski, the basketball coach of Duke, was given the task to restore USA Men’s Olympic basketball to the prominence it once enjoyed. The team was given the name the Re-deem team. In the early meetings of the team, Krzyzewski pulled the guys together to talk about their team values. He called them standards—standards they would live by and hold each other accountable to. He said in his book Gold Standards that they constantly referred back to their standards, statements like: We tell each other the truth. We are hungry. We have no bad practices. Mike Krzyzewski said that his Duke team’s standards were very different, which confirmed what he always knew: “Each team is different even when playing the same game.” You can’t check for chemistry if you don’t know your team’s values. You have to invest time unearthing what convictions are beneath the surface, what really drives the culture of the team you are leading. Before leaders can declare a new set of values, they must discover what is already valued. Of course, some of the values you discover are ones you will not want to highlight and celebrate, but there will be affirmable and valuable values that should be cherished and commended.
2. Know your team’s aspirational values.A leader or leadership team can bring new values into a culture, but only if actual values are also identified and celebrated. When I consult with Auxano, we refer to new values leaders desire in the culture as aspirational values. We encourage teams to have twice as many actual values as aspirational ones, or we fear leaders are not really leading in their current context but in a fantasy context in their minds. An effective way to embed new values in a culture is to recruit people who passionately believe and live them.
3. Discover shared values and contradictory values with the candidate.Because you know your actual and aspirational values, you can look for shared and contradictory values with the candidate. Don’t merely hand a document with your values listed and ask if there is agreement. Savvy candidates can “interview up” to anyone’s values. Dig into their past roles. Spend ample time getting to know the person. Have discussions about how work/ministry should be accomplished—not just about whether or not the person can do the job. If you cannot find displayed commitment to what is valued in your culture or if you find contradictory values, there is not a chemistry fit. If the person would need to become someone different to fit in your culture, it is not a fit for either side. However, if you discover a track record of displayed commitment to the values (both actual and aspirational) that are essential in your culture, the person will contribute to the health of your team. Read the full article Three Essentials in Evaluating Chemistry During an Interview that appeared first on EricGeiger.com. Used by permission.
Every hire is a risk. Every time I have hired someone or have been hired, there was a risk involved. Some argue that proven track records eliminate the risk, but in reality a great history only minimizes the risk. Even when hiring someone who has a proven track record, it is hard to separate the individual’s performance from the organization’s performance. For example, we have seen great assistant coaches hired to be head coaches with dismal results. And sometimes when the coach returns to an assistant role, he is unable to reclaim the “mojo” he once had. In those cases, clearly it was the system around him at his former school that lifted his performance above his capacity. Thus, the hire was a risk, as all hires are. The risk in hiring can be minimized, but it can’t be eliminated. To help you minimize the risk in your staff hires, below are two of the most common hiring mistakes you must avoid making in church ministry.