Applying a ‘Multi’ Label to Your Staff

by Ken Godevenos

OKAY, SO YOU’VE GOT A multi-campus church and each facility is multipurpose. The congregations are multicultural and each location targets multiple generations with multi-sensory worship. But what about your staff members? Should they be multipurpose or multitalented? To put it another way, should your church be hiring generalists or specialists?

The work that needs to get done in churches today has at least two things in common with much of the complex work that needs to get done in society in general. Both benefit from professionalism and the pursuit of excellence. I am not denying that much of our ministry is or should be about God’s power. For us to succeed in ministering to others, we each need to be in a solid relationship with our Lord. The condition of a leader’s or a staff person’s heart is critical.

But I believe God also expects us to take advantage of the gift of training He has given us. In 2 Timothy 2:15, it says, “Be diligent,” and, “Present yourself approved to God” so that you can be unashamed of your ability to accurately handle the word of truth. I know this is about studying the Bible. But those principles of being diligent, approved, unashamed and accurate are principles that reflect the character of God. We can and should apply them to all that we do – especially our work. Philippians 4:8 says that we are to think about excellence. That focus on excellence should apply to our work – and on our selection of staff.

A Place for Generalists

Most churches start with a vision to share the Gospel in a particular area by a particular means – a specific mission. To set things in motion, the leader must become all things to all people, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:22. The church planter becomes the preacher, Sunday- School teacher, youth sponsor, kids’ pastor, worship leader, greeter and caretaker – in short, a generalist. Volunteers come along either to help with the workload or to do something they see needs to be done. When the church grows sufficiently and it’s time to add a staff member, the pastor has a choice: Hire an extra hand or a specialist.

Pastors in this situation are often driven by their circumstances. The factor of greatest influence is too often the answer to the question, “Who’s available and willing?” Usually, an available person is either a generalist or someone willing to become one. And in many instances, that may become a winning combination for the next stage of the church’s growth. But ultimately, the point will be reached where, in order to achieve excellence in each ministry, specialists are required.

One other caution here: There are two types of generalists. The first is the kind who does not specialize in anything. The second is the type who has specialized in a number of fields. The latter type of generalist produces the greatest amount of flexibility for any church.

The Role of Specialists

All areas – music, worship, youth, small groups, adult ministries or audiovisual – have specialists who are trained specifically in them. The specialists you choose should be up-to-date in the latest developments in their field and have a desire to stay abreast of future developments. If the chemistry is good between them and the rest of the team, specialists are a great asset to any church. That’s a big “if,” however, as many specialists seem to pick up an air of superiority. While chemistry is one of the most crucial things to look for in the recruiting process for any position, personality is also important. When hiring specialists, conduct extensive personality and psychological testing.

Senior pastors should check out at least one more very crucial area when it comes to specialists. If you have a strategic plan in place, make sure your potential specialist will work with the entire team to bring the plan to fruition. The last thing a growing church needs is each specialist marching to a different beat. It looks unprofessional for the church. It communicates a lack of teamwork and solid coordination among the staff. If specialists carry out their responsibilities with excellence, however, they will attract many newcomers to your congregation. A growing church needs this.

What You Really Want Is a Hybrid

Ideally, a pastor should follow the example of a university education. Whether you’re hiring your first or 10th staff member, look for someone with a “major” and a “minor,” as well as general training. This approach provides greater flexibility down the road in an emergency situation. A youth pastor who has a gift for preaching, for example, may come in very handy when the senior pastor falls ill or has moved on. Likewise, a small-group pastor who is a professional musician will be invaluable in an unexpected situation.

Your Situation Is Unique

The most important consideration, of course, is your church’s situation at the time of your next hire. Consider your finances, programs, strategic plan and needs. In addition, minimize your liability in case of an emergency, such as someone on your staff leaving, getting sick or dying.

Keep in mind that excellence is only furthered so much with increased specialization. There is a limit. A canal pilot is a definite asset for taking your gigantic cruise ship through the canal, but he or she may not be the person you need at the helm in the middle of the Pacific during the perfect storm. If you can’t afford both, the ocean-going captain may be a better choice.

The larger and more diverse the church, the more specialists will be able to exercise their gifts on a regular basis. But without the backing of financial and volunteer resources, the church will gain from a generalist whose chemistry and ministerial loves are a good fit.

Ken Godevenos has served on and/or chaired several church boards. He is a human resources and church consultant, mediator and executive director of SCA International. Call 905.853.6228 or visit www.accordconsulting.comfor more information.


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