One only needs to consult an online job board to observe the vast number of staff openings in churches across the United States. As do others, I receive regular requests from headhunters for recommendations of people to fill this or that ministry position. However, a question has been raised, at least in my mind, regarding those who are presently attending these churches where leadership has decide to look elsewhere to fill a ministry position: why are church leaders looking outside of their congregation for staffing?
It seems to me that if a local body of Christ is uniquely gifted with leaders who equip members for ministry (Eph 4:11-12) as well as with members full of the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18; 1 Cor 12), then the human resources needed to effectively engage a community with the gospel are inherently—perhaps latently—present. The leadership role, then, is to identify the latent potential and encourage it to fan its gifting into a flame (2 Tim 1:6).
The reality, however, is different, as Greg Despres writes in his D.Min. study of Houston area churches. Referring to Rowland Forman, Jeff Jones, and Bruce Miller’s 2004 book, The Leadership Baton: An Intentional Strategy for Developing Leaders in your Church (Zondervan), Despres notes,
“Forman, Jones, and Miller share a caveat with ‘Churches who place a high value on developing incredible programs over developing people will tend to identify and pursue the brightest and best in the country’ rather than those in their own churches (Forman, Jones, and Miller 2004, 37).”
Curiously, more staffing does not necessarily ensure church growth. In a revealing study of the Evangelical Free Church of America from 2008 to 2018, an increase in the number of clergy correlated to a decrease in the number of church members, a decrease in average church size, yet an increase (albeit nominal) in the number of churches. No doubt, some of the increase of 100+ clergy account for the 23 net new churches over four years. Yet the data are clear that more clergy does not always translate to more growth.
Hence, more questions: why are church leaders looking to increase staffing at all? Are not all church members priests and disciple makers? Should our focus be in developing church members for the ministry rather than a continued professionalizing of ministry? In search for an answer to the first question I posed above, here are 11 reasons that I can think of that might cause a church to look outside of its membership in order to fill ministry needs:
- Poor leadership development and discipleship pipelines.
- Current staff and/or elders who do not have the skills to develop leaders and disciple congregants.
- Disinterested congregants.
- Staff and/or elders who want to ensure/solidify control and power.
- Poor relationship building between staff and elders, and members.
- Lack of trust that the Holy Spirit is working in the lives of people in the church.
- Program-centric model that requires professionals to ensure programs attract more people.
- Sunday-centric model that believes Sunday’s are the primary place of discipleship.
- Building-centric model that believes discipleship happens primarily on the church’s campus.
- Pastor-centric model which focuses on the pastor as the disciple maker.
- Competition with other area churches.
Contrastingly to this list, if you want to staff from within your church, the Apostle Paul provides a credible model; indeed, even a solution to your church staffing needs: empower members for ministry (2 Tim 1:6); entrust them with responsibility (2 Tim 2:2); inspire them by providing a visible example (2 Tim 1:8); and remind them to focus on gospel proclamation (2 Tim 4:2). With that simple model, the church in Ephesus grew from zero to more than 500 in just three years. Perhaps more impressively, the ministry progressed to such an extent that every resident of Asia heard the word of the Lord (Acts 19:10, 20); something that could have only been achieved if all the members of the church were equipped for ministry (Eph 4:12), not just the staff.
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