How To Identify And Hire Staff

Hiring staff is difficult. If it’s easy for you then please know that’s a gift.

I took the DiSC personality profile and it gives amazing insight into how I react to stress, as well as what my strengths, and weaknesses are. In the section on weakness the first thing was, “Rob should stay away from hiring.”

I’m too optimistic. I find something I like about someone and latch on to it. When I first planted a church I literally thought, “I can work with anyone.” I just love people that much.

And then three years in I had drama on staff.

I learned many lessons during that difficult season. One of them was I cannot work with everyone…and that’s okay.

If you are like me and you’ve struggled with hiring I’m glad you here.

One of my favorite quotes from Chris Sonksen is,

Professionals learn by coaching, amateurs learn by trial and error. - Chris Sonksen Click To Tweet

If you are reading this it’s because you are honest and smart enough to know that even the best leaders get coaching.

Coming out of that season I learned so many lessons, but the biggest and potentially the most helpful came from Chick-fil-A.

As a church plant I didn’t have money to hire people who had loads of ministry experience. I had to hire young, up and coming, and many time first time ministry staffers. It would be easy to pass the buck and say that was the issue. But wise leaders know, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” – John Maxwell.

Somehow I had to figure out how to get new to ministry staff reacting and thinking like veterans.

I was sitting at a Chick-fil-A when I looked around to see the entire restaurant was being run by mostly teenagers. And yet the restaurant was spotless, organized, and incredibly professional.

Because I have young kids I get to experience McDonald’s. Often times my experience at McDonald’s is like something out of a training video for what not to do in a business. They mess up orders regularly, talk to customers unprofessionally, often do not have the Happy Meal toy advertised, and for some reason their milkshake machine is always broke.

The day I was in Chick-fil-A it dawned on me, McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A draw from the same pool of people and yet Chick-fil-A has drastically different results. It’s not like Chick-fil-A pays a lot more. So the question is how do they do that?

They have a hiring system.

My Executive Pastor is a former Operations Director from Chick-fil-A. What he taught me has revolutionized how I look at hiring.

When he would hire he had a list of qualities that matched the core values of Chick-fil-A. For them it was four core qualities. If a potential candidate could work 7 days a week, but did not match the core values they would pass on them. If someone could only work 2 days a week but had the core values they were looking for they would hire them.

McDonald’s, so it seems, will hire anyone and hope that they can train them to good employees.

Often the church hires like McDonald’s.

I run into a lot of lead pastors who are Shepherds at heart. If that’s you, then you do truly love people. You believe the best, and find hope to develop anyone. That is me.

The problem is when I find someone I like (and it doesn’t take much for me to find something I like about someone) I think, “I can work with them.”

But work is difficult. And church work is incredibly difficult.

Instead of putting out a job description and picking candidates that you believe can best do the job, what you need to do is find people who share your values and beliefs.

When life gets difficult people who do not share your values and beliefs will leave. People that share your values and beliefs tend to be more loyal and stick around during the difficult seasons.

Not only that but people who value what you do will work with a passion. Every human is passionate about something. When we hire people to do a task it often results in a lack of passion. When you hire someone who shares your value they do not have to be motivated to work. But place someone in a job where they don’t share their values and you’ll get passive employees that only look out for themselves.

The question is what do you value?


Now, the hard part is pulling out your key values. Once you do that it becomes easy to spot potential staff members. Until then you are simply throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping it sticks.

To make sure your future hires share your values you need some questions that draw out the candidates values.

For example, if you value theology and studying the Bible you need questions that find out if the person truly values that. For example, “What are you reading right now?” “What are your five favorite books?” “What book would you recommend we read?”

If you value reaching the unchurched you need questions that discover if the candidate shares that value. For example, “When was the last time you shared your faith?” “The last time you shared your faith what was your preferred method?”

When hiring my Executive Pastor one of the questions that made him a front runner was based of a value. I want leaders and not doers. So often ministry becomes stagnant because staff feel like they have to do it all. Leaders raise up leaders to do the work of the ministry.

In order to get this the question I asked was, “Most church staff are doers. What are your thoughts about that?” Many of the candidates that we interviewed were excited by that. I got responses like, “That’s great! Get er done.”

Now, those candidates are not bad. They are amazing people who have accomplished great things. But those candidates would be a bad fit for me. My Executive Pastor shared my value even though he had no idea what that value was. His reply was, “That it is not sustainable. It may be working now but there will come a time when it doesn’t work. It is a cap on how much ministry can be done and it burns out the staff. On top of that, you miss an amazing opportunity to invite the congregation into ministry, teach them, and release them. This gives them skin in the game and makes them stakeholders in what the church is doing.”

Your goal in hiring is to find people who share your values. That doesn’t mean their personality is the same. It doesn’t mean you will always agree. But if you want staff to go the extra mile, be passionate, and inventive you have to find the people who match your values.

Now, there are so many things to value. Selecting the things you are most passionate about doesn’t mean the other values are bad. As humans we cannot be passionate about everything. There is a great place for every person, but there is not always a great place for every person on your team.

What are the non negotiable values for your staff? Do the hard work to establish your core values and then come up with questions that draw out whether or not that is a value in a potential hire.

What Do You See? What questions do you have about establishing values?


Showing 4 comments
  • Drew Smithson

    Great, super helpful insight!

    • Rob Shepherd

      Thanks Drew!

  • Jeff

    Love it, Rob. So, how do you identify those core values?

    • Rob Shepherd

      Jeff, great question.

      I think you have to start with the end in mind. In a five year period what are the 5 to 8 top things you would want your church valuing. There are lots of amazing things to value. Your church naturally picks some and it becomes your culture. Either intentionally or unintentionally every church has a culture. When you nail down the values that are most important to you it’s an intentional step at creating the culture you ultimately feel God wants you to create. What are your thoughts?

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