Ministry Staffing Decisions

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So how does a ministry (church) decide which ministry leadership positions should be paid and which should be volunteer? What criteria should we apply to this decision? How do we decide which leadership positions require what gifts and talents? How do your paid staff positions align with ministry programs?

Let’s talk about the problems first:


  • Ministry program lead by volunteers only not self-sustaining. Leader burns out and ministry falls over.
  • Ministry program no longer producing fruit, but with one or more paid leadership staff. RIFing ministers stinks. Congregation splits or divides.
  • Congregation has reduced size and/or budget, but not paid staff. Staff salaries are preventing investment in fruitful ministry.
  • Program leadership transitions, and new leader is gifted differently than prior leaders. Some aspects of ministry suffer.

I have watched in churches as ministries founded by non-paid staff evaporate when the leader who had the original vision burns out, or moves away. I have also watched as the paid leader of a ministry program retires, and the replacement is differently gifted, and rather than taking the ministry in a new direction, tries to keep the vision the same as the prior leader. I have seen churches that invest in staffing specific ministry programs, and seen that the programs take the shape of the leaders giftedness. I have also seen churches that invest in giftedness, by hiring pastors who complement each other, but are not directly accountable for ministry programs. With no way for their gifts to bleed into the ministry programs, the hiring strategy comes up empty, as the program leaders are different.

All ministry programs need certain gifts:


  • Evangelism – the ability to relate the gospel message of hope and salvation to those without hope and who don’t understand their need for salvation.
  • Teaching – the ability to communicate the truth of God’s word, with a view towards application in the life of the believer.
  • Administration – the ability to plan activities, coordinate resources, measure fruit, build systems that allow others to focus on expressing their gifts.
  • Works or Helps – the ability to do any physical or menial work required to keep the ministry happening with joy and love.
  • Hospitality – the ability to make people feel welcome and loved and cared for.

None of these gifts alone are sufficient to run a ministry program. Every ministry program requires each of them in certain portions, and when they are missing, it can show in the fruit.

So how are your ministry programs equipped with these gifts through leadership? In a small paid staff organization, you need to rely on volunteer leadership, but paid staff can be used to “speak” some of these gifts into the programs. This can be done by having paid staff (pastors, especially) participate directly in mentoring relationships with volunteer program leaders. This can also be done, by having paid staff “equip” through regular seminars that help volunteer program leaders grow in understanding in areas of weakness. Even smaller organizations can have gifted volunteers “equip” each other, or participate in denominational or other equipping events.

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