If you know anything about Chemistry Staffing, you know we are obsessed with helping churches find pastors who will stay for the long term. At the core of that endeavor is partnering with churches to define what makes a great fit between candidates and their church.
(Psst: Here’s how we do that.)
But even finding the right fit doesn’t guarantee a long tenure. Our experience in serving churches over the past years has shown us there are several things that can ruin a great fit.
Here are five to consider:
Poor Succession/Transition Plan
When it comes to following “the last guy” in ministry, a poor transition plan can wreck a great fit. This is especially true when it comes to Senior or Lead Pastors. Having too brief a transition doesn’t allow enough time for a congregation to process the grief and loss that comes with the end of a pastor’s tenure. Even in the healthiest of endings, there is work that needs to be done to prepare fertile ground for the incoming leader. Failure to plan for and invest in a strategic transition season can significantly inhibit and possibly shorten the stay of a candidate with long-term potential.
Pro Tip: Consider an intentional interim pastor following a Senior Pastor transition. Looking for a helpful tool to think through any staff transition? Check out our Staff Transition Playbook.
Related to succession/transition, if a church has unresolved issues that existed during the previous pastor’s tenure, they won’t automagically go away when you hire someone new. The worst housewarming gift you can give a new pastor is the task of unpacking your baggage over the first few years of their ministry. Churches should focus on helping new pastors start well to facilitate the building of trust with the congregation and a solid foundation for effective ministry.
Pro Tip: Get some diagnostic help and coaching to surface issues and identify next steps to resolve them.
No Onboarding Plan
First impressions are a big deal. As a church, there is a lot you can do starting day 1 to communicate the value of the new staff member and reaffirm the choice they’ve made to move their family halfway across the country. There is also a lot you can do to make them question their decision and their value to the church. Churches that want to maximize a great pastoral fit will develop an onboarding plan that takes into account pre-arrival, day one, week one, and other key onboarding opportunities and milestones for both the pastor and their family.
Pro Tip: Outline an onboarding plan for new hires that inspires and delights them. Download our Onboarding Playbook to make it easy.
Ineffective Staff Structure
When was the last time you evaluated your staff structure? Every church should regularly evaluate their organizational and staffing structures to identify and overcome gaps in capacity and alignment. If your new pastor is a great fit for an old system, it won’t be long before unseen gaps become uncrossable chasms. Reviewing your staffing structure and plan keeps the whole system healthier and allows your new pastor to flourish within that system.
Pro Tip: If you haven’t evaluated your staff structure since 2019, take some time to do so before you bring on new staff. To get started, download our free Staff Restructuring Playbook.
Is your new staff member inheriting a hand-me-down job description? Bringing on a new staff member based on outdated or unclear expectations is a recipe for friction and failure.
Pro Tip: Set up new hires for success by evaluating and updating job descriptions and role expectations. Check out this “10 Things” blog post about making a new hire. Three of the 10 tips are about job descriptions.
Finding a great fit is a huge step toward hiring pastors that will stay for the long term. But it isn’t a guarantee. Taking some time to think through these five things before launching your next search can add years to your next pastor’s tenure. If you’d like to talk through any of these issues as they relate to your church and any upcoming searches, use this link to set up a time to talk!
PS: For more on how to maintain a great, long-term fit, read this post by Dr. Allan Love: Long Term Ministry Creates Long Term Impact