The last few weeks we’ve been looking at “The Great Resignation” and how it is affecting the “big C” church and church staff members across the country. Today we’re going to look at some considerations that your church (and every church) should be thinking about moving forward.
In case you need to catch up, here are our first four installments in this series:
- The Great Resignation: What This Means for the Big “C” Church
- The Great Resignation: Why People are Leaving
- The Great Resignation: The Diminishing Church Staff Workforce
- The Great Resignation: Church Staff Supply and Demand
In our work at Chemistry Staffing, we started seeing some of the real shifts happen in early spring (late March/early April). As we’ve tracked our hundreds of conversations with both candidates and churches, we are hearing similar stories from both sides: increased resignations among church staff, increased numbers of paid staff leaving the ministry, and realigned workplace priorities that are making staff transitions different today than they were pre-COVID or even a year ago.
Not everyone agrees. A study released recently said that there is NOT an increasing percentage of pastors (senior pastors, at least) leaving the ministry. They argue that while the ministry landscape of the last two years has been difficult, it has not affected the overall percentage of pastors that have quit, retired early, or pivoted to a new non-ministry career.
But outside the church, nationally, the numbers are jaw-dropping. In August 4.3 million people quit their jobs. That is 3% of the nation’s total workforce. Resigning. In one month.
In many ways, it has been the perfect storm. And we’d be negligent if we didn’t consider the possibility of this happening inside the church as well. Every indication we see is that the correlation is pretty dead-on between national statistics and what we’re finding in our work with churches.
According to LinkedIn CEO Satya Nadella: "Not only are people talking about when, where, and how they work, but also why they work. They really want to re-contract, in some sense, the real meaning of work and sort of asking themselves the question of which company do they want to work for and what job function or profession they want to pursue."
Some prefer to call “The Great Resignation” “The Great Reshuffling”. Perhaps that is a better phrase to describe what we see happening.
BUT THIS IS THE CHURCH!
Usually, you can take what is happening in business and the marketplace, add ten years, and the church will slowly follow.
But COVID has leveled the playing field.
Our view of the church staff space tells us that what is happening outside the church employment area is not at all unlike what we are seeing inside the Church.
So… what should your church expect in the coming months, and how will this affect your current and future staffing needs? I see five trends that I think you should know about and consider for your church:
For many, “calling” is not just for ministry anymore
Everyone describes their ‘call to ministry’ differently. Some look at it as a specific calling to a specific church. Others have a more broad approach as in a “calling" to youth ministry or a “calling” to vocational ministry. But until recently, the ‘call to ministry’ for many meant a lifetime career of serving the Church vocationally.
This is shifting. We are starting to see many of the church staff we talk with opening up their traditional view of calling for this new season. Calling may now be for a period of time, or may extend to a non-vocational career or job move where they can feel fulfilled. This expanded view of ‘calling’ is allowing some to find meaning and purpose outside of church ministry that they had never considered before.
Don’t be surprised when the next resignation at your church is from someone on your staff that is going to stay in the community and work for a non-profit, start their own business, sell real estate, or work a regular 9-5 ‘secular’ job. For many, the added flexibility, increased pay, more family time, Sundays off, and less church politics are an attractive alternative to what they’ve experienced over the last two years in ministry.
Your current team may look much different in a year
The reality is that this trend will hit home soon in most churches. And your church will probably not be an exception. In our own internal Chemistry Staffing research (with input from over 700 church staff members), we found three important things that may impact what your church looks like in one year. Here’s what we asked:
- Are you considering changing jobs in the next 12 months?
54% said yes
- Coming out of COVID, have you seriously considered leaving ministry work?
31% said yes
- Has your church started to see staff members leaving at an increased rate?
33% said yes
The bottom line is that, for many churches, your church staff may look much different a year from now. For now, churches that place their priority on team building and making sure that their current staff is well cared for (and well-compensated) may be able to stave off some of those that are at least considering a move in the next year.
Finding new staff will be more difficult, time-consuming, expensive, and local
Let me first say this: I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy. And I realize that Trend #3 seems overly negative. But it is what we are seeing.
Finding new staff will become increasingly more difficult. This is mostly because of the group of people that are leaving ministry or pivoting to other roles. We’re seeing this especially in the areas of youth and worship ministry. Those two areas seem to have been the hardest during COVID and are seeing the most staff attrition right now, especially among those that are mid-career (3-10 years experience).
Finding new staff will become increasingly more time-consuming. Because there are fewer qualified candidates in the available pool, it will most probably take longer to find your next staff member. It is a ‘candidate’s market’ right now, meaning that really good candidates have lots of options. It may take longer than normal to find the right person for your church (and when you find them, you’ll need to act quickly… they will probably have another offer on the table soon).
Finding new staff will become increasingly more expensive. The labor market right now has caused many businesses to pay premium wages and offer great flexibility to new hires. This has caused much of the pivoting that we’re starting to see happen in the church world. The new reality is that an entry-level role at FedEx now offers full benefits and better pay than many churches are offering for some staff roles. Here’s some hard truth: the time of churches being able to hire people under market value is coming to an end. If you want to hire an experienced staff pastor (and keep them), in many cases you’ll need to reconsider your compensation package so that it is competitive not only with other churches but opportunities outside the church.
Finding new staff will become increasingly more local. The pandemic has caused many people to reprioritize being closer to extended family. That means that we are seeing the number of people open to national relocation steadily decreasing. National staff searches are increasingly becoming more local or regional. In fact, your next staff member may be right there in your city or very likely within a day’s drive of your church.
Less staff, more ministry
Because there are fewer staff to choose from and the cost of staffing will be rising, many churches will find that they will have fewer staff on their payroll in the future. Part of this will be the result of simple supply and demand. But some will be driven by economics as well.
As we stated above, new staff hires will come at a price. Many churches will find that to remain competitive, they will simply have to offer more compensation, flexibility, and benefits to new hires. So a church that has two staff members making $40,000 per year with no insurance benefit may find themselves needing to restructure to just one staff member with a $50,000 salary and increased benefits. One staff member instead of two.
I will restate a sentence from just a few paragraphs ago: “The time of churches being able to hire people under market value is coming to an end.”
But here’s the paradox: we think more ministry will be happening with fewer staff. This leaner staffing model will help reverse the staffing trend we’ve been in for the past decade in many churches: hire staff to ‘do ministry’. Leaner paid staff will make the need for volunteer recruitment and mobilization much more important. And many churches will realize that ministry can be extremely effective when empowering volunteers.
Many churches will hire for team fit rather than for specific openings.
Because of all the changes that we’ve been talking about, we’re already seeing churches start to revamp their staff, structure, and hiring practices. Some churches are hiring individuals over positions. Rather than hiring a youth pastor or a discipleship person, they are hiring someone that has great potential in multiple areas and fits their church’s DNA and current staff culture. They’ll then deploy them in an area of the person’s passion and the church’s need.
My co-founder at Chemistry Staffing, Matt Steen, calls this the PAD method:
Pastoral - Hiring someone that has personal one-on-one pastoral care skills
Agile - Has passions and giftings in several areas; more of a generalist rather than a specialist
Development - Has the ability to be developed and develop others (including volunteers) to do the work of the ministry
These are just a few of the trends that we are seeing. I’m sure there are more. And honestly, we don’t know entirely what this means for your church or churches in general just yet ...(no one does). But these are the things that we’re tracking that we think are important for you to have on your radar at the local church level.
At Chemistry Staffing, we love the Church, and we think the church’s best and brightest days are ahead of her. These shifts pose a challenge for some churches moving forward, but the end result can be a healthier, vibrant church that changes more lives and impacts communities in a greater way.
If you’d like to talk through what this means for your church’s staffing needs in the future, we’d love to chat and tell you a little more about what we’re seeing and how we might help.