If you’ve been following along for the last few weeks, we’ve been taking an in-depth look at “The Great Resignation” and how it is affecting the big “C” church. We started by defining the problem here and the current employee climate here.
In our own research, over a third of churches are telling us that they are already seeing signs of increased resignations and departures at their local church. And just under a third of church staff report to us that they have ‘seriously considered’ leaving the ministry post-COVID (with over half of church staff saying that they are considering some type of job transition over the next 12 months.) We went into greater detail in our article last week. You can read it here.
Today I want to share what we’re hearing from the church staff candidates that we are interviewing. Every week in our work at Chemistry Staffing we are talking to hundreds of candidates that are looking to find their next place in ministry. That gives us some very interesting insight into what we think is happening in the church staffing space.
Here’s what’s surfacing in our discussions and what we’re increasingly hearing from candidates:
Church staff people are tired. Sometimes they admit it. Sometimes it’s written all over their faces. When we ask about how they are doing, they begin to unpack their last couple of years in ministry. They tell us how their role changed at their current church. They express how COVID brought many challenges (and in some cases, fights) in their church. And they expressed that many times it was hard to feel like they had any traction in their role, many times angering people with whatever they did.
COVID has been a tough time for many church staff. And time is taking its toll on many as they consider their next move. We are seeing many candidates that are, truthfully, not healthy enough to move into a new church role. We’ve had many tough discussions with many candidates about this reality. Many times, we give advice that it may be a good time to take a short sabbatical from ministry to get themselves (and their families) back into a healthy state.
"I’m Burned Out"
Unfortunately, some are beyond tired. Their experience over the past two years has pushed them to the edge of burnout. Some are experiencing depression. Some have become bitter and angry because of their experience in the church over the past months. It is this burnout that is causing many to leave ministry altogether.
Many of the tired and the burned-out are not in a place spiritually or mentally to step into a new church role right now. In fact, we feel that we cannot, in good conscience, place a candidate in a new church setting that is in a current state of vocational pain. We many times ask them to consider some pastoral counseling to sort out their reasons for burnout and get back on a healthy track.
"I’m Considering All My Options"
We’re seeing many candidates that tell us they are looking at all kinds of options for their next role. This includes church positions, but also roles outside the church. The number of people we’ve seen that have been in ministry for years are now opting out or are open to taking roles outside of ministry, at least for a season. Some of this consideration has to do with their level of tiredness or burnout but also has to do with other reasons that we’ll discuss next (geographic considerations, the desire for flexibility, and increased importance by some on financial security for them and their family).
"I’m Wanting to Stay (or Move Back) Closer to Home"
Many candidates are telling us that they are restricting their next role to a specific geographic area. We’re hearing a lot less of “I am open to wherever God might lead me” to much more of “I’d like to be within an hour of Albuquerque” or “I’d like to be within a day’s drive of Nashville.”
Here’s the story we’re hearing in one form or another: COVID made us reprioritize the role of extended family in our lives. During our next chapter of ministry, we really want to be close (or closer) to family.
This is totally understandable.
The reality of the situation is that during the pandemic, many felt increasingly isolated from their families. Normal summer vacations and trips home for the holidays were canceled because of travel restrictions. Some felt cut-off from family and loved ones during this time. Enough so to make them prioritize moving closer to home when the opportunity arose.
Geographical considerations have made it more difficult for churches to find candidates that are willing to relocate to certain areas of the country (more on that next week). What many times used to be a somewhat easy national search could now be a more difficult (and extended) regional search for the right candidate.
"I Desire Additional Flexibility"
We are hearing from candidates that they would like much more flexibility in their next ministry role. Things like optional office hours and the ability to work remotely are high on the list.
During the pandemic, many churches did not meet in person for months. In fact, many church staff needed to work from home for a prolonged period of time. One thing many staff and churches found was that proximity did not necessarily correlate to productivity. Some found that they actually worked better and were able to achieve more with an increasingly decentralized work schedule.
Many companies are going with a hybrid work schedule (so many days in the office, and so many days working from home or wherever). Many churches may need to offer at least some flexibility for new staff hires in order to see interest from competent yet more independent staff members.
"Financial Security is Important"
As we have mentioned in a previous article in this series, the last 20 months have caused candidates to re-evaluate much of their career, family life, and financial situation. Priorities have been realigned. And for many candidates, this means placing a higher priority on financial stability, savings, retirement, and college savings for their family’s future.
This re-thinking and re-alignment have happened at the same time as significant changes in the US workforce. Overall, many businesses are having trouble finding enough staff to be fully operational. That has caused many businesses to become very competitive salary-wise.
The reality of today’s marketplace is that a person with absolutely no experience can pretty easily be hired by a company like FedEx that needs workers right now. A Warehouse Package Handler in Columbus, OH (as of this morning) could earn up to $20/hour with a $100 weekly bonus. They could have some flexibility with their hours, and have a generous benefits package of PTO, medical, dental, vision, employee discounts, paid parental leave (for moms and dads), and $5,250 tuition reimbursement every year with no lifetime cap.
As candidates reprioritize their plans for the future, they have many options inside and outside of the church right now. That’s making things very competitive. We’ll talk about what this means for churches that are hiring next week, but here’s a hint: churches will need to find creative ways to pay new staff members a fair and competitive wage with benefits.
"I’m Being Very Picky in Choosing My Next Role"
All of these reasons really come down to this: most church staff candidates right now are being very picky in the roles they choose to apply to and interview for. The additional opportunities to choose from combined with the added flexibility, financial considerations, and the need for a stable working environment are making hiring more difficult in many cases.
Next week, we’ll deliver our final installment in this series expanding on what all this means for churches as they hire new staff members over the next 18 months.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know how “The Great Resignation” is affecting you or your church.