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Staff Search

Will I Ever Find the Right Hire?

These principles should give you hope in your search for a ministry leader.

hiring

Houston, we have a problem.

Seminaries, overall, continue to decline in enrollment.  

Over at Graphs about Religion, Ryan Burge posted in August 2023 an article on this.

 

Here’s a quick quote:

“In many ways they [seminaries] are the canary in the coal mine for the health of American religion. If a tradition is training up a bunch of seminarians, one has to assume that it’s because there is demand there. If their enrollments are declining, that’s because things aren’t going well in the denomination.” 

 

 

As we continue to hunt for candidates for the amazing churches we serve, we at Chemistry also notice a few trends in our ministry searches. One of these has been the loneliness and isolation many pastors feel.

 

Barna has provided statistical support that confirms our experience: pastors are spread thin, burnt out, and deeply desiring a new situation for their family while simultaneously wondering if they have the energy for something new.

 

Often, when we get to meet pastors looking for their next ministry assignment, they are not moving “from strength to strength” as much as from “discouragement to burnout.” For every pastor who posts an article or makes a video about why they are stepping out of the ministry, there are dozens more who have silently chosen to pivot to a new way of providing for their family.

 

As the ministry landscape continues to shift and change, we’re starting to see a growing need among churches that have a beloved pastor, but that pastor has no successor (Read here to learn more about Barna's Research on Pastoral Succession). Denominational leaders are also coming to the realization that they struggle to provide the same networking value they did in the past, and church searches are often hidden behind denominational firewalls that keep churches from finding candidates and candidates from finding churches.

 

Even when you do receive resumes from candidates, it can be a discouraging task. As a beloved pastor of 18 years retires from the ministry, you’re culling through a list of potential candidates with about as much pastoral experience as Kanye West… or they are from a faith tradition that makes you think they must have been smoking the church’s incense to apply for the role you need to fill.

 

These issues and more compel many churches and ministry leaders to ask the question, “Will I ever find the right hire?” It’s a legitimate question. There is no doubt that the state of American Christianity has about as much confidence about where we’re headed as a Junior High boy at his first school dance (that was me once… and it was awkward).

 

Yes, we have to navigate a few things as The Church, and while it may feel like this article was written to “sound the alarm,” my intent is actually much more encouraging. The Stogdil Paradox mentioned by Jim Collins in his book Good To Great encourages us to look at the brutal facts, but then to choose hope anyways.

 

As I was thinking about where we are in the church today - the profound need to raise up and equip new leadership, the challenges we face in every youth pastor and children’s ministry search finding interested candidates, and the growing succession crisis we face (in addition to living out this tension in my own church as a church planter) - I couldn’t help but think of Genesis 2:18: “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

 

Yes, I know, this is a verse that is about husband and wife… but think about the theology and the promise behind this.

 

God, who is Three in One, creates mankind “in His image.” The only thing “not good” in His creation was that man was alone. In other words, God knew exactly what He was doing when He made Adam, and He made Adam incomplete. Eve completed what was lacking, and Adam discovered that the part of himself that God took from him was reshaped and given back to complete him in a way that it didn’t before. The phrase in the NIV says a “helper suitable.” The word for helper carries the idea of completing what was lacking, and the word for suitable carries the idea of being made in the same likeness or being of the same nature.

 

So why the theology lesson? It's not to get into a debate on gender roles in the church! I think that ground is being covered rather well right now. Rather, it’s to extrapolate beyond the husband/wife dynamic to the underlying principles. These principles, I believe, should give you hope in your search for a ministry leader.

 

God loves TEAMWORK

Not every candidate is the same, of course, but one of the most recurring desires for candidates I interview—whether they are introverted or extraverted, old or young, male or female, black or white, preacher or staff pastor—is to work on a team. Could it be that when God said it wasn’t good for man to be alone, this is true even beyond our marital relationships? There is something incredibly uplifting and fulfilling about being on a team where everyone is working to accomplish the same purpose. We find dignity in being “suitable helpers” on church staff. And that leads to the second principle...

 

Some team members are “suitable,” and others just aren’t

Before God brought Eve to Adam, he had every other creature in the animal kingdom pass by, and not one of them was suitable… they didn’t fit the job description. Your church has a need, and it has a culture and DNA that is unique. For example, looking for a “lion leader” to be a “gentle shepherd” just doesn’t make sense. You’re going to major on one and minor on the other. It isn’t that a lion can’t be gentle, but he’ll never be able to shepherd sheep. That’s not what God built him to do. You have to have the right DNA for the context, the church, and the role you’ve been asked to fill.

 

The goal of finding a suitable helper is twofold: relationship and dominion

God is a relational God. He’s also the King of Heaven and Earth. He created Adam to relate AND to rule. He intentionally designed Adam in such a way that he could not rule alone. He needed help. You’ll discover in your ministry search that there are people who you can relate to, but can’t rule with. They’ll be fun to hang out with, but they aren’t going to help you move the ball down the field. A church member of my church recently shared a meme with me: “If you have to tell them to carry bricks, they’re not the ones to build with.” How true that has proven to be! I’d bet you agree with that sentiment.

 

The reverse is also true: there are people in your ministry search you could rule with, except that you can’t seem to relate to them in a way that works. They are smart, competent, and driven, but if you have to spend an hour with them outside of ministry work and you can only talk about stuff not related to the job, that conversation can be forced, silent, or even conflict-laden. Whatever it is, it isn’t heading anywhere healthy. That’s okay… these aren’t the candidates for your church. You can love each other—from a distance. You just know they aren’t the right fit for you, and you aren’t the right fit for them.

 

Even after all of that, however, you may STILL be asking the question, “Will I ever find the right hire?”

 

So let me give you this encouragement. There are 8 Billion people on this planet. If God could make the right person for Adam when he was the only one, don’t you think God can find the right person for you out of the 8 billion who already exist?

 

I think He can… He specializes in sovereignty and provision and giving good gifts. In fact, I think I remember a verse somewhere that tells me that “every good gift” is “from above, coming down from the Father of Lights….”

 

So, get your hopes up. Dump the scarcity mindset. Stop settling for third best. God knows your heart. He knows your situation. He knows your church. He knows your need. What’s more, He loves to meet those needs. He delights in giving good gifts to His children, and He didn’t give you that ministry assignment so you’d lose hope. He gave you that ministry assignment so that you would exercise faith.

 

Yes, you WILL find the right hire (with or without Chemistry, though we would LOVE to be part of that conversation with you). And, if you’re the one on a job hunt… you WILL find the right place to serve that God has for you. God is just that good at what He does, if we can humbly follow His lead. Here are a few steps, though, that can help you raise the “Peace Quotient” in your ministry search, whichever end of the search you find yourself on.

 

Surrender your entire life to God, including your ministry search

Yes, I know you pray about it. But do you worry? Are you anxious? Are you doubting that God will come through? With open hands, surrender this process to Him. I know it can be stressful. Transitions in life always are, especially when they impact our family and/or our church family. Recommit to trusting God every step of the way, “casting your cares on Him.” Peace is promised to follow.

 

PRAY. Then pray again

I tell my congregation all the time, “A prayerless Christian is a powerless Christian.” If you’re in ministry, you’re supposed to lead the way spiritually. You model for others how to trust God, and your ministry search is not exempted from that. When you pray about it, you invite God to move in ways that demonstrate His goodness and glory, even through the mundane and the messiness of a ministry search.

 

Tell God your need, specifically

Yes, God already knows. But there’s a good chance that you haven’t prayed as specifically and boldly as you can. Maybe it feels exclusionary or presumptive to ask for a specific kind of candidate to fill the role you need to fill. But I personally believe God smiles when we have the audacity to say, “Lord, you know we need an amazing children’s director… not a mediocre one! God, we need one who will truly fit our church and the next generation of young Christians we are trying to raise up. We need someone who LOVES kids, who THINKS like a pastor, who SERVES like Jesus, who GETS who we are as a church, and who has no agenda to use this ministry as a stepping stone to something else. God, we need this position to be a female, and it would be so amazing if you could give us a lady who had a Full Time job that was flexible enough to let her serve in this capacity on a Part Time basis, because, well, God, that’s what we can afford if we’re going to steward well the resources you’ve given us. In Jesus’s name, Amen.”

God loves specific prayers, and you know the specific needs of your ministry. And, hey, if God disagrees, then trust Him to bring you the person you actually need instead of the one you thought you needed. He’s good at that too!

 

Look right under your nose

When we ask the question whether or not we’ll find the right hire, we’re betraying something we believe about the role we look to fill… that the right hire is “out there” rather than “in here.” It also reveals to us that we’re looking for a ready-made leader to fill the role, and when it doesn’t work out we say something like, “They were just trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.” Maybe, just maybe, the right hire isn’t quite there yet, but they could be if you spent the time developing them. Part of the reason for our current succession crisis and the dearth of ministry leadership is the brutal truth that we aren’t raising up new leaders… we’re expecting someone else to find them for us. But when none of us are raising up leaders and all of us are depending on everyone else to do it, nobody wins… not you, not your church, and not your city… especially those who are far from God. It’s better to train someone who already loves your church than to find someone who is trained but their love has to be purchased. Don’t misunderstand me… we’re in the business of finding you a great outside hire! But we also understand that if you aren’t developing great leaders, it’s going to make it harder for us to find great candidates. It’s a “both/and” reality that all of us have to live with. So, prayerfully consider giving that person a shot… they might be a little green, but they already call you home.

 

There is wisdom in many counselors

One of the best benefits of Chemistry, aside from doing all the heavy lifting of those early interviews, is that you have a whole team of advisers on your side. We have no hidden agenda, and we actually do love the local church! Most of our team is still on staff in local churches, or they serve the local church on a coaching level. Our founders like to say that we are just a bunch of “church geeks.” We LOVE the church. You’re not a number to us. You’re a divinely ordained minister and ministry leader whom God has given us the privilege to partner with. Even if you don’t intend to use our services, we’re available to help. Just schedule a call. We’re here for you.

 

Aside from us, there are so many resources out there that can help you think through and pray through your ministry search. A ton of wisdom can be found for free, and you probably already have a login to some of those platforms. In our experience, though, there is something about a one-on-one relationship that changes the game. It turns great ideas into actionable steps. It turns hope for your church into a clear strategy. And it turns ministry colleagues into friends.

 

If there’s any way we can help fill that gap for you and be that friend on your ministry journey, give us a shout. We’re here for you.

 

 

Shay Wood

Shay Wood

Shay has been serving in the local church for over a decade as a student pastor, campus pastor, teaching pastor, multisite director, and church planter. A West Texas boy who grew up in Midland/Odessa, Shay is now living in Fort Worth, TX with his wife Robyn and their three sons. They are currently planting Mercyhill Church, with a vision to echo God’s mercy across the world. Shay has a B.S. in Youth Ministry, an M.A. in Evangelism & Church Planting, and an M.Div in biblical studies from Liberty University. He is currently working on his dissertation for a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies through the Cook School of Leadership at Dallas Baptist University. Shay’s ministry experience in building teams and restructuring church staff for long-term health and vision alignment informs his work with Chemistry in helping candidates navigate their next steps and find a church where they can both fit in and stand out.

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