My answer? We didn’t hire our team. We built it from the inside out. And we’re still building it.
Not one of our staff members was hired from outside the church – other than me. They were all attenders and members who stepped up as volunteers, who developed into leaders, who became staff members. Including my one full-time staff member. He’s been working at the church for 22 years and is now training youth pastors around the world.
And there are a lot of other churches around the country and the world with staff members, both paid and volunteer, who started or developed their ministerial skills at our church.
Discipleship In the Small Church
One of the toughest parts of pastoring a Small Church is that you can’t go out and hire staff members, so you have to train your own people to do ministry.
One of the best parts of pastoring a Small Church is you can’t go out and hire staff members, so you have to train your own people to do ministry.
Sometimes, being a Small Church forces you to do what you should be doing anyway.
Including discipleship and leadership training.
Great Small Churches Build a Great Staff
I wish I could say that building our ministry team from our church members was my idea. But it wasn’t. I fell into it.
For several years, as our church was growing and we thought we were going to become the next big thing, (well, I thought so, anyway) I hired staff members with ministerial experience and credentials to come in and run our growing departments. They did so with varying degrees of success, but none of them lasted very long.
For a little while, we even operated under the “hire the staff ahead of the need” mode that was being taught by many church leadership gurus at the time. The idea was that if we hire a proven, full-time minister just before the department really needs one, their expertise will draw more people in and the staff member will make up their salary through the additional tithes that come in with the growth of their ministry.
Maybe that plan has worked in a few places. It must have, because those were the testimonies I heard at pastoral conferences. But you could line up pastors around around the block who can tell you it is more likely to wreck your budget and hinder ministry expansion than spur it on. Hiring people before you can afford to pay them is not faith. It’s bad stewardship.
Anyway, when we finally got past that and recovered financially, we decided to stop thinking like a big church and starting acting like a great Small Church. With that change of strategy came the realization that if we wanted a great ministerial staff, we’d have to develop them from the inside out, instead of hiring them from the outside in.
It may have become our strategy by trial-and-error, but now that it’s in place, I would stick with, even if our church suddenly grew and we had enough money to hire staff.
Pastors Should Be Preparers
There’s nothing wrong with hiring staff in from the outside. That’s how I came to every pastorate I’ve ever served – including this one. But there’s something special about building staff up from the inside.
Besides, my primary calling as pastor isn’t to hire outside experts to do ministry for church members. It’s “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” (Ephesians 4:12)
No, it’s not always the easiest way to do ministry. But in most Small Churches, it’s our only way to get there. And it’s better for everyone, no matter what size your church is.
MORE TO COME: This is the first of three posts on this topic. Click here for the second post, How to Find, Train and Build a Great Small Church Leadership Team, or here for the third post, Some Advantages and Challenges of Building Your Own Small Church Leadership Team.
So what do you think? Are you ready to train people in your church to do the work of ministry?
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