If the current hire/fire system is so bad (it’s more than just bad–I don’t believe it to be biblical), then what is the solution?
I really don’t know. Being a simple church practitioner who has walked away from professional ministry, it’s plain to see I don’t like the status quo. It would be nice to scrap the whole thing (especially the “professional” part). But I know that isn’t possible. But change can be made. Here are a few thoughts and suggestions, in no particular order.
- Stop hiring from the outside and start mentoring from within. This requires humility on the part of existing staff and leadership. It means that staff realize that they won’t be at a particular church forever. It means leadership doesn’t have the power-trip veto. It means investing a lot of time into someone’s life. Someone from the outside has to learn the culture of the church they’re going to. They have to learn the people. That takes years to do. Someone raised up from the inside already knows these things, already knows the people, and (if the process is done well) will have some influence from day one that a person from the outside won’t have for years. Yes, they’d have to overcome the “little Jimmy’s all grown up now” deal from older people, but if staff deals with that from the beginning of the mentoring process, it could go a long way toward helping such an attitude get resolved.
- Instead of firing immediately, coach and mentor first. Instead of pulling the trigger on a staff member, find out what’s going on. Is it a procedural problem? Is it a personality conflict? It it a family matter that’s affecting work? Is it burn out? Instead of giving someone the ax, leaders need to come alongside the staff member to encourage him, to examine the problem, to give tough love if necessary, and help the staff person work the problem out. This requires humility and teachability from staff, and humility from leadership.
- Promote staff/leader relations. There are differing views on this, but I now wholeheartedly think that staff and leadership should relate, not just on a professional “church work” level, but as friends. They should get together and hang out–burn meat on a grill, watch a game, bowl. Their wives should hang out, too. Leaders and their wives are often lonely. This is important for one reason: building trust. That way, when a conflict does arise, staff and leaders can work through it and say what needs to be said without someone feeling the need to fire the staff person.
- Remember that staff are people, too. They have feelings. They have families. They have bills. Church leaders need to instill confidence in their staff that they won’t be fired at the drop of a hat (unfortunately, many pseudo-leaders carry their own hat). Give your staff a contract. Be generous with salary, benefits, vacation, and raises. Don’t expect them to keep higher standards than you keep (drinking, poker, etc.).
Tomorrow, I’ll wrap up the series by asking the question, “When is it time to fire someone?” Until then, what are your thoughts on this post?