You’ve read the books, gone to school, gone through assessment, raised money, worked and reworked your vision statement, found a place to meet and made it through launch. Congratulations, you’ve planted your church!
You thought the most difficult stage was over, right?
While the beginning stage of a church plant presents lots of challenges, I’ve found that as your church matures the decisions and leadership pressure only intensifies. It is sort of like raising kids. When they are little it is physically demanding, but once your kids discover a world outside of your four walls, the parenting challenges, decisions and consequences intensify. Your 12-year-old daughter in a bikini is much different than your 2-year-old in one.
When it comes to church planting and leading a church there are numerous examples of this principle, but none more vivid than this: hiring staff. In the early stages of a church plant it is you and maybe one or two other people. You’ve likely known these people for a long time. You are all on the same page (hopefully). The interview process consisted of years of working together in another context so there were few unknowns.
As your church begins to grow the inevitable process of hiring staff will come. And, regardless of whether you hire “in-house” (the candidate is someone who has volunteered in your church) or you go “outside,” there are some constants that should not be glossed over.
Listen to Input. Steve Jobs was often was accused of thinking he could "bend reality,” meaning he had a way of insisting something could be done that others said could not. This is a both a big asset and massive weakness. Church planters, being driven entrepreneurs, often have this same tendency. This is a big asset when it comes to raising money, moving into a hard to reach area and determining that a neighborhood or city can be reached. However, it can really bite a lead pastor when hiring. Pastors often think, “I know he/she has this weakness, but I can fix it!” What you need are people who are a little more grounded in reality than you are. You need people who can point out potential pitfalls in a candidate and when they do, you have to listen to them.
Do your due diligence. Time is short; you are swamped and you need someone yesterday. I’ve been there. However, never shortcut the hiring process. Use a personality/strengths assessment (DiSC, Myers/Briggs, Strengths-finder, etc) and pay attention to it. Call references, visit the candidate in their current environment, get multiple sets of eyes on the potential hire and, if the role is important enough, send them through church-planting assessment even if they aren’t going to plant a church.
Take your time and pray. I had a coach that always told us, “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” While this principle is related to Nos. 1 and 2, taking time also includes taking the time to pray over a decision before making it. Don’t rush it. Your ministry wasn’t built in a month or two so it won’t fall apart that quickly either.
Trust your ‘leadership gut’. This is difficult because it feels so subjective. The truth is much of leadership is instinctual. God gives the gift of leadership to people to use. So use it! In a rush to fill a position, we can often ignore the “voice” in our hearts that gives us pause. Take a close look at the word “ignorance” and then decide if ignoring leadership instincts is a good idea.
Be sure ... enough. Now that I’ve spent all of this time saying “wait” and “listen,” let me refute all of my advice and say that at some point you have to make a decision. How ready are most people to get married or have kids? Most likely, ready enough. Most decisions in life are made without being 100% sure but if you’ve done your due diligence, listened to input, prayed over the decision and have a good measure of peace about the hire, go for it. After all, it isn’t permanent and if you have to make a change you can, but that is a subject for a different post.
Now, excuse me, my 12-year-old is getting ready for a pool party and is wearing a bikini….
Brian Kruckenberg is the lead pastor of New City Church in Phoenix, AZ