Building Your Bench
Dealing with transition on staff, Part 2
Dealing with transitions on your staff can be tricky. It’s time-consuming to search and interview new staff people. Finding a temporary replacement can be a headache. Add to that the loss of a relationship and chemistry on staff, and you can see why pastors tend to avoid this topic.
When you have a way to fill those positions quickly and effectively, it reduces your stress level. You don’t panic, and you’re ready to address any transition. But how do you accomplish that?
Instead of searching for replacements, what if you had them ready to go? What if you had a “bench” of talented staff members ready to take on new positions, part-timers ready to move up to full-time status, or key lay leaders ready to make the move to vocational ministry? That’s what you get when you build a bench.
If you transition from within, it’s much smoother. That’s because you’ve already found good, quality candidates and are currently investing in them. Here are a few ideas for how to build that bench.
Each staff person should be looking at who could replace him or her. The best way to avoid the tension of replacing a staff person is having a built-in replacement ready to go. Some staff are hesitant to do this, for fear of losing a job. But the most secure leaders aren’t afraid to build up replacements and backfill their own positions.
Every new staff hire should also be considered as a potential replacement for someone higher up the organizational chart. Keep that in mind when you interview. Look past the role you’re filling at that moment to a role further down the road.
Think through what a natural progression of staff people would look like in your church. How could an associate position go on to become a lead position? What prospects are there for advancement within your church? How can they fulfill God’s full call on their lives and never leave your organization? If you can provide a clear picture to each staff person of how that works, people may feel more comfortable staying on board longer.
Keep Your Eyes Open
Always be looking for new talent to put on the bench. This is why maintaining relationships outside your own church is so important. What people do you know who are creating leaders right now? What schools are you in contact with about young graduates? Where are the churches with the best internship programs, and how can you stay in touch with them?
Instead of searching for replacements, what if you had them ready to go?
Whenever you’re participating in a conference, speaking at someone else’s church, attending a graduation, or meeting at a fellowship function, always be looking for new talent. That doesn’t mean you become a headhunter. Young leaders can see through an inauthentic leader. Instead, find ways to naturally invest in their lives right now, even if they never join your staff.
With today’s technology there is no excuse for being disconnected. Whether it’s through email, social media, video chats or even just texting, creating relationships with other leaders is easier than ever. If you have open lines of communication, asking for help finding a new staff person will never feel awkward.
Invest From Within
I think the very best way to build a bench is from within. Sitting right in your worship center are talented people who have a passion for God and are likely committed to your vision. They’ve been exposed to your ministries. They have been helping you lead. They could be the greatest resource to fill positions on your staff.
Identify those in your church who may be called by God into vocational ministry. How often do you preach about it? When was the last time you gave a call for it during your response time?
One reason we fail to look within for potential staff people is the hang-up we have about full-time ministry. I don’t want to diminish it, by any means. I am a full-time minister, and my calling into full-time ministry was one of the most significant moments in my life.
However, you may have people in your church who are ready to step up and lead, direct a ministry, and fill a spot on your roster, but they aren’t ready to leave their current vocation. That’s OK. Create ways for them to get involved as deeply as they can. Bivocational ministry is not being half a minister; it’s being all that God has called you to be, wherever He has placed you.
Funneling your church members who have a desire for ministry into possible staff positions will take some intentionality on your part. It starts with deciding what your key leadership looks like. Are all of your lay leaders considered ministers-in-training? Do you make a distinction when it comes to authority and responsibility? And how have you explained that to them?
Once you get a clear picture of what type of role a key leader plays, leverage those positions as a means of trying out different members for ministry. Give them added responsibility a little at a time to see how they respond.
Create a leadership pathway, just like your discipleship pathway. It may go just one step further, investing a bit more time in uncovering spiritual gifts. Then put candidates into key spots. When you have clearly defined roles in each ministry area, it’s easier to show people the opportunities to advance into leadership roles and then possibly a staff position.
Building your bench from within is a powerful example of how God, in His sovereign wisdom, has placed people in your church to do the work of the Church. If your leadership pathway is strong enough, you may never have to go outside for a hire again. God may want to provide all you need through the disciples you are leading right now.
See also Part 1 of this series.