How to Create a Healthy Church Culture
A healthy church culture is vital for your church's well-being. Here are 7 practical ways you can create a healthy church culture.
January 27, 2020
To create the ultimate church staff team, use this comprehensive checklist to architect the right roles and hire the right people.
July 24, 2019
Your church staff reflects your church mission.
Who you hire, what roles exist, and with what responsibilities those hires are tasked, communicates to both your long-time members and first-time visitors: “This is what we care about. This is the kind of culture we’re creating. These are the causes that burn in our hearts. This is where our pressing goals exist.”
Because of how much your church staff says about your church’s mission and culture, you want to make sure that you have the right roles in place, and the right people for those roles.
As any executive team knows, architecting the right team and finding the right talent to fill that architecture is no easy task.
In this article, we’re going to examine exactly what elements predict the best fit for your specific church, and what roles must universally be filled in order for any church to fulfill its function as a church.
Pro Tip: To get a sense of what church staff should make, check out our article: Church Staff Salaries: A Short Guide (& The Real Stats)
Making the right hire always boils down to a balance of these three elements: Credentials, Experience, and “Fit.”
Credentials are official, formal achievements that can be tabulated on a piece of paper. They list formal accomplishments such as certifications, licensures, degrees, and internships. They serve as endorsements from credible institutions of an applicant. The more credible the institution, the more valuable the endorsement.
Experience should refer a hiring committee to particular completed projects that exemplify the applicant’s previous work. Those projects can range anywhere from “Employed at X for Y years,” which is itself an accomplishment, to “Created W for Z” or “Filled role P for the purpose of Q” to indicate a particular skill.
“Fit” represents all the intangibles of an applicant that predict whether they will flourish or flounder in the role. These intangibles often reside in body language, sensibility, personality scoring, conversational ability, and attitude. What constitutes a good fit will vary vastly from position to position—one applicant will be a perfect fit for a solo-pastor role in a small town church, and their diametrical opposite might fail in that position, but perform fantastically as a communications director at a church of 2500+.
Below are the various forms of qualifications that will help hiring committees to parse these three factors into measurable questions and criteria, either for writing a job description, or for hiring an applicant.
Before putting together a job description or entering a hiring process, it’s important for the hiring committee to disabuse itself of the notion that “the perfect candidate” exists somewhere out there.
The perfect candidate doesn’t exist.
Every applicant will have shortcomings that he or she will need to work on while employed at your church. There is no such thing as a perfect pastor, and there will be no such thing as a perfect applicant. Your church will usually have preferred whoever filled the position most recently. And, if not, they will likely prefer someone they already know to fill the position.
The hiring committee’s job is to fill that role with the best applicant they can find, not to delay the process indefinitely until they find the candidate who has all of the credentials, experience, and “fit.” Every candidate will likely be lacking in one, potentially two, of these critical areas. This is part of the hiring process, and one of the ways you account for that as a church, without accepting too much incompetence as a given, is to have a professional development for each new hire so that their value to the church increases exponentially as they grow as a member of your church staff.
Before you hire, you must determine in which of these three areas it is most acceptable to have a deficiency. The software development industry is a great modern example of a culture in which credentialism means very little—experience and “fit” mean almost everything, which is why many talented programmers forego formal college education entirely and opt for high-paying development jobs at website agencies and software firms.
Your church may need to bring someone on board who brings credibility to your church, in which case credentialism would be more heavily weighted.
Whatever your situation, and whatever the role, make sure that you know before you write the job description what you need, and tailor the description to give special weight to those domains of qualification.
Professional qualifications are important for churches, since the church world lacks many of the formal means of credentialing that exist in the business world. Professional qualifications are an intersection of credentials and experience.
For example, an M.Div. and associate pastor experience would put a candidate on-track for an associate pastor role at a larger church, or perhaps even a senior pastor role. If your denomination requires a long process of ordination, and they haven’t begun that process, then you must determine whether your church is willing to patiently guide them through that process, or whether their lack of ordination filters them out of the candidate pool.
A candidate with a year of church administrative experience could be on track for an operations pastor role.
Set minimum and desired educational and professional qualifications for each role, and make sure to get information from every applicant that best informs you about their educational and professional history.
Moral qualifications exist at the intersection of experience and “fit.”
The Apostle Paul gives specific qualifications for elders to Titus and Timothy (Titus 1:5-9, 1 Tim. 3:1-7). These qualifications include certain skills and certain moral behavioral standards.
As we noted earlier, there is no such thing as a perfect candidate. But just as there is an educational and experiential minimum for most jobs, there is a higher moral minimum standard for pastors, which includes that they are not a con-artist, an adulterer, violent-tempered, and several other important factors that will determine whether they will be able to biblically fill the office of pastor in a church.
Theological qualifications exist at the intersection of credentials and “fit.”
Your church likely has a doctrinal statement which filters out potential candidates. One of the ways denominations have historically filtered these candidates is that all applicants must first be ordained in their denomination before they apply to a position, in order to assure the hiring committee that every candidate is a theological fit.
However, in many churches that ordain pastoral hires after the hire is made, that theological conversation should take place in the hiring process. The point here isn’t to make candidates jump through stodgy theological hoops just to get a job, but rather to ensure that the candidate understands what your church is about, what its values are, and what its congregants and elders expect from its employees.
Not every church staff member needs to meet the theological standards of the pastoral staff. Since Paul explicitly gives his instructions to elders, it makes sense that only those in teaching roles need to undergo this kind of conversation in the hiring process.
Cultural qualifications fall squarely within the domain of “experience.”
It’s important that applicants understand the culture of your church. If an applicant has excellent leadership experience, but comes from a very different kind of church, you want to make sure that your job description and interview process express the culture of your church.
For example, if an applicant comes from a very small, doctrinally focused church, and your hiring committee serves a larger, seeker-oriented church, you will want to set aside time to ensure that this cultural disparity won’t cause preventable dissatisfaction on both sides of the hire down the road.
Personality qualifications fall strictly within the domain of “fit.”
With personality, you are dealing mostly with intangibles. The only way to quantify personality factors is to require applicants to fill out a personality test which predicts how well they will fit with your current team. It is advisable that your hiring team, executive team, and current staff all fill out such a test before a major hire so that, going forward, you can make the right decision for your church with all of the relevant information.
Many church hiring problems stem from this particular domain, so it’s important to do everything you can as a church to ensure that there is a personality fit up front. The rest of the details on an application take less than 5 minutes to evaluate. A personality fit can require hours of conversation to ensure that the applicant, upon hire, can bring sufficient “buy in” to your church’s existing way of serving its congregants and community.
Below, we will delineate the elemental roles that all churches must fill.
At a smaller church, some of these roles will collapse into a single role. For example, at a church below 250 members, the Associate Pastor might collapse into the Youth Pastor role. In churches below 100, all of these roles may collapse into a single role—from Custodian to Senior Pastor.
On the other hand, at a church of over 1000, the Church Administrator position might require multiplication into several different positions, such as Operations Pastor, Administrative Director, Secretary, and Executive Assistant.
These roles are a middle road for a church of 1000 people. Depending on budget, location, and resources, these roles could be parsed into more focused roles or combined into larger roles.
Every church reaches a point at which they must hire for more than they need in order to scale upward. One of the indicators that your growth may require more hires is that your volunteers are overtasked. The most common need for growing churches is administrative support. If you can make a hire to mobilize and organize the moving parts of a church, at whatever pain point is critical for your particular congregation, you drastically increase your ceiling for growth.
The senior pastor is often responsible for preaching, teaching, and vision-casting. He sits in a CEO role for the church. Among his duties include overseeing the major moving parts of a church are set in place and that the right people exist to perform the right jobs.
If something goes wrong, the senior pastor is tasked with ensuring that either he or a responsible staff member are there to resolve that issue.
The senior pastor is responsible for managing and directing the culture of a church. This can sometimes be a long-term project. But that is very much why he is there—to take on long-term goals and to see them through with consistent execution and implementation.
A church needs someone to devote their time and energy to vision-casting in its pulpit and in its culture, and a growing church will designate time in the senior pastor’s schedule to do that by delegating manual tasks to others.
The associate pastor can tend to be a flexible position church-to-church, depending on the needs of the congregation and community it is serving.
At one church, the associate pastor may be responsible for taking on ⅔ of preaching Sundays if the pastor is busy speaking, writing, and performing other executive tasks. At another church, the associate pastor may be responsible for counseling and take on more executive-specific roles.
A church hiring for an associate pastor role should have a very specific articulation of what shape this role will take, as it is often treated as a “junk drawer” position without clear boundaries or performance metrics. It’s easy to unintentionally abuse this role, and the person in it, due to lack of clarity.
The youth pastor is responsible for pre-teens through college-aged adult children, with flexible boundaries on a church-by-church basis. The church should have a clear sense of at what age pastoral responsibility is handed off from the children’s pastor to the youth pastor, and from the youth pastor to an adult-specific pastor.
The youth pastor’s hours are not as clearly set as the pastor’s, since most of the hours youth are free are outside of school—that is, on nights and weekend. Since his job will likely take him on service trips, all-nighters, early-morning meetings, and night-time Bible studies, the youth pastor will have to set clear boundaries on what constitutes “work,” “overtime,” and what are the expectations for vacation, being on-call, and the like.
When these boundaries are made clear, the youth pastor should also be given certain performance metrics related to both working with parents to pastor their children and to outreach for the purpose of growing the youth group.
While it’s easy to allow this position to fall into a “maintenance” position that simply handles the congregation’s children, this position is a powerful potential source of growth for the church, as youth events draw families from the community that would otherwise not attract their adult parents—thus, making a connection with the family that would be harder to forge with working professional parents.
The children’s pastor isn’t just someone who is good with kids. They should have professional experience in childcare, and likewise know how to fit on the pastoral team to liaison with new and expecting parents, as well as family, to provide care for their children while their parents are at a church event.
The children’s pastor is also responsible to partner with the senior pastor and the church security team to provide proper care and chain-of-custody tools to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children with whom the church is entrusted.
The church administrator is the lynchpin of a church’s success. The person who fills this position oversees all operational details of the church. They should be trusted by the senior leadership and be included on all but the most pastorally confidential details of the church.
This administrative role is responsible for executing and implementing all logistical tasks that translate from the executive team’s vision to boots-on-the-ground ministry, and back up the chain again, so that everyone on the church staff is working as an informed and cohesive team.
This role would fill the tasks of an executive assistant, secretary, and operations manager. Ideally, they would be a notary and have experience managing finances, are competent with Microsoft Office, and can process large amounts of data on a daily basis.
The person who fills this role should be highly organized and proficient in productivity, time management, and communications tools relevant to organizational and administrative success.
An accountant is one individual who does not necessarily need to be “on staff” at a church.
Many local accounting firms offer services that fill this need, and a church would wisely take advantage of the opportunity to outsource many of its accounting needs to a firm.
However, the point-person for accounting issues in a church should be proficient in financial management and accounting so that the firm is given all of the relevant data.
The larger a church becomes, the more complex its financial needs become, and the more it would make sense to hire a full-time accountant—perhaps even a Senior Accountant—to ensure that all of the church’s income, assets, and expenses are accounted for properly, follow an appropriate chain of custody, and are reported and delivered properly to protect the financial integrity of the church and to perform due diligence with regard to the tithes of its members.
One fantastic means of digitally tracking all incoming tithes is to use a digital giving service such as Tithe.ly Giving, which not only allows members to set up recurring giving from their phones, but also generates sophisticated and clear financial reports for pastors and accountants to clearly see the financial health of the church.
The communications director at a church is responsible for overseeing all church communications, which include: church graphics, website management, video and audio production during events and services, church-wide email and text communications, and any other public relations or marketing needs a church may have.
The individual in this role should be gifted in three particular areas: team management (the most crucial), writing (second-most crucial), and creative production. Creative production needs can be outsourced and trained by local or in-church talent. But a creative director will be gifted at overseeing, training, and finding the right partner to outsource any and all of its creative needs.
They should have a creative eye. And, while it’s tempting to hire a pure creative as a church communications director, it’s better to have a team manager with a creative eye than a creative who lacks team management skills. You will get a more artistically impressive, smooth communications deliverable from a communications director who knows how to find and partner with the right kind of talent than from hiring a talented creative who lacks the necessary skills to produce consistent brand smoothness that communicates both artistic giftedness and professionalism, both of which your church should aim to communicate.
Your volunteer coordinator will oversee: volunteer training and recruitment, reporting on overall volunteer health, overseeing pain points or issues with volunteers, as well as organizing small group leaders, Sunday school teachers, childcare volunteers, work-project volunteers, youth group chaperones, and any other participation opportunities your church may provide to its members.
The best tool a volunteer coordinator can utilize to succeed is event management and registration software, such as Tithe.ly Events, and ideally, this would be an extension of a full church management solution such as Tithe.ly ChMS, which integrates the church’s membership management software with event registration.
This will save the volunteer coordinator hundreds of hours per year, solely in the manual labor it erases by digitally automating all sign-ups, event details, marketing, and updates.
The volunteer coordinator should be administratively gifted, good with people, gifted in public speaking, and visionary.
The church’s facilities manager plays a critical role in crafting the experience of your church members and visitors.
The benefit of a competent facilities manager is invisible—the less you notice the need for a facilities manager, the more successful they are.
When all the lights get turned on at the right time, the power is routed to the right outlets, the carpets are cleaned, the chairs are stacked in the right place, the garbage is taken out, and the maintenance needs are met in a timely fashion, the facilities manager has done their job.
The facilities manager should have experience managing electrical, construction, and waste management needs. For larger churches, this position should also have team leadership experience—even if that team leadership experience is written into the professional development plan upon hire.
As a church grows, its facilities are used more, and require more maintenance. Due to this, the facilities team will grow as the church grows—and the church should always keep its finger on the pulse of its facility management team health.
Creating the right church staff roles and filling them with the right people is no small thing.
The best church hiring teams will be filled with those who have an eye toward professionalism, an ear for the right culture fit, and a prayerful heart seeking to fulfill Jesus’s great commission to make disciples of all nations.
Your church is in God’s hands. Remember this as you diligently work to reach your congregation and community for the sake of his kingdom, hiring the right ambassadors to help you spread his message.