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An industry-leading protocol for hiring the best church administrator for your church.
January 29, 2020
Every growing church reaches the critical point at which they need to hire an expert administrator.
The quality of the church administrator you hire will significantly determine the experience of your church visitors and members. They will get a sense of the smoothness of your church’s operations in its ministries, the efficiency of the staff and volunteers, and the coordination of the Sunday event experience.
The more unqualified your church administrator, the more likely they are to become a liability to the church staff by requiring not only more work from other team members and church volunteers, but catalyzing miscommunication and task incompletion at higher and higher rates.
The more qualified your church administrator, the more your staff is able to focus on the critical elements of each of their job descriptions. This facilitates a sense of effortless collaboration, which enables the whole team to progressively increase the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of each staff, volunteer, and ministry’s purpose.
If your church is currently looking to hire a church administrator, you’re in the right place.
Here, we’re going to delineate 7 essential steps to hire the church administrator that your church needs, which both supplies an opportunity to exponentially increase the value of your church staff’s time and resources, as well as avoid the potential catastrophe of hiring (and firing) an undue liability.
Not every church needs the same kind of church administrator. An A+ hire at one church could be a D- at another simply due to the fact that it’s not a fit. One of the scary things this means is that many D- church administrators out there may be a product of a thoughtless hire more than it is reflective upon the competence of the employee.
Consequently, it’s critical that your church leadership team does a brutally honest audit about what its strengths and weaknesses are, what its needs are, and the real successes and failures of past attempted solutions.
On a more practical note, this means that your church should conduct this audit before it writes the church administrator job description. If you don’t follow this protocol, you will likely follow the same path as most churches that end up in a bad hiring situation: You write down boots-on-the-ground tasks of a common secretarial role and throw that list up on Ziprecruiter. That’s a recipe for disaster.
You should put as much thought into the job description of the church administrator as you do the job description for a senior pastor. And the only way to pull this off is to dig deeply and honestly—as a team, which can be difficult—into the real needs and weaknesses of your church. Only then will the real logistical solutions to your perceived inefficiencies come into view.
The job description you write should be detailed and professional. But when it comes to hiring a church administrator, you’re in a real chicken-or-the-egg situation. Ideally, the church administrator would have a hand, not only in architecting, but executing the writing and publication of the job description.
There are three situations you could be in:
In the first case, your current church administrator should supply a proposal to the church leaders that lists key tasks that she fulfills, which tasks take up the most time, and what tasks fall outside the scope of her initial job description which have crept into the purview of her responsibilities.
In the second case, your church leadership team needs to find the church staff member whose responsibilities most closely mirror that of an executive pastor, and that staff member needs to conduct a logistical audit of the church staff team through the lens of a classic church administrator job description. Which staff and volunteers are currently bearing the load of church administration, or suffering from current inefficiencies, which needs to be rectified? Then, that pastor needs to tabulate the inefficiencies, list them alongside the core duties of the church administrator, and architect a comprehensive job description which enables everyone to return to their core responsibilities and no longer bear the load of the inefficient position.
In the third case, you would follow the same protocol of the second case, but you should perform your tabulation in consultation with a local church in the area who has a fantastic church administrator. It might even be worth paying that administrator a one-time consulting fee to help you write a job description that is suitable to your specific church.
In all cases, the task is the same:
These three criteria, working together, will supply you with a list of tasks, competencies, and work experience which should become the hiring criteria for your new church administrator position.
When you first hire a church administrator, it will be tempting to load her plate with everything your church has been suffering with since the need for a church administrator became apparent. As tempting as this is for church staff with heavy gifting in operations and management, this would be a big mistake. You should plan to devote the first three months of a new church administrator’s tenure to onboarding. And that does not simply mean training.
Onboarding your new church administrator should include:
At the heart of all of this is what organizational psychologists call “the employment alliance.” Your new church administrator, if he or she is going to invest their time and energies willfully into doing their best work for your church, must know that his or her boss is an ally. A bad direct-report relationship will produce a high turnover rate in your church administrator position. Many churches make the mistake of hiring a church administrator, overloading them with work, watching them burn out, and ultimately firing them—producing a rapid cycle of hirings and firings that will be covered up under the veil of “It’s so hard to find a good church administrator!”
Your church administrator needs to know that his or her boss is for them if the church is going to get the most return on this position over time. This initial three month stage is critical in catalyzing that sense of trust between superior and subordinate that deepens into a strategic alliance that supports the mission of the church.
Once you’ve avoided giving into the “shark eyes” of dumping all your busywork on your church administrator, you have the opportunity to collaborate with them—in the interview, hiring process, and initial stages of employment—to conceive of their tasks as critical opportunities to advance the mission and strategy of the church’s vision, rather than just becoming a “desk monkey” for the people who do the real work.
The theme of all these points so far has been forethought. You must do the deep work of reflection as a team before you take any of these actions so that you know that when you get to the conversation of “what you can get” from a church administrator, you already have a plan of care and positive reinforcement to make sure that once you invest your money in this position, you’re actually investing in an asset, and not a liability.
It’s tempting, especially in churches, to hire John’s wife’s friend’s sister. In one sense, all businesses work this way. “It’s about who you know.” This will never be not true for an employment situation. And yet, ensure that your hiring pool is full of people who are qualified from multiple hiring avenues, not just internal or proximate social pools.
This will not only ensure that you have the greatest opportunities to hire the best person, but it will also fortify the credibility of your final hire with the church and among your team members. When you can say “We considered every option,” then the option you pick comes with a certain rationale that stands in defense of that person in that position.
Remember: hiring a church administrator is about partnering with someone that God has called to serve the church. It’s about adding value to someone’s life so that they can add value to the lives of all your church staff, volunteers, and members. Following this protocol will ensure that your team invests enough competent forethought into the hiring architecture and procedures that your final candidate will be hired without question or qualification.
If your church is looking to hire a church administrator in the near future, here is a sample job description that your team can work through and customize to your organization's individual needs:
This church administrator role varies by church and may include some or all of the following: