How to Hire Great People for your Church

How to Hire Great People for your Church

Aaron Buer

Digital giving apps and tools

If you’re in leadership, there isn’t much that hurts more than a bad hire.

It hurts the organization and it hurts people.

On the flip side, hiring someone who fits perfectly can propel your organization or church forward in powerful ways.

Hiring well is incredibly important! The trouble is that hiring is difficult! How do you get an accurate read on a prospective employee in just a few short interviews? It is a challenge, but it’s not impossible. While I wouldn’t consider myself a pro at hiring, I have learned a few important lessons as I've built my own ministry team.

When it comes to hiring, I believe answering these 3 questions will help you make great hires:


There’s a phrase that is often use when an employee is let go. It sounds something like this:

“He wasn’t a good fit.”

What does that mean?

It means that the person and the organization didn’t mesh. It’s an issue of culture.

The problem here is that most of us can’t adequately describe our organizational culture. What is it that makes your church or organization unique?

This must be incredibly clear.

Here are the core values of our organization:

  • Healthy Relationships
  • Clarity
  • Hospitality
  • Integrity
  • Generosity

This is who we are. When we hire, one of the first steps is screening candidates against our core values. This protects us from bad fits and it also creates more opportunity for mobility in our organization.

A few years ago, I hired someone who didn’t end up being a pefect fit on my particular team but he is a great cultural fit for the organization as a whole.

In the end, he transferred to a different department where he is crushing it. That is one of the benefits of ensuring that every new hire fits the organizational culture.

What’s your organizational culture? What are your core values? Bringing clarity to these questions and then incorporating your values in the hiring process is the first step in making great hires.


In order to make great hires, you have to define what is most important.

I learned this grid from my boss who learned it from someone else. Wherever it came from, it’s brilliant.


When it comes to hiring, here is what’s most important:


When evaluating a candidate, the most important thing is character. Integrity is paramount. A good question to ask yourself is: “Am I convinced that this person will make ethical decisions when no one is watching?”

A second aspect of character is humility. A question I often ask myself when hiring is this: “Is this person teachable?” It might sound awful but I often force the issue in this area when interviewing. You can discover a person’s level of teachability by providing negative feedback.

A person who is teachable will respond with some form of “This is hard to hear but thank-you for sharing this.” A person who isn’t teachable will respond with some form of “You are wrong in your evaluation of me.”

Here are some practical ways to test teachability:

  • Watch a candidate’s preaching video and offer a few points of positive feedback and then a point of negative feedback and pay attention to how they respond.
  • Ask a candidate to lead worship and offer positive and negative feedback and pay attention to how they respond.
  • Gently critique a candidate’s theological position paper (if you require such a thing) or their resume and pay attention to how they respond.
  • Ask the candidate about a piece of negative feedback from a reference and listen carefully to how they respond to that feedback.

I understand that these tactics might feel uncomfortable and more than a little confrontational but an employee who lacks humility and teachablitity can be disasterous. In my experience, I would prefer a few uncomfortable conversations to ensure that anyone I bring onto my team is teachable.


What matters most? Character. Second to character is chemistry.

You could have an amazing talent who is a gem of a person but if that person doesn’t mesh relationally with your team, you will have a problem on your hands.

This requires that you not only understand the culture of your organization but also the specific culture of the team this person would be joining.

The way that I evaluate chemistry is by throwing a candidate to the wolves. In other words, make that person hang out with your team and see how they fit. I think it is crazy to consider hiring someone without observing how they interact with the team they will be a part of.

This can be as simple as a lunch meeting together with your team or as practical as asking a potential worship leader to actually lead the worship team for a weekend service. The point is to test the chemistry by throwing the candidate together with your team and paying attention to the chemistry.


Character and chemistry are important and so is competency.

I hate to say it but an outstanding gentleman who fits your team like a glove who literally cannot complete the tasks assigned to him in his job description will be a disaster!

The final piece of the puzzle is the ability to actually do the job.

What matters in evaluating competency is track record. I have been fooled many times by persuasive words. Having learned the hard way, I now ask for specific examples.

  • You said you are a big collaborator. Tell me about a time you built a team and accomplished a project.
  • I’m so glad you don’t shy away from conflict. Tell me about a recent tough conversation you had with an employee.
  • That’s so great that you believe in small groups. Tell me what small groups look like in your ministry. Also... tell me about the small group you belong to.
  • I’m glad to hear you are a strong communicator. Do you have a video I could watch of you teaching?

Character, chemistry and competency. That’s what’s most important in evaluating a prospective hire.


Once, when I was in the midst of a confusing hiring situation, a friend of mine asked,

“Would you rather be tired or sorry.”

I didn’t know what in the world he was talking about, so he explained.

“Would you rather be tired for a season because you’re doing your job plus covering an open position on your team or would you rather be sorry because you hired the wrong person and have to figure out what to do about it?”

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be tired. Here are a few tips for staying out of the sorry zone:

1. Move slowly

I’ve learned that it is far better to move slowly in the hiring process to make sure you’re bringing on the right person. Hiring someone who is a bad fit or is missing character, chemistry or competence can be disastrous to your team and organization. My advice. Move slowly and if necessary, accept being tired for a season. It’s far better than being sorry.

2. Sometimes start over

I’m convinced that there are times when it is better to start the process over rather than offer a job to someone you are 75% sure will be a good fit. Yes, this dramatically lengthens the amount of time you’ll be tired but again, it protects you and your organization from making a bad hire.

3. Pull in other voices

I’ve learned that my instincts aren’t always correct. I think it’s very important to pull in other voices when interviewing. I am overly optimistic. Because of this, it’s important that I pull in someone who is realistic and has the courage to tell me why the person I am excited about hiring would be a bad fit on my team.

Also, we all naturally like people who are like us. When I’m interviewing, I am easily fooled by personalities similar to mine because I see myself in the person. Because of this, I need other personality types in the interview to balance my perspective. For me, and I suspect for you as well, pulling in other voices is crucial for making a good hire.

Using This When Hiring

Well, there you have it. These are my 3 big questions for making great hires.

  1. Who Are We?
  2. What’s Most Important?
  3. Would You Rather be Tired or Sorry?

The next time you need to make a hire, I hope these three questions and the different components of each will help you think through the process in a critical and strategic way that helps you bring someone on board who is a great fit for your church.

What lessons have your learned through your own hiring experiences? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.

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