Keys to Building Staff Leadership

(The fifth in a series of posts by Dr. Merritt on pastoral leadership) 

It is without question one of, if not the most, difficult and yet important job of any leader. You will make mistakes in hiring staff. Over the years, I’ve tried to remember three principles in bringing people on to serve with me.

  1. Find people who can do what you cannot do and can do it better than anybody else can do it.
  2. Let them do their job. Delegate with feedback and accountability, and then trust them to get the job done.
  3. Don’t be afraid to let others shine and get credit for a job well done.

Before Hiring Staff

There are three things that I always look for before I hire a staff member and three things I always demand after I hire a staff member.

Character. This is the single most important thing that you must find in any staff member. This is the one virtue you cannot teach. This is why credit checks must be done, references must be checked out, (key staff people always go beyond the references they give to others that you can find), background checks (including possible police reports as well must be uncovered). Remember, this is a person you are literally going to go to war with on a daily basis – make sure you want him in your foxhole!

Chemistry. It doesn’t matter how good or godly a person is or how well he can do his job if he will not fit in with your team. Your staff is like a puzzle and each piece must fit if both energy and synergy are to take place. This is why it is important to expose potential staff hires, to other staff members, to get their feedback. Spend time with both the staff person and their spouse asking probing questions about their marriage, their hobbies, their interests and even their passion for their job and for the local church.

Competency. The biggest mistake that most pastors make in hiring staff is looking for competency first and ignoring the other two characteristics. To a certain extent competency can be taught. It can be developed and it can be enhanced. The other two cannot.
After Hiring Staff 

There are three things that I say to any staff member upfront that I absolutely demand–to be both given and received reciprocally.

Honesty. Never lie to me. That is the unpardonable sin. A staff member that cannot be trusted cannot be maintained. If a staff member will lie even in a small area then he or she will lie in a big area.

Loyalty. Loyalty must be in the DNA of any staff member. Remember, one drop of disloyalty can cause an ocean full of trouble. Any staff member should know they have the right to come and to say anything to you privately, but they never have the right to say it to anyone else or to allow anyone else to say anything negatively about you. Also emphasize you will give them the same courtesy.

Industry. You expect hard work and at the same time you expect staff to keep their priorities in order–God first, family second, church third.


Author: Dr. James Merritt, Senior Pastor of Cross Pointe Church  and host of Touching Lives