We have all been there. For one reason or another we have an employee that randomly quits, transitions to another department or we decide to move them on to greener fields. No matter the immediate reason, it leaves a pestering void. By default, many of us do what we did before. We network, use online postings and pray that the Lord fills that spot with your next ministry savior.

This is not a bad method, but I would challenge that it is not the only method or the best one. Pause. Consider. Change the status quo. Don’t hire that guy. At least not right away. Perhaps you do not need to just hire the NEXT guy, but a NEW guy. (or gal, but we will save that for another post. :))

Maybe you need to change the position as you transition the person. Great leaders see innovative opportunities when a staff transition arises. However, during the transition is the best time to ask pioneering questions like:

  • Can I get a volunteer to do some of this job?
  • Does this position need a full time salary?
  • Does this job take us to the next level or keep us managing at our current level?
  • Is this job even necessary?

Ok. Before you draw and quarter me, I am not saying that you do not hire a replacement. Perhaps hiring that Middle School Pastor is the best idea. But how do you know? Just because it was the best idea last year does not mean it still is.

The honest truth is that many of my friends are downsizing their staff. Even churches with vast numerical growth know that numbers don’t equate to dollars. Many churches do not have the resources to keep their current payroll. It is sad, but true. This is one reason that creative staffing is so exciting. The opportunity to do more with less fires me up.

Let’s take a look at 3 options:

Part time staff: Part time workers are always a great first option. Of course, it limits the financial burden on a church, but I would also suggest that it opens up the talent pool. There are many brilliant people that cannot work a full time job. Job efficiency can also increase with part-time help. I have many gifted leaders that will work hard for 15-20 hours a week. Part-time workers are also usually more energetic and eager to learn.

Finally, I look at part-time employment as an internal test run of an employee’s performance and, at the same time, it sets a framework for internal advancement. The first place I look when we have a full time position is at the people that are dominating their part-time responsibilities.

Temporary staff: There are seasons in your church when the press is really on. You’re in an intense ministry season and you need professional help. The temptation is to hire someone part time or even full time with the assumption that the level of intensity will continue. It rarely does.  Try hiring on a very temporary basis.  The person who fills this role is usually from inside your church.  Write an employment contract that stipulates a start and end date.  The end date is important, stick to it.

Contract: This too has been practiced by professional arenas for some time, but only in the last few years has this idea found its way into ministry staff. Hiring a provisional employee for an extended period of time, like during a staffer’s maternity leave is a good example. They are on contract while the new mom is out, and a contract is written for any agreed upon length of time. We have also used this common strategy to fill gaps during a staff re-org or even during a teaching series that requires extra manpower.

In the end, you have to do what is best for your church and its ministry culture. I realize that some of you may not have the authority to change how you hire. Others, you may not have the financial resources to adjust any occupational alternatives. I recognize that and I have been there. Hiring the right person can take your ministry to the next level. Hiring the wrong person can stall it out or even hamstring future growth. So pause and adjust. Make the best decision and move the church forward.


This post is part of a larger series on moving your ministry forward using the often neglected tool - the checklist. In this series, we unpack how a system of checklists can actually help us take our ministry to new levels. Plus, we want to share dozens of actual ministry checklists you and your team can implement right away. Click on the link below to explore this topic and pick up some helpful resources!