The current landscape for hiring is unlike anything we’ve seen before. What may have worked in the past, may not work anymore. It’s time for churches to start thinking creatively about attracting the best talent!
Churches face unique challenges when hiring, so how can you position your church to attract the best talent?
We’ve identified three ways churches can effectively attract high-quality talent:
- Recruiting from within,
- Have a creative recruitment mindset, and
- Focus on engagement.
Let’s look at each of these in more depth.
1. Recruit from Within
The mission and purpose of the church are at the heart of hiring - people want to work somewhere where they believe in the mission. “Hiring from within”, or recruiting from a volunteer network, is often an effective way of doing this. Volunteers are already on fire for the church’s vision and mission and they carry the church’s intrinsic value system or DNA right off the bat, making them exceptional candidates.
I believe churches should cultivate a strong volunteer pipeline for future staff. As a ministry leader, you are regularly working with high-quality and passionate volunteers who may be great candidates for future roles.
Hiring volunteers doesn't always have to be a lateral move, either. This is actually how I became more involved in my church; I started as a volunteer in youth ministry! A leader recognized that I had human resources and organizational leadership experience and invited me to a round table discussion on human resources matters in the church. Before that point, I couldn't see how my professional life would ever intersect with a ministry role until that experience, but I ended up contributing in a staff role for ten years! Always be looking out for volunteers who may be good fits for employment opportunities, and be willing and open to having these conversations. You might find some gems in your volunteer pool!
2. Have a Creative Recruitment Mindset
Churches face unique challenges with recruitment, so you may have to get creative and innovative. Though traditional recruitment strategies like job boards, online staffing sites, and search firms are useful, there are a few more unconventional avenues you may find helpful to add to your recruitment strategy.
- Students from Local Universities and Colleges
Build relationships with local colleges (especially Christian colleges and universities) and offer paid or unpaid internships. You may also offer to be a guest speaker/lecturer or offer job shadowing opportunities. Students in college, right out of college, or those with little ministry experience are great options for entry-level positions. Rather than focus on compensation, you can provide an attractive place to grow skills, offer mentorship and cohorts for learning, and opportunities to experience a variety of roles because there is lots of varied work.
- Individuals Looking For a Half-Time Career.
These are people looking to move from their full-time careers to something that may be more purpose-driven or fulfilling. Individuals looking for a half-time career have typically put in 20-30 years of work already and don’t need a full-time job to support their lifestyles. Or, they may be parents who can only serve in a part-time capacity and have financial support from a spouse. If there aren’t current employment opportunities for these individuals, they are also great candidates for mentorship or coaching to more green employees or interns.
- Previous Candidates
Some of my best hires were amazing people with alignment with the church but we
said “no” to them initially because of a lack of experience or a competitive talent pool. Those same people expressed gratitude for the opportunity despite rejection, peace about the decision, and a hopeful outlook about future opportunities. Over the following months or years, I went back to those candidates because of their maturity and their calling and they are now incredible employees! Don’t be afraid to reach out to a previous candidate; the timing may have just not been right the first time around.
- People In Your Network
Great people know great people. So, ask yourself “How am I leveraging my staff to recruit people they know or meet?” When you go to networking or community events, encourage your current staff to connect with two or three people who may be good candidates in the future. This helps create a culture where looking for great people is normal, accepted, and praised! Even if you don’t have the capacity to staff a certain role right now, as your church grows new opportunities will arise and you can be prepared to take action quickly with a robust established network.
3. Focus on Healthy Engagement
Most people want to spend the best hours of their day contributing to something bigger than themselves. In today’s labor market, people are looking for purpose and value. By attracting people who align with your mission, you are giving them purpose. Value comes from more than just fair compensation - people are also looking at work culture and team dynamics.
Remember, the interview goes both ways! When we interview candidates for a role, they are also interviewing us for alignment. They want to know things like:
- Is there great teamwork with fun and talented colleagues?
- Is there an opportunity to learn and grow?
- Will I feel respected and free to share opinions and give suggestions?
- Is the staff trusted to accomplish the work and make decisions without micromanagement?
- Does the church have trusted leaders that are transparent and compassionate?
Churches can have a bad reputation for being toxic or unhealthy, but you can help candidates overcome their biases by demonstrating humility and transparency about the state of your church, ministry teams, and work culture. If a challenging situation occurred in the past, address it openly and describe the resolution and healing process.
The BCWI Engagement Survey is a helpful tool to assess the health of your church and uses comparative data analysis which provides a list of differentiating qualities. Not only is a healthy culture important for retention and overall church culture, but churches can also use their results to discuss what makes them unique compared to other churches. Candidates want to know what makes you unique outside of ministry impact, and utilizing your positive survey results is a great way to do this. Plus, regular surveying can provide you with year-over-year data to show improvement to potential - this helps prove you value a healthy environment and are willing to invest in making sure it happens.
Additionally, good storytelling can help a candidate fully grasp the church’s mission, impact, and future goals. If you’re able, include videos and blogs about life change in and through the church on your church's website and career pages. This will reflect the value system and your process for accomplishing the goals before a candidate even applies. Another way to communicate impact is in the questions you ask during an interview. For example, asking questions about spiritual growth as opposed to attendance growth communicates what you value.
Hiring is an expensive endeavor, so be careful to not make assumptions about what you think people know about your church. Be honest about your church's story (even when it may be challenging). Honesty leads to long-term retention. Wouldn’t you rather be honest upfront than have someone leave after six months because they uncover the truth? The recruitment process continues through the first six months of employment - don’t waste your time (or money) by being misleading or dishonest.
Hiring staff is an act of stewardship which means we are seeking Jesus followers who love our church and have the experience and skills to accomplish the outcomes for a specific role. We hire at the intersection of character, competency, and chemistry.
At the same time, you can’t hire people simply because they love Jesus. Candidates also need the skills to complete their job responsibilities. And, at the end of the day, character trumps all. Though churches face unique challenges when it comes to hiring, you can attract high-quality, faith-filled, and passionate candidates by thinking outside of the box and prioritizing a healthy culture.
Ready to get started? The BCWI Employee Engagement Survey can help you identify areas of growth and opportunities to showcase your church's unique characteristics to candidates. Schedule a consultation today.