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The Challenges of Staffing

One of the most difficult aspects of leading a church is staffing.


And here’s the mind-numbing problem: it will always be difficult no matter what stage the organization is.


For churchplanters, it’s not just the order of who should be on the payroll next and at what financial level, it’s finding capable people from the small pool of people you have and the lack of financial resources for adequate remuneration. Sometimes it’s just finding a warm body.


As the church grows, staffing takes on a different challenge: are new organizational complexities moving beyond the capabilities of the current staff or key volunteer leaders? Moving people out of positions where they’ve hit the “Peter Principle” is a painful exercise for any leader.


For large churches that have attained a healthy degree of sustainability with staff stability and low turnover, any necessary future adaptability, continual improvement, and change capacity can be hampered by exactly that: staff stability and low turnover. There are no “change agents” in the mix, and in a fast-moving world, stability is the enemy of innovation.


Regardless what stage the church—or any organization—is in, staffing and human resourcing will always be the challenge.


Sorry. But consider this church’s particular dysfunctions:


  • The staff was “family enmeshed.” Every organizational consultant will tell you that’s a recipe for disaster. There were two sets of brothers on the leadership team as well as cousins to the founder.

  • The finance administrator was accused of embezzling, selling trade secrets and strategies, and later committed suicide.

  • Two executive leaders jockeyed for special entitlements with the CEO at the expense and disgruntlement of their peers.

  • In background checks, it’s reported that the CEO’s own family considered him mentally unstable at one point.

  • During a kangaroo court conviction of the CEO, the organization’s second-in-command denied any involvement, including even knowing the CEO.

  • The CEO was found guilty in a trumped-up case and was publicly humiliated and executed by the government.

  • The disoriented top leadership team went into hiding.


They later reorganized, turned the world upside-down, and public interest went through the roof, despite constant harassment from the ruling powers. All because they claimed the CEO came back to life and empowered them with an other-worldly, transrational imbuement.


Yes, obviously that was Jesus and, hold your breath, the leadership team he hand-picked after a night of deep prayer. And it didn’t help that they often didn’t understand what the heck he was saying.


Pop Quiz Time: So the learning here is...


(A) Even if the Son of God picked them, it didn’t always turn out, uh, great.

(B) Wait a minute. Is this ultimately a predestination/free will issue?

(C) People are people are people. Expect problems.

(D) Expect problems, but deal with them appropriately.

(E) Reinforcement of Workman’s Law: Theology is Easy, Staffing is Hard. 


All of the above. And work out your Arminian/Calvinistic issues yourself.


So maybe they didn’t teach you in seminary how to staff, how to develop teams, management skills for volunteer-driven organizations, and how to lead while being an HR specialist at the same time.


Join the club. No whiners allowed.


Pray. Do your best. Consult with some trusted folks. And expect to make some mistakes.


If we could do this perfectly, we wouldn’t need Jesus. And we can still turn the world upside-down. Or right-side up.



Dave Workman | The Elemental Group


What if you could identify and remove growth barriers? Empower your volunteers? Build passionate people? Make a real difference in your community? And what if you had church-tested tools for team-building and leadership development? The Elemental Pathway is a comprehensive holistic 6-month program combining online assessments, coaching, and action-learning, gamified tools for highly engaging, team-based interaction. See how it can work for you here!


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