By Eric Rojas
Several years ago, we had a performance problem with a well-liked employee which led to her departure from our staff. That occurs on occasion when necessary at Christ Community and really shouldn’t have been a big deal. However, in this particular case, the employee was also the wife of a board member, so it turned into a big deal. While we have many dismissed staff still attending Christ Community Church, in this case, the employee and the board member, her husband, decided to leave.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the biggest problem that arose from the incident. After their departure, the decision was made that we couldn’t hire family members of other staff or board members any longer. That privilege had been revoked for the sake of a non-nepotism hiring policy. Fortunately, the family members that were on staff could remain on staff.
While I understood why the decision was made, I didn’t agree with it. I felt like we were throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. As a result, I decided to do some research about what was happening at ministries around the country. The result of that search led to additional discussions and the following 4-step checklist when interviewing and potentially hiring family members of staff or of board members.
Step #1: The family member candidate must be the best candidate. This means the best overall — competency, capacity, cultural fit, etc. Poor nepotistic decisions seem to be made when a family member is chosen over a clearly more well-suited candidate. When that favoritism occurs, it is noticed by all involved.
Step #2: The family member candidate must have a great relationship with the family member already on staff. This may seem overly basic, but it is critical. If there is a brother-sister relationship that is strained or a parent-child relationship that is the midst of a crisis, it would not be a healthy decision to have them on the same staff team. This can be checked out with pointed questions and reference checks if necessary.
Step #3: The family member that is on staff has to be a highly valued staff or board member. One of the greatest problems with hiring family members comes when the initial family member is dismissed from the staff team. If there are any concerns whatsoever with the existing employee or board member, then we do not pursue the family member candidate.
Step #4: The family member candidate cannot apply for a position that would report to the family member already on staff. You’re probably thinking that just makes sense. Well, sure, it seems to. However, there are times when there’s a perfect fit and the only problem is the reporting structure. It might be possible to get creative with the structure, but more than likely the answer is simply not to move forward. Having a family member report to another family member is a disaster waiting to happen.
There is a lot more that goes into a family member policy and implementation. These four steps, however, will set the groundwork for a healthy team. When these steps are followed properly, some of your best employees can be family members of other employees. When these guidelines are discarded, it can spell disaster. By the way, these policies also work well for “hiring” volunteer roles as well for the most part.
I look forward to your thoughts!
Eric Rojas loves his role as the executive pastor of Christ Community Church in St. Charles, IL, where he oversees a staff of 120 and serves alongside Senior Pastor Jim Nicodem. He has been on staff at CCC since 2000.
During his 20+ years of ministry, Rojas has served in churches as a youth pastor, adult ministries pastor, small groups pastor, associate pastor, worship pastor and men’s pastor. He is a contributing author for Group Publishing’s Men’s Ministry in the 21st Century and has written for various magazines and websites.
Rojas also serves the church-at-large through consulting and seminar presenting.
He has been married to his wife, Rachel, for 22 years. They have 3 children — Luke, 21; Adam, 19; and Chloe, 17. A man of faith, Rojas believes that next year is the year the Cubs will finally win the World Series.