When filling a key leadership position at your church, my guess is many of you might prefer hiring an insider first. Promoting from within is usually cheaper and quicker, helps preserve a company’s culture and values, bolsters employee morale, and often reflects an organization’s strong talent management strategy.
But hiring from within isn’t always the best choice. And as I learned from chatting with some executive pastors via the XP forum, there are many compelling reasons for employing outside talents. By the way, the XP forum is a virtual round table where participants can ask questions about ministry issues — staffing, accounting, security, facility management, crying babies — and receive answers and encouragement from their peers. The interactions, sharing of proven strategies, humor, and sense of community are priceless.
The question I posted was: When is it wise to hire an outsider? Here’s what I learned.
Wanted: Big change. If the leadership wants to create a culture change that aligns with where the church sees itself in the future, it’s wise to hire an external candidate who can help make it happen, suggests Paul Utnage (Springhill Church, Bozeman, MT). Internal hires are great when the ministry is moving along and key leaders don’t want many changes, but if larger changes need to happen in a fairly short period of time, then outside hires are beneficial, says Utnage.
What’s your guiding need? If your great need is new thinking, hire from outside; if it’s increased morale, hire from within, says Russell Howard (McGregor Baptist Church, Fort Myers, FL). There’s a continuum that has “innovation” at one end and “continuity/stability” at the other, he explains. “In the life of most organizations, or positions, one or the other of those needs will be more prevalent, and that prevalent need should guide your search, in my (old guy) view.”
The ministry went awry. Sometimes there are ministry leaders who aren’t going in the same direction as the church vision — and the longer they stay in their positions, the stronger they’ll likely influence other people. What you might need to do in this situation is hire an outsider who can realign the troubled ministry, advises Dave Patchin (Lifepointe Church, Raleigh, NC). Also, when a program is failing due to poor leadership, it might be time to look for an outside talent who can “instill new life and discover what can work,” adds Patchin.
Lesser risk and lower investment. If what’s needed is a highly experienced person who can get up to speed with minimal investment of time and money, it makes more sense to look outside the church, says Joe Ward (First Baptist Church, Georgetown, TX). Hiring external candidates also is less risky relationship-wise, he adds. “You have to know that it might cost you a friend and a church member should the [internal] hire not work out.”
Go deep and wide. When CrossRoads Church in Alberta, Canada, needed a pastor of missions, internal candidates applied. But they had narrow views of what missions looked like based on their limited experiences, says Jordan Polson, executive pastor. So the church hired an outsider — someone with a doctorate in missiology, who had a solid biblical view of missions, and had been on the ground in multiple places around the world. “The impact on our church body has been huge,” says Polson. “It has changed how we support our 40+ missionaries, how we send out short-term teams, and how we do global and local outreach.”
I’m sure you have a few more good reasons for favoring external hires. Let us hear from you, or you can join the XP forum and share with your peers what has worked for your church.