Stop Hiring People to Work at your Church


Churches love to hire people. I mean they really love to hire people. Often times when churches are just starting off, staff members will raise their own salary until the church has the capacity to pay them. Then as they grow I’ve seen churches long for the day where the budget grows just a little bit more so they can make that next hire. They put so much hope into staffing. Many think that if they could just add one more special staff position to the team, the church would grow.

Now before we get too far into this conversation, let me just say that I’m not against churches hiring staff members. I’m just against churches hiring as many staff members as they do.

You see the average church in America has somewhere around a 1:75 staffing ratio. That means for every 75 people they have attending the church there is 1 full-time equivalent staff member being paid to work at the church. A full-time equivalent may be made up of 2 – 20 hour a week employees, 4 – 10 hour a week employees, or any combination you can think of. At the Unstuck Group when we help churches build a Staffing and Structure plan for the future, we encourage churches to staff at 1:100. By the way, do you know where you church measures up on that ratio?

Why Staff Lean?

One of the many reasons why we encourage churches to staff with this approach is because the churches across America that are reaching the most amount of people with the Gospel and are seeing the most amount of life change are leaner with their approach to staffing. They’re putting resources into reaching people, ministry, and developing people instead of into salaries. They pay fewer people more so they can attract and keep great people.

The More Staff the Less Life-Change

When churches staff at a lower ratio they unintentionally keep people from following Jesus. When people are hired that means what was previously being done by volunteers is now being professionalized. This takes the ministry out of the hands of volunteers and actually often times discourages volunteerism. Volunteering is discipleship. You can’t follow Jesus and not serve others.

More Staff is an indicator of Over Programming

A low attender to staff ratio is also an indicator that a church is probably over-programmed. The staff are busy running a lot of programs to minister to people who are already a part of the church and already know Jesus. 

It’s Easier to Hire than Develop

It’s faster and requires less effort to hire people to do ministry than to recruit, train, and develop volunteers to do ministry.

It’s more Convenient to be Served than to Serve

It’s easier for church members to pay to hire people to serve them than to invest the time into stepping up and serving others.

I could go on and on, but I bet you get the point. Hiring isn’t always the wrong move to make at a church. But if you do hire, hire for two big results:

  1. Hire people who can build teams and develop people
  2. Hire specialists because of a needed skill

Posted in Staffing

6 Responses to “Stop Hiring People to Work at your Church”

  1. Dan O' Donnell October 3, 2017 at 4:51 am #


    As usual, you hit the nail right on the head. This article has helped me think through some things as our church is getting ready to make some staff decisions. Thanks.


  2. Jeffrey Bruce October 10, 2017 at 10:50 am #

    Great stuff Paul, thanks!

    Curious, how would you measure “regular attenders”? On any given Sunday, we have around 500 people (children included) at our weekend services. However, we have 7-800 who will show up at least once a month, and who’d consider our church “home.” So under the former metric we’re a bit overstaffed. Under the second, we’re a bit understaffed.


    • Paul Alexander October 10, 2017 at 11:47 am #

      Jeff, great question! The way we run this ratio at the Unstuck Group is to compare FTE staff to average weekend attendance (worship attendance + kids). So in a church that averages 500 in weekend attendance (worship services + kids) we would recommend 5FTE staff.

      • Darren October 11, 2017 at 2:32 pm #

        I’m curious, does this number include admin as well as pastoral?

        • Paul Alexander October 11, 2017 at 4:54 pm #

          Good question Darren, yes this would include all staff no matter the role.


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