Recent Trends in Church Staffing

Written by Bill Whitt
June 27, 2023

A high-functioning church staff helps the church accomplish its mission. Here are five questions to ask to improve your staff.

A high-functioning church staff helps the church accomplish its mission. A key task many church renewal leaders face is hiring, training, and empowering the right people for ministry as employees.

  • The Unstuck Group recently just published a report detailing the current state of church staffing, including new challenges many churches are facing. In this week’s newsletter, I’ll summarize their main findings and give context for how they apply to the work of church renewal.
Five Questions to ask to improve your staff.
 Question 1: Do your employees have clarity on their roles?
  • A lot has changed since the beginning of the pandemic. The amount of staff turnover has been higher than normal, and restructuring has resulted in new or evolving roles for almost everyone.
  • Now, more than ever, clarity is key. Does each staff member know what is expected of them? Is the “win” simple, memorable, and concrete? Do they see how their role fits in within the big picture and contributes to the mission and vision?
 Question 2: Do you have established cultural expectations for your staff?
  •  The Unstuck Group found that 3 out of 4 churches surveyed had written values or behaviors that shape their staff culture. Among larger churches, 9 out of 10 have written staff values.
  • Your workplace has a culture, whether it is written or not. Often, unhealthy culture is unwritten, and the simple act of writing it down will begin the process of improving it. Now is a great time to discuss the culture you would like to create together!
Question 3: Is your staff the right size?
  • The Unstuck Group found that the average church surveyed employs one full-time equivalent (FTE) staff member for every 59 attendees. By contrast, they recommend a ratio of 1 FTE staff member per 77 attendees.
  • Many churches increased staffing levels during the pandemic to deal with lessening volunteerism. For the church to accomplish its mission, however, we must rededicate ourselves to empowering every church member to minister in Jesus’ name (rather than simply hiring additional staff to do every task).
Question 3: Are you training your staff in how to lead?
  • By default, many staff members believe that they have been hired to perform certain tasks. However, the New Testament model is that church leaders exist to equip and empower all the saints for the work of ministry! This requires a radical mindset shift for some employees, who will need an intentional plan to develop their leadership potential.
  • Fewer than half of churches surveyed offer ongoing development for staff members, though. Do you? It could be something as simple as a weekly “lunch and learn” or occasional staff meetings dedicated to thinking deeply about larger issues.
Question 4: Is your staff structured correctly?
  • The Unstuck Group found that, during the last two years, 54 percent of churches engaged in a staffing structure change involving multiple positions. In many churches, such a staffing overhaul was overdue. Why? They explained:
  • “[N]ew vision and new ministry strategy will never get traction if it’s layered on top of an existing structure—a structure that was designed for different purposes and, many times, different strategies that worked in the past but aren’t getting the same results today. You can’t embrace a new direction without making appropriate structure changes.”
Question 5: Is contract labor right for you?
  • The survey found that large churches are increasingly using contract labor for work involving finances, facilities, HR, IT, and admin support. One out of three churches were contracting out tasks associated with web, social media, and communications.
  • To be good stewards of the limited resources God has given us, it often makes sense to use contractors for very specific tasks that require a limited number of hours. Some churches have even found great success with “virtual assistants” who perform highly specialized tasks from all over the world.

What is your biggest staffing challenge?
Reply and let us know how you are approaching the challenge!


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