In the 20th century, many churches followed a standard staffing model. As a congregation grew in membership and mission, it added a director of Christian education, associate pastors, and a business manager, usually in that order. Today, congregations are questioning the need for all of those positions, at least as they were performed in the past.
How many people should your church hire? At least since the 1980s, when Lyle Schaller proposed average worship attendance as a useful indicator of program staff size, churches (and church consultants) have used ratios to decide how many staff to hire. This mathematical approach has merit, but as a nonprofit executive I never used it—instead I made staffing decisions based on the specific work that needed to be done and what I hoped each staff member would contribute.
During the COVID-19 shutdown, we all learned a new term: the frontline worker. Since the spring of 2020, frontline workers have put their health and lives on the line working in industries critical to keeping our economy running. Healthcare workers, firefighters, and grocery store employees, among others, have to work outside their homes, at continual risk of exposure. While I had the luxury of staying safely at home in front of my computer, my spouse, who is a manager in the transportation industry, went in to work every day. Thankfully so far, none of his co-workers have contracted Covid on the job.
Staff who negotiated the first waves of the pandemic with resilience may be hitting the wall now. The relentless stress of this season is incapacitating some of our best employees. If you are a supervisor, you may wonder how to recognize and respond to traumatized members of your team. Five key practices will help you provide a trauma-informed workspace.
Leaders of small congregations often say, “We can’t afford to hire as many people as we need.” Leaders of large congregations say the same thing! If your vision is ambitious, you will always need more staff than you can afford, no matter what resources you have at your disposal. Fortunately, there is another way.
Fifty-eight percent of professional workers say they are “more productive when working virtually, even if there are distractions such as a spouse and children at home.” This finding from a survey by the global consulting firm Korn Ferry is one of many indications that for some American workers, productivity has improved. How about your congregational staff? Has their productivity increased, decreased, or stayed the same since February 2020?
In the next year it is likely that your congregation will have to fire someone. As we come out of the pandemic, every congregation will have to reevaluate its staffing structure. Do you have the right people with the right skills to lead your congregation through the next chapter? Some new hires may be needed, requiring painful terminations to free up precious payroll dollars. Acting with integrity as you fire people can make all the difference in helping your congregation cope with difficult transitions.