9 Smart Strategies to Keep Your Church Fully Staffed

August 23, 2022

It’s tough for churches to compete in today’s “seeker-friendly” job market. Some churches may be finding it even more difficult to keep the staff they already have.

As I shared in a July 2022 post on Forbes.com, the quit rate among churches is alarmingly high. Barna Group’s 2022 Pastor Survey Data shows that, within the last year, 42% of pastors have seriously considered quitting full-time ministry. Labor statistics show that significantly more than half of all U.S. workers would consider leaving their current job. 

Understanding and addressing the real reasons your pastors or ministry support staff may be ready to leave your church—or ministry work altogether—is the first step to holding onto your current staff and attracting your next generation of top leaders. 

First, let’s acknowledge that ministry work is hard. This has been particularly true since 2020. The pandemic required ministry leaders to rethink ministry and write a whole new programming playbook. The rate of burnout among pastors rose from 30% in 2017 to 38% in 2021, and studies show that younger pastors and those serving in mainline denominations reached the burnout stage during that time at even higher rates. 

Also, anyone having worked for a church knows that, even in the best of times, ministry is not a “9 to 5” commitment. Most ministry leaders work 60 to more than 70 hours per week. The pressures of carrying enormous responsibility while stretching inadequate resources leave pastors with little time or energy for their themselves or their families. 

This is true at all levels of ministry, from senior pastors to youth ministers. Ministry support workers don’t fare much better as they respond to the overflow of work passed on to them by their exhausted supervisors. 

Considering this, it’s astonishing that we’re not seeing ALL pastors run for the hills. 

But while many will stay with you, others may seek a change for the all too familiar scenario of leaving a lower-paying job for a higher-paying one or seeking a similar pastoral position that offers more opportunities for advancement. 

Let’s look at two additional motivations for job change that have emerged over the last two years: 

  1. Mission-alignment
  2. Relationship. 

Both are well-worth some serious attention from church leaders. 

  1. Mission: Be clear and transparent about your mission. 

You would think that all churches would share the same mission. And, to some extent they do. 

But every church is unique in their demographics and how their programming is prioritized. Some churches focus on a single demographic, like young families, while others may offer programming equally across all ages and stages. Still others may prioritize local mission over congregational care, focusing on their presence and partnerships within the community.  

It’s important to remember that pastors want to join local churches whose priorities and passions align with their own. Pastors who work for churches with mission clarity and well-stated values know that they can likely expect clear direction and adequate resources. 

Conversely, organizations with mission statements that point to unclear priorities or scattershot programming will confuse and frustrate employees. These churches will be hard-pressed to attract or hold onto a talented staff. 

  1. Relationship: Find new ways to create strong, well-connected teams. 

People need connection in the workplace. 

Unfortunately, the urgent workplace issues of 2020–2021 left church leaders with little bandwidth to regularly check in with employees to see how they were faring amid the pandemic’s uncertainty and chaos. Remote work and revised, less-interactive work processes have left many employees missing the regular face-to-face interactions that once connected them with their coworkers. Churches need to find new and meaningful ways to help every staff member feel seen, heard, and included.

Here are seven more strategies to help you maintain a full staff. Attention to each will make your church a better place to work. 

  1. Accept change

Don’t be stubborn or slow to adapt. Throw out the old playbook and think creatively about how to align your church’s policies and business practices with the post-2020 workplace. 

  1. Check your mission and values

Reenergize and reconnect with your staff by engaging them in meaningful efforts that align your culture with their workplace experience. 

  1. Build connection 

Put tangible resources behind efforts that affirm your employees’ excellent work and support their emotional and physical well-being. 

  1. Develop skills 

Invest in professional development programs that will allow you to promote employees into positions vacated by retirements or resignations. Support employees’ completion of college degrees and special certifications, encourage internal promotions, and provide mentorship opportunities. 

  1. Rethink compensation

Create flexible work schedules and protocols that provide your employees with better work-life balance. Consider offering childcare allowances, generous retirement savings plans, or liberal employee leave policies.

  1. Revise onboarding processes 

Ask employees hired in the last two years to help you design onboarding processes specific to remote workers and those who will be in the office infrequently. 

  1. Consider outsourcing

Explore the use of consulting firms to help you rethink your mission, messaging, or business processes. Consider hiring contract employees to fill temporary staffing gaps, or complete ad-hoc projects.

Slingshot Group

We take the guesswork out of nonprofit and church staffing.

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