Well, here we are! It’s mid-August! It’s time for the Personnel Committee to work on filling those empty positions! No, I don’t know what that looks like for you and your church during this time of COVID. Too often, even during ordinary times, this process is spent listing the positions that are coming open for the next church year. Then the committee looks around for warm bodies to fill those positions. Does this sound all too familiar? If you find yourselves going through this annual rite, I have some ideas for you. And I’m going to assume the positions are appropriately described in your church’s constitutional by-laws and/or personnel handbook.
You may have heard that 90% of the work in the church is done by 10% of the church members. Where is God in this? A practice that has been crippling churches over the years is that of putting people into positions for which they may be willing to “volunteer” (sometimes because they feel pressured into them). I entreat you to begin this process instead by conducting a study on spiritual gifts for the church. Quite often, church members have no idea what their spiritual gifts are. Do they have a gift of administration? Or of teaching? Or of helps? Or hospitality? Faith? Showing mercy? Service? And if they do know, where do they fit into the purpose or mission statement of the church?
There are more resources available than there used to be. Some of the ones I’ve used are (I’m 70 and retired which likely explains the age of the books):
– 19 Gifts of the Spirit by Leslie B. Flynn (Victor Books. 1974.)
– Rediscovering the Charismata by Charles V. Bryant (Word Books. 1986.)
– Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow by C. Peter Wagner (Regal Books. 1983.)
– Various handouts without credits listed.
During this time of the people going through studies about their spiritual gifts, the Personnel Committee will study the positions and committees, and determine what gift(s) would be good for carrying out the purpose of each position. Be aware that a position may entail more than one gift. You may even have a person with one gift serving on the same committee as a person with a different but complementary gift.
This next part is a concept that I’ve never seen anywhere else. God gave me this in my second pastorate (see “Small Church with a Big Heart” in the “My Stories” section of this blog site) in which the people remaining after a major split really never developed as leaders. That church had very few people to fill a ton of positions listed in the by-laws of the church. Those ton of positions were fine and kept the church running when they averaged 100 in Sunday School, but they don’t work so well when you only have 20 (or 34 in the next year) to work with – and they weren’t developed leaders.
Look at each position that you’ve figured out might entail such-and-such a gift(s). Then determine the workload of each position and assign it a letter. For instance, a position that would require a lot of time and responsibility – like a deacon/elder, teacher or treasurer – would be assigned an “A” to indicate the time and possible stress involved needed to properly fulfill the position. A position that may require less involvement would be assigned a “B.” A custodial position could be a “C” or “B” depending on the size of your church and the activities that occur in the building through the week. A, B or C. That’s it. A person should not have more than two “A” positions – at the most! Or one “A” and one “B”.
Important: This method is for the use by the Personnel Committee and the church staff only. A letter does not indicate a person’s value in the church. Instead, it signifies only what I already said: it just indicates time, responsibility and stress of a position. A different set of designations could be used, but you’re liable to run into trouble with that, too: (Oak, apple, beech? Pigs, chickens or cows? I wouldn’t go there). To avoid an inferred value system, the most demanding position could be a “C” and the least an “A”. That could take care of perceived value judgments. However, for the sake of discussion (and so I don’t have to re-write this blog), we’ll continue with the definition of an “A” position as being the most time-consuming and responsible.
Now then, how does this work out? If a person has an “A” position, that’s usually enough. If they seem extra capable and have gifts along certain lines, they may have two “A” positions, or an “A” and a “B” position. Then they are DONE being considered. That’s it! No more for them!
“Yeah, but what about all those unfilled positions?”, you say. My answer: Whose church is it? Yours or God’s? What is the purpose of God’s church? Worship, fellowship/community ministry (family), make disciples (learners). Doesn’t that sum it up?
So if your church is God’s church, then whose responsibility is it to carry on the business of the church? God’s. Now then, please listen. If God wants his body, the church, to do something in the church or the community to fulfill its purpose of worship, fellowship/community and making disciples, then he will supply the needs of that church to enable it to do so. If you have open positions and people are already maxed out as “A”, “A,A” or “A,B” or even as a “C, C, C” in carrying out the purpose of the church, then you don’t need those empty positions right now. Count on God to bring people into the church or guide the church in developing people to broaden the fulfillment of his purpose. Or you may have too many positions or committees. Consider that, but that’s for the Constitution Committee.
Whew! Where were we? In summary, conduct training in spiritual gifts so people can better know how they can serve according to the gifts God has given them to serve. Meanwhile, the Personnel Committee study the positions in the church according to the constitution and by-laws to see what gifts may be needed for each one (remember, there may be more than one gift appropriate to a position or to a committee). The committee then assigns time, responsibility and stress values to each position. Next, the committee is given a list of people in the church who attended the training and the gifts they understand they may have. Finally, the committee can now approach a prospect for a position with the knowledge of the person’s gifts coupled with the gifts needed for a position. It is the committee’s responsibility to ensure that people don’t get burned out in their work by making sure no one person is overburdened. If there aren’t enough people to fill positions, then perhaps those positions are not needed at this time in the life and work of your church.
I hope this puts the work of the Personnel Committee and the work of the church in proper perspective as you look at preparing for the new church year. Let me share this with you in closing:
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” [I Corinthians 12: 4-7. NIV]