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Why you may not want to replace your departing church staff member

Why you may not want to replace your departing church staff member

The scenario is common.

A church staff member submits his or her resignation. Perhaps the person senses God’s call to another church. All is well, except now you need to replace the staff person.

Or do you?

Too many churches hire staff by routine and tradition. The process is predictable. We have a vacancy. Start the search process. Make tweaks to the job description. Find someone to do the same job as the previous person. Hire them. Done.

There could be a better way. Look at some of these considerations before your church gets in the rut and the routine of “we’ve always done it that way.” Here are seven key questions you might ask.

  1. Can our finances truly afford to replace this person with little change in responsibilities? Perhaps the answer is a resounding “no.” Or perhaps the new person can take on additional responsibilities. Doing things the way we’ve always done them does not allow for financial and stewardship questions.
  2. Have the needs of the church and the community changed significantly? For example, I am surprised how few churches consider bringing someone on the team to lead in evangelism and community outreach. Yet, it is an incredible need in many churches.
  3. Can the position be replaced with part-timers, a virtual worker, or volunteers? This movement is growing. Don’t ignore it. Our friends at Belay are leading a revolution when it comes to virtual workers.
  4. Does the open position complement the pastor’s gifts and abilities? If the church had an administrative pastor depart, while the current pastor is a gifted administrator, it might be best to consider doing something else with those funds.
  5. Do we still want to put these funds in personnel costs? The church might be able to afford to replace the person, but there could be a wiser use of the funds. For example, if the church has not been setting aside funds for ongoing maintenance, it might be wise, if not imperative, to allocate the money in that direction. See my friends at for great facility ideas.
  6. Is the position a legitimate full-time position? For example, the number of ministers of recreation in churches has declined precipitously. The need is not as apparent as it once was.
  7. Have we really thought outside the box? When a staff member departs on good terms, the church does not have a problem, it has an opportunity. Don’t do business as usual. See what God might have planned for the next ten years.

We get a lot of questions at Church Answers about staffing. Many of them focus on the amount of funds in a church budget that should be allocated for personnel costs. I am not sure those are the right questions. The better question is: How can we best use our funds for God’s glory in our present context?

When you answer that question, you may respond by not replacing your departing staff member.

Let me hear your thoughts.

Originally posted at

Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.