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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"Effective Staffing for Vital Churches" (Bill Easum and Bill Tenny-Brittian)

TITLE: Effective Staffing for Vital Churches: The Essential Guide to Finding and Keeping the Right People
AUTHOR: Bill Easum and Bill Tenny-Brittian
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012, (176 pages).

What is the purpose of hiring staff? Is it to run programs or to build people up? Is it to meet a need or to prepare people to meet needs and to be missional wherever they are? Is it to delegate ministry to the staff or is it to enable staff to create a positive environment for discipleship in the church? These questions and more are ably dealt with in this excellent manual for hiring people for churches. 

This book is a guide not just about hiring appropriate staff for churches. It is to come up with a big picture about the difference between ministry and equipping, between missional and maintenance, between mere programs vs mission to reach people. The word "vital" represents how urgent it is for churches to adapt and to prepare themselves for growth and effectiveness. Ed Stetzer uses Jim Collins's bus scenario in "Good to Great" to summarize the three things churches generally need. How to get the wrong type of people off the bus? How to get the right people on the bus, and how to get the right people into the right seats of the bus? The challenges of the modern world are making it harder for churches to hire good people and to discern what actually their churches need. Sometimes, we allow the availability of a "good candidate" to drive our hiring decisions, or to be subjected to a desperate situation to force our decision to bring on board somebody, even anybody! The authors give four reasons to justify the reading of this book.
  1. Financially, many churches are tight and they need to hire wisely due to limited budgets and resources
  2. Churches exist in a culture of change. The staff hired need to work with the strategies of the church to deal with this change.
  3. There's a shortage of leaders everywhere we go.
  4. Right staffing facilitates growth.
Originally titled as "Staffing for Missional Church," the authors decided against it because a church is supposed to be missional. Churches are also expected to be heavily involved in missions. The word "staffing" reminded us about churches being about people, not buildings. Easum and Tenny-Brittian begin by setting the context of the book, describing the sea of change happening in the culture we live in. There is a change of attitudes that people do not go to church on their own anymore. They need to be invited. More people are needed to help one individual grow, pointing to a need to be more attentive on an individual scale rather than a mass scale. Trust needs to be gained in an environment where "church" is perceived negatively. With frequent member movement in and out of churches, plus immigration and demographic changes, churches need to keep up with the changing expectations.  What really makes this book stand out is the paradigm shift it offers: 

"So let's be clear from the beginning: staff should never be hired to do ministry! That's right. The less ministry the staff does, the more people who are reached for Christ. An the more the kingdom grows and your church grows. So what's the purpose of staff? Simply put, the role of staff is to 'equip the saints for the work of ministry' (Eph 4:12, ESV). Staff creates an environment in which leaders at every level are equipped and encouraged to replicate the DNA of the church by living out their spiritual gifts. God built the church on the premise that every Christian has a gift and a calling to share with the world. It's called the 'priesthood of believers.' The role of staff is to ensure this happens." (Easum, et al, Effective Staffing.., p23)

So what exactly is equipping? This begins with a core missional identity of the church, and how the paid staff's gifts, skills, and passions go toward four core processes of the equipping the church for missional work.
  1. INVITE: Bring people in via equipping and helping networking, servant evangelism, marketing, and cultural liaison.
  2. CONNECT: Retain people in via equipping and helping worship, follow-up, hospitality, an friend-making.
  3. APPRENTICE: Disiple them via facilitating mentoring, small groups, leadership development, and encouragement champion.
  4. SEND: Sending people out via connecting, gifting, outreach, training.

For each of these core processes, key leaders need to be identified. The rest of the book goes into detail of each process, step by step, example by example, tip after tip, and reminder after reminder.That is not all, the journey steps and the transitions are meticulously laid out for readers to situate themselves.

My Thoughts

This book is a treasure house of tips for church ministry and volunteer work. There is something for anyone in the Church. For the lead pastor, there are many tips on staff management, church strategies, leadership growth, and many more. For the staff, there are lots of tips to remind them that their primary role is not ministry but equipping. For the Board member, it is a reminder that the Church is called to be missional. For readers, it is a fascinating look at the dynamics of Church work and what it takes to prepare a Church for growth. When I read the list of worship do's and don'ts, and the best practices for worship leaders, I find myself nodding non-stop. The authors have also given one of the simplest ways to understand discipleship:
  • "I do; you watch; we'll talk.
  • You do, I watch,; we'll talk.
  • You do, someone else watches; you'll talk." (p59)

This alone is a precious discipleship gem. Clear and simple, well nuanced and biblical, it gives readers an excitement to keep the book pages open and to move straight to practice. I am grateful for the detailed description on leadership multiplication and development. Indeed, if we address the leadership issue appropriately, the rest of the church ministry will fall in place. Not only that, the authors are specific in their application, giving tips and directions for large churches, medium sized, and small churches. They describe the leadership journeys clearly so that readers are able to see and design a plan for their own churches. The authors then conclude with "staffing basics" to remind readers again what this book is all about: "Effective staffing." I am amazed at the amount of material that is packed in a book this size. Great book. I recommend this book highly for anyone involved in staff matters in churches.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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