Hiring Process for Church Employees

Managing church employees is every bit as challenging as managing people in any other setting.  A church is only as strong as the people who do the work and weak employees can affect the customer experience and the ability to meet objectives.  Having a strong church staff requires:

Get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, the right people in the right seats and then figure out where to drive.”  Jim Collins –  Good to Great

Getting the right people on the bus involves a great recruitment strategy that includes screening, interviewing, orientation and training.  Each step of the hiring process can significantly affect the job candidate experience so structure and consistency is important.

Employee Recruitment

hiring process for church employees240There should be focused strategy to recruit the best and brightest for the ministry.  Recruiting for a church employee can be a challenge because of the political aspect of hiring someone from within the congregation.

There needs to be a structured recruitment and screening process coupled with great communication to avoid the inevitable offense that comes when members apply to work for their church and don’t get hired.  Good communication coupled with a great interview process is the best way to guard against this.

The Human Resource (HR) Council should set guidelines for how recruitment will be managed and answer questions like.  Does the church try to hire from within the congregation or use outside resources to identify the right person for the job?

There are different schools of thought on this which is why a church leadership group should discuss pros and cons of each and determine the best approach.

Hiring Process

Job applicants should go through the process of interviews, job testing, background checks, orientation and job training.  It is important to have a structured and streamlined process to ensure new employees are screened for the best fit.  It is far better to delay a hiring decision than to hire the wrong person – no matter how desperate the need is to fill the position!

The hiring process should be streamlined with a structured communication process for job applicants.  Job applicants should be considered a church customer group and should be given the courtesy of consistent and clear communication.

Anticipating the kind of information a job applicant might need and building a process around that is the best approach.

For example, when someone applies for a job, there should be an acknowledgement letter sent immediately to let the applicant know that the application was received.  Communication should be made with the applicant at 3 critical steps in the process :

    1. When their application is received;
    2.  When an interview is scheduled;
    3. When the position the applicant applied for is filled – whether they got the job or not.

It is common courtesy to let applicants know that they are no longer in the running for the job which also helps to avoid follow-up phone calls.

Part of the communication should be setting the expectations for when the applicant might hear back.  For instance, if it is common for applications to be reviewed by several people before an interview is scheduled and that process typically takes weeks or even months, let the applicant know so that they have a realistic expectation for when they might hear about the job.

And if things change, and the process is expected to take a little longer, another courtesy communication should be made to the applicant. You should always error on the side of too much communication.  Just think about what kind of information you would appreciate if you were the applicant – and act on it.

Employee Orientation

When employees are new to an organization it is important for them to go through an orientation process. This is typically done by the person who has responsibility for the HR function.   Smaller organizations that don’t hire people on a daily basis, don’t typically have systems and processes in place to ensure a smooth orientation process.  A simple solution to this is to create a new employee orientation checklist that is used the first days or weeks of a new employee.

To create a new employee orientation check list, simply gather a group of employees and ask them, what kind of information was important for you to know when you were first hired?  Going through the new employee orientation check sheet should be a shared responsibility of the HR assistant and the hiring manager.

Here are some examples of things that could be part of a new employee orientation:

Review of Policies

  • Employee policies
  • Office hours
  • Employee benefits
  • Vacation request process
  • Who to call when sick

Office Tour

  • Office/campus tour – ie where to find coffee, where to eat lunch
  • How to use the phone system, retrieve voicemail, etc.
  • Lunchroom
  • Where to find office supplies
  • Where to pick up mail
  • Keys to facility
  • How to operate office machines, ie:  copy machine
  • How to login to computer
  • Any pertinent passwords

Compensation Process

  • When is payday
  • How are hours tracked and recorded
  • Health insurance
  • Retirement contribution


  • Organizational chart
  • Confidentiality
  • Staff meeting schedule
  • Computer passwords
  • Voicemail etiquette
  • Email etiquette
  • Overtime
  • Lunch/break times
  • What are the social norms of the organization, for example employees are expected to hang out together at lunch.
  • Customer service expectations (congregants, volunteers,  other employees)

Department Orientation

This checklist should be completed and signed within 7 days of hire date and maintained in the department and employee file.

The human resource management function for a church has many of the same legal requirements as other organizations and should have a designated person with responsibility and goals assigned to these job tasks.  The Society for Human Resources is a great organization that offers resources and training for this critical role.

If you are interested in learning more about managing employee performance, check out our new on-line Employee Performance Management class.  Use coupon code smart20 to get 20% off.  Click here to learn more!  

photo by: herzogbr

article originally posted June, 2012, updated October, 2014.