As a partner with the CPA firm CapinCrouse, Stan Reiff guides churches and other nonprofits through various parts of ministry, including strategic planning and ministry operations. Reiff recently talked to ManagingYourChurch.com about key issues related to hiring practices.
Where do churches go wrong when hiring staff and dealing with staff costs?
The biggest mistake people make in the church world is that they hire for spirituality and not for competence. Or they fail to attribute enough importance or strategic value to support staff. So they hire someone because they like the person or because the person has a business background rather than because the person has the specific skills needed.
If you need a business administrator, then hire a business administrator. If you need an accountant, then hire an accountant. Those positions require specific skill sets.
What questions should church financial managers and other leaders ask when hiring staff and evaluating staff costs?
The first is: What are the salary requirements to find a competent leader in that role? And then: What can we afford?
If we need to hire a full-time youth pastor and one costs, say, $50,000 and we only have $25,000, what do we do? Do we want to hire someone who is less competent for $25,000? Or do we want to have someone who is competent but only have them for half the time.
The other major question is: How are we going to cover this expense through cash flow? Normally what happens is that the church says, “We will go ahead and hire a staff person and figure out how to pay for it later.”
For example, church leaders hire a new children’s minister, figuring that if the church has a great children’s program then more families will come. They think that will increase giving—and that is how the church will pay for it.
I always tell churches, “That sounds like a great plan. But are there enough funds in place to fund this until giving grows to cover the new cost? What happens if the plan doesn’t work?”
For more insights from Reiff and other financial experts, see “Balancing Personnel Costs” in the June issue of Church Finance Today. For help determining fair salaries and compensation packages for 15 different church positions, see the 2016–2017 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff.
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