Volunteer Versus Employee Positions: How to Decide Which Is Best
Three ways to tell that it's time to hire.
Volunteer Versus Employee Positions: How to Decide Which Is Best

Some believe that the ideal church should manage itself with only volunteers. Ideal or not, most churches quickly see that lay leadership needs to be supplemented with hired staff. But how do you know when to supplement? We hire when I see one of three situations develop.

  1. We hire if the volunteer becomes overworked in his or her role at church. Early in one of my churches, I discovered that the treasurer of the church, a man at ease with numbers and spreadsheets, had to spend 20 hours a week doing the church’s books. That was unfair to him and unfair to his family. So we brought on a part-time bookkeeper.
  2. We hire when we cannot find in our volunteer pool the skills we need for a job. When skills are inadequate, quality and excellence are sacrificed. That means that people will suffer in the long run. To be fair to our congregation, we hire people with expertise if we cannot find an “expert” volunteer.
  3. We hire when our volunteer system breaks down. The church, like other volunteer organizations, constantly struggles with this issue. We recently had three volunteers who had agreed to chaperone a young people’s trip call three days before the trip and say: “Sorry, we can’t go. Something’s come up.” You cannot run a church that way. When our church decides that we need consistent quality in a program, we hire. Because the hired staff person has covenanted with us to be productive, we can demand a greater level of accountability. We cannot do that with volunteers.

Adapted from Best Practices for Managing Church Staff. Originally printed in Mastering Church Management.

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