Looking to hire a janitor or a secretary? Maybe a senior minister? While some hires might involve a few more steps than others, it's all pretty basic, right? You've got the résumé, two or three references, and you know what the job requires. You work with people all of the time, so you have a good, intuitive sense of who will fit in and who won't. It ought to be a no-brainer.
Not quite. Many things can go wrong. There are specific steps you should take, and pitfalls you should avoid. We asked two experts in this area to give us some advice. Bob Podgorski is manager of extension services at Harper Community College in Palatine, Illinois. He is also coordinator of the St. Hubert Job and Networking Ministry, and he runs his own consulting practice in human resources, RPP Enterprises, both based in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. Christian Poland, a partner at Bryan Cave LLP in Chicago, is a lawyer who specializes in employment and non-profit organizations.
Before You Start Looking
The first step is to develop a well-organized employment handbook. A handbook will save a lot of time and avoid many hiring problems. The handbook should contain a statement of the church's faith, policies, and standards of conduct. "For instance, a conservative church would not want a minister who will promote gay marriage and abortion, while a liberal church will not want a minister who condemns gay marriage and abortion," Poland says.
"You should also convey clearly the standards of conduct you expect," he says. "I was recently involved in a case in which a candidate for a senior-level ministry position was living with his fiancée. They were soon to be married, but, after the offer was made and announced publicly, the situation was discovered and the church had to withdraw its offer on the basis that the person was violating the Biblical prohibition regarding sex outside of marriage and so was not fit to assume moral leadership within that church. The situation was difficult and embarrassing for both the church and the applicant."
While much of this information can be made available through a church's website, the applicant should receive an actual handbook at the start of the process. The handbook should contain basic policies, such as vacation time, as well as the statement of faith and expected conduct. "You can't cover every possible sin, but you should list the main conduct parameters, especially those that might not be readily understood by an outsider," Poland says. Topics like drug testing and harassment should also be discussed.