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Church Staff: Full-time or Part-time?

Article by Courtney Krueger, Senior Minister, FBC Pendleton, SC

I read an article several years ago about a church in Waynesville, VA that created a unique staff structure that was working very well for them.  Their pastor was Bill Wilson who is now the pastor of FBC, Dalton, GA.  I called Bill to ask about their plan which used several part-time staff members instead of a few full time ones. 

He said that the church was running about 350 in worship when they instituted this plan.  The staff had been a FT Pastor, FT Music Minister and FT Minister of Education, Youth and Children.  Both the Music and Ed/Youth/Children ministers accepted positions elsewhere allowing the flexibility to try something new.  The church realized that they had managed to burn out several staff members over the years by overwhelming them with huge job descriptions (Ed, youth, children!).  They also felt that the overburdened staff members had been unable (due to both job descriptions and personal attributes) to fulfill the dreams of the church for those positions. 

They were unable to find a model that they liked, so they created their own.  They decided to initially hire 4 part-time positions instead of re-hiring for the two full-time positions that were open.  They made a conscious choice to call the positions coordinators rather than ministers although whenever they hired an ordained minister they did change the name of the position to a minister position.  The initial four were:

·         Youth Ministry Coordinator

·         Children’s Ministry Coordinator

·         Senior Adult Ministry Coordinator

·         Missions Coordinator

They retained the Full-Time Music position. 

 

They made all of the positions salaried positions (no timecards).  The Youth minister was salaried at 25,000 a year and expected to work 24-30 hours a week.  The other three positions were salaried at 12,500 a year and were expected to work 12-15 hours a week.  These hours included Sunday mornings and staff meetings.  There was an understanding/expectation that some weeks they would work more than the “allotted” hours and some weeks they would work less.  It was vitally important that the church recognize and stress that these were coordinators.  There was a ministry team (Children’s Ministry Team, Youth Ministry Team, etc.) that had to function very well in order for this to work.  It took a good bit of work on the part of the pastor and others to ensure the teams were functioning before hiring people.  They also were very clear in the job descriptions what the expectations were for both the employee and the team.  The Personnel Committee met monthly with the pastor to evaluate the progress during the first couple of years. 

After some time (I’m not sure how long) they decided to split the Children’s Ministry Coordinator position into two positions: Elementary Children’s Ministry Coordinator and Pre-School Children’s Ministry Coordinator.  Both positions were funded at the $12,500 rate. 

They later hired an Adult ministries coordinator who was responsible for coordinating the ministries to median and young adults. 

The last hire was a Pastoral Care Coordinator.  This person’s job was to coordinate the pastoral care efforts of the church (staff pastoral care, deacon team ministry, grief committee, visitation committee, etc.).  This person did not take over Pastoral care from the Pastor.  It was clearly stated that this would add to the pastoral care of the church, not take away from pastoral care offered by the pastor. 

There were some concerns initially as to whether this model would work and as to where they would find qualified/quality people to fill the positions.  They were very pleased with what developed.

·         They hired a Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond student to be the Youth Minister.  He moved from Richmond to Waynesville and commuted to seminary on class days.  He did such a good job that his position was later increased to full-time and he served the church for over 7 years (4 years 10 months longer than the average youth minister!).

·         They hired a church member as the children’s coordinator.  She did not work out and the church had to terminate her employment.  This was a rough spot and did cost the church her family. 

·         The Senior Adult Coordinator was a lay-person from outside the church who refused to take a salary.

·         The Missions Coordinator was a recent Southern Seminary Graduate whose husband was a Presbyterian minister in town.  They were most pleased to get a seminary trained person for this position.  At some point the church chose to ordain her. 

·         The Pastoral Care Coordinator (later Minister of Pastoral Care) was a retired minister in the area.  After he served for some time, the church became so comfortable with his ministry that he and Bill Wilson often did funerals together.  He did a great job of adding to the pastoral care of the church rather than replacing the pastoral care of the pastor. 

 

In order to test both the model and each new position, the initial hire had a sunset clause of one year.  The coordinator was contracted to work for one year only.  At the end of the year the Pastor and Personnel Committee did an evaluation both on the position and the individual.  This included much input from the congregation.  In every instance except one (noted above) they church was overwhelmingly enthusiastic both about the model and the individual. 

He said that this approach increased his load in terms of staff management.  He and the church wanted a staff team, not a bunch of independent departments.  There was a weekly staff meeting on Monday mornings.  This was explained during the interview process as a job requirement.  He met with each staff member face-to-face once every 8 weeks in a formal meeting and much more regularly when problems/questions/issues arose.  Because the staff were not all seminary trained, he felt the need to do more coaching and guiding than he might have otherwise.  They had annual staff retreats and did other group team-building activities. 

He also said that the church had to adjust to the differences as well.  They could not pick up the phone or drop by the church at any time and reach the staff member they needed.  It was hard for some to give up the idea of hiring people to do it all instead of hiring coordinators to coordinate the work. 

Positives he mentioned were:

·         “This is the way to have the feel of a larger church without actually being a large church.”

·         “We went from a church with a staff of three full-time ministers to a staff of 8 people (2 FT, 6 PT) without raising the budget very much.” 

·         “We got much more “product” from the part-time staff members than we did from overworked full-time staff members.  When the part-timers were in the building, they were working.  They weren’t playing solitaire on the computer or otherwise trying to fill up time.” 

·         We increased in size from 350 in worship to 450 in worship in a few (I didn’t ask how many) years. 

·         Our Sunday School attendance rose to 400 (I didn’t ask what it was before). 

Negatives and Rough spots in the process included:

·         Having to fire a church member.  Her contract was not renewed after the first year.

·         Helping the church recognize that these people were coordinators – they could not do it all in 12-15 hours a week. 

·         He felt like they had a slightly greater turnover rate than if they had hired full time people, but emphasized that they got much better results with the PT people than they had with overburdening FT people.  Efficiency likely cancelled out the turnover rate. 

·         There were some problems in scheduling staff-wide events, but the interview process weeded much of that out. 

What should we know if we consider this?

·         Start with good, clear job descriptions

·         Emphasize the need for strong ministry teams who will be partners in the ministry.

·         Budget money to send the teams to conferences, training, etc.  This helps with the partnership.

·         Educate the congregation on the roles of both the teams and the coordinators. 

·         Good supervision/coaching from the Pastor is crucial.  He had to adapt his style and the church had to somewhat alter their expectations of what the pastor did. 

·         He is beginning the process of duplicating this in Dalton beginning in January with a couple of new hires. 

 

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