My friend William Vanderbloemen wrote an excellent and predictive piece on talent and staffing trends for church in 2020. William, if you don’t know him, is the Founder & CEO of Vanderbloemen. He wrote this before the widespread impact of the coronavirus on people and our economy, and I believe several of the points he makes are more poignant now than when he first penned the article. For example, successors will be stepping into roles at a very challenging and critical time in the church’s life. Below is the article.
As a team that specializes in hiring and succession planning for churches and ministries, we’re constantly studying the latest thinking and emerging trends around teams. Here are some talent trends for 2020 that are especially relevant for churches, ministries, and Christian organizations as you prepare for a strong 2020.
TALENT TREND: 2020 will be the decade of succession.
Back in the early 2010’s, we named succession as the next critical issue for churches. I likened it at the time to a tsunami that is way out at sea, not easily noticed, but assuredly on its way to shore. Now, the succession tsunami is here. Baby boomers are retiring at a rate of about 10,000 workers per day, according to the Pew Research Center. There’s an experience gap that organizations face when succession of a long time leader arrives. There’s a war for talent and experience, and more than ever a need for planning around succession. Enough so that our publisher has asked us to release our newest findings in an expanded and updated edition of Next: Pastoral Succession That Works out April 21, 2020.
Succession isn’t just a baby boomer or retirement conversation. It’s a conversation for every team member, regardless of age. Particularly for churches and faith-based organizations, it is vital to remember that every pastor or leader is an interim pastor or an interim leader. There will be a day when a successor must take over for anyone in a leadership position. Every pastor, leader, and board member should be thinking about succession at every level: not as a synonym for retirement, but as a piece of a puzzle that, with all the pieces, makes a plan for an organization’s long-term health, successful leadership, and lasting legacy.
Many folks ask me how to identify if their team is prepared for succession. So my team created a free resource, “Succession Readiness Tool” , where you will receive a grading of your readiness with suggested steps for your particular situation.
Scripture alone doesn’t provide a “how-to” guide for succession. And if you ever meet anyone who has a “cookie cutter” for succession, my advice is simple. Run away. Quickly. Every succession is unique and needs unique attention, approach, and guidance. And there is nothing more expensive to your organization than messing up a succession. But don’t let that scare you away from planning. You’re not alone in this and it’s not uncharted territory. Start with simple actionable steps that you can do today, without feeling like it is an overwhelming undertaking. It may be as easy as initiating writing a will, or it may happen over time, like delegating leadership and teaching responsibilities to other key leaders so they could take over any time they are needed. Doing these steps—and just starting—will go a long way in the overall success of your plan, and your peace of mind. For the last decade, we’ve been helping guide teams along the succession path. If you’d like to have a conversation about succession planning and what it might look like for us to walk with you, we would be glad to have a conversation.
TALENT TREND: Hiring, in general in 2020, will focus on fewer people and more dollars.
One really valuable team member outweighs a few mediocre hires. By a long shot. And nowhere is this more important than in churches and ministries. Aim to work smarter, not harder this year. In 2020, the world has never been more connected. Technology is constantly improving, and organizations are learning to be more efficient in everything they do. A few years ago, there was a fear that increased use of machines and artificial intelligence in the workplace would eliminate the need for human jobs. But it turns out, the opposite is true.
According to research conducted by the World Economic Forum (WEF), the growth of artificial intelligence could create 58 million net new jobs in the next few years. This is positive news for employers. Consider carefully how you need to respond to continually improve your processes and quality of work. This job growth will create a major shift in the workforce, but at the same time, offer an incredible opportunity for skill growth. WEF estimated that 54% of employees currently in the workforce would need to expand their skills to fully harness the opportunity for the growth this shift is initiating.
What does this mean for your church? It means that as roles like data entry, social media management, and accounting are becoming less time consuming, it frees your teams up to have time to dig deeper into their creative, innovative, and visionary roles.
It means that you are focusing less on how much work you can or need to do and refocusing instead on creating more value (and more dollars.)
For you, this means that you could spend less time managing the processes and paperwork for your church’s field missionary in Rwanda can spend more time having conversations with valuable partners instead of submitting expense reports. It means that your Director of Finance can focus more on fostering generosity in the congregation of your church instead of reviewing excel sheets of numbers. It means that you, the Executive Pastor, can spend more time mentoring your staff instead of working on processes. It means that your social media manager can spend more time sharing the life-changing stories of your church—the rich, colorful, moving threads of a story God is writing—rather than working on scheduling and managing posts.
Because of this shift, processes and organization will be more important than ever. Leverage the unique skills of your team members who are gifted with details and processes. Encourage your employees to live out a spirit of lifelong learning. What can they offer your organization or business that only they can do, bringing infinite value and ideas to their work? How can they grow in 2020 to build greater depth for their organization?
TALENT TREND: Theology matters…this decade more than ever.
There are a myriad of reasons why: the rise of the non denominational church has been wonderful, but has created identity confusion. The desire for a cohesive culture in the workplace finds its epicenter in building a culture with a like minded mission. And in an increasingly post-Christian culture, hiring for a faith and/or values match will be more difficult than ever.
Is your church one that values a broad based faith? Is it one that is focused on a particular strand of Christianity? Does the value system of your team come with particular conclusions about hot button issues or politics? Do any of your views place you at odds with the general culture? Knowing the theological framework of your team and hiring around that framework means knowing theology, or having someone help you hire who does know theology. Hiring the right person for your church staff will not only mean hiring a follower of Jesus, but also means you must evaluate their theology to ensure that it’s a good fit for your organization’s work, mission, and culture. You also don’t have to do it alone. We believe that theology matters so much that it’s one of our Vanderbloemen Differences.
For your existing staff members, be sure to encourage and equip them with ongoing theological education or enrichment, understanding the difficulty of the mission of the gospel, no matter what kind of role you are in, and letting them know that you are standing with them. As a leader, this is truly calling your employees to “put on the armor of God” every day.
Trends come and go. That’s why they’re called trends. But the ones we’ve outlined here aren’t just for 2020. I believe they will dominate the entire decade, and perhaps longer. Get ahead in these areas, and you’ll be well on your way to your best chapter of teamwork yet.