6 Negative Effects of Over Staffing Your Church

By Gary Rohrmayer

"Like an archer who wounds at random is one who hires a fool or any passer-by." (Proverbs 26:10)  Careless hiring can have damaging effects on a community of faith. Overstaffing can have the same effect. Overstaffing often hurts the church, the mission and relationships. 

Here are a few ways overstaffing can negatively impact the church:

1) It affects volunteerism in the church.
Show me a church that is overstaffed and I will show you a church whose lay leadership is frustrated and disengaged.  They are frustrated because they are not equipped or empowered to lead teams or ministries in the church.  They are disengaged because they don't see the need because in their mind someone is now being paid to do this job.

Antidote: Hire proven leaders who equip and empower lay leaders and volunteers not hired guns to do the ministry.

2) It affects outreach and new visitor ratio.
Show me a church that is overstaffed and I will show you a church that is ineffective in outreach and its attendance has plateaued.  I have made the argument that adding staff does not grow your church but simply maintains your church at its current level.  What grows churches is a constant investment in focused outreach (learn more).  If the church is not seeing 5% new visitor flow (5 new visitors for 100 people in attendance) the church will plateau and start to decline. 

Antidote: Hold firm to a 5-10% budget for focused and targeted outreach.

3) It affects the financial health of the church. 
Show me a church that is over staffed and I will show you a financially crippled church.  Many churches take deep financial risks on unproven talent and find themselves depleting their reserves and creating a financial crisis with little results. This happens because they have bought into the idea we need to staff for growth. In this economy this idea is faulty. 

Antidote: Start with part-timers and interns. Look at their work ethic and how they influence those around them. 

4) It affects functionality of the staff team.
Show me a church that is overstaffed and I will show you a dysfunctional staff team. A church might have 150 people in attendance and be wealthy enough to afford 4 full-time staff. Honestly there is not enough work for them to do and when there is not enough work the staff starts tripping over each other and they even start kicking each other.

Antidote: Hold firm to a 1:150 ratio full-time staff to congregants. 

5) It affects senior leaders negatively.
Show me an overstaffed church and I will show you a frustrated senior leader. The reality is that most pastors are shepherd/leaders and not managers.  To manage and develop staff is a skill that needs to be sharpened with focused energy.  It takes lots of time and huge reserves of emotional energy that can negatively impact a pastor's preaching and performance. Instead of making the pastor's job easier it makes the pastor's job difficult, frustrating and draining.  

Antidote: Take time to learn this skill from business leaders.

6) It affects morale of the church. 
Show me a church that is overstaffed and I will show you a church who has low morale. Laying-off staff in a church environment is very painful no matter how big or how small the church is because they are seen as part of the family.  There is a spiritual, familial, and emotional connection with staff members and their families.  When they are laid off the negative impact spreads like a virus. One author described. "…cutting staff is like operating on yourself with no anesthetic." HT 

Antidote: Build your team slowly. Live within your means. Don't risk people’s lives. 

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Church Health, Relationships, Gary Rohrmayer