11 Ways Churches Can Improve Hiring

The church I lead is in the process of hiring two new staff members so I’ve been reading blogs, articles and books on hiring this summer. There is a ton of incredibly unhelpful stuff out there, but also some great things that applies greatly to churches. One of them is It’s Not the How or the What but the Who: Succeed by Surrounding Yourself with the Best by Claudio Fernández-Aráoz.


I think people applying for a job should do a better job of interviewing the boss they’ll work for and understanding the church culture, but churches need to have a clearer hiring process as well.

Here are 11 things I learned from It’s Not the How or the What but the Who: Succeed by Surrounding Yourself with the Best:

  1. Success is rooted in relationships, in the people around you. You are hiring to make your church more effective, to move the gospel and the mission forward. Hiring should take a large part of your time if you have open positions. Yes, use other staff members or hiring firms, but you can’t delegate the whole thing. You must spend time on it if you are the leader.
  2. Humans aren’t programmed to make great people decisions. The first step in surrounding yourself with the best is to recognize—and correct—your own failings. Churches are notorious for being too nice and overlooking their tendencies. It is amazing to me how much of this book was about how to get past your personal biases. We have them and they hinder us from effectively finding leaders, volunteers and staff members. Studies show that adults gravitate toward those with whom they share something, whether it’s a common nationality, ethnicity, gender, education, or career path—even the same first-name initial! It is important to recognize these in ourselves and put a team around us to help us make these choices so we don’t fall into traps.
  3. Overconfidence in predictions is a pervasive human bias that has a dramatic impact not just on our financial or weather forecasts but also on our people decisions. I can easily make a choice right away based on my bias and be wrong. All leaders do this. We need to make sure we stick with our process that we laid out and not jump forward too much. One of those he pointed out was, “Unconsciously, we make choices based on what we already know.” Again, our bias gets in the way.
  4. Most of us are bad and slow at getting the wrong people off the bus. This is true of almost every church. Our goal is to serve, care and love people so it makes sense this would be a struggle. Yet, when this choice must be made, we must make it. For the sake of the church and the person. If they aren’t meeting expectations, it isn’t good stewardship to keep them in a role. If they need help or coaching, we need to do our best to make that happen. Sometimes though, a person’s time is done and they need to get off the bus and that is okay.
  5. Why hiring matters. At most companies, people spend 2 percent of their time recruiting and 75 percent managing their recruiting mistakes. Take the time to make the right choice, even if it means your ministry suffers some in the short term.
  6. Should you hire from inside or outside of your church? It is popular now to hire only from inside a church and sometimes this is the right move. Sometimes, you need an outside perspective to shake things up or take things in a new direction or add an element you don’t have on a team right now. Most churches though, do not evaluate the same. We simply don’t work as hard to evaluate insiders—not only in cases of CEO succession but in all appointments—and this is especially true when things are going well.
  7. Schedule interviews correctly. Don’t simply schedule an interview, make sure it is at a time when you are awake, alert and can focus. Great decision makers never schedule endless back-to-back meetings, and they never work hungry.
  8. Interview 3 people for a position. My expectation was that a larger pool of people interviewed would increase the stick rate, and that happened up to a point. But after three or four candidates, it rapidly declined, confirming that too many options generate suboptimal decisions. So three to four seems to be the right number, just as it is with the interviewers you involve in your key people decisions.
  9. Most people assume that the best hiring strategy is to find the best performers in a given field and get them on your team. I found this fascinating in that someone can be a star at one company or church, but not at another. The DNA, culture and systems of a church can often help someone and if those things aren’t at a new church, their star can diminish. This is important to keep in mind. Also, you don’t always need a star.
  10. Identifying potential should be our first priority. Most people look for a proven track record, and that is important. A proven track record is also attached to someone usually set in their ways, committed to one way of doing things and sometimes you have to untrain someone. This reminder of looking for what someone could be is crucial.
  11. Team effectiveness explains perhaps 80 percent of leaders’ success. Leaders, if you needed a reminder of why hiring matters, this is it.

If you’re hiring, you must read this book. I haven’t found a more helpful book out there on the topic.

Monday Morning Mind Dump…

mind dump

  • Monday after preaching two different sermons yesterday has been slow going.
  • Hence my mind dump coming in the afternoon.
  • Yesterday was a reminder of the warfare that goes into church ministry and how much we are moving the mission of Jesus forward by fighting against the power of satan.
  • It was great being back preaching at Revolution and continuing our series in Galatians.
  • I talked about how the gospel frees us from our self-righteousness.
  • If you missed it, you can listen to it here.
  • I then preached at Elements City Church in Midtown.
  • It was awesome to be with them and see how God is using them.
  • You can listen to my message here.
  • I was reminded last night of how far Revolution Church has come and how hard planting in Tucson is.
  • I’m excited to make an announcement this coming Sunday about where we are in our hiring process for adding to our team.
  • Watched Non-Stop with Katie last night.
  • Super intense.
  • Through all this past year, I got to see how Revolution has grown since last year at this time and it is incredible.
  • Had my coaching with Brian Howard this morning.
  • Always a clarifying time.
  • If you are a leader and you don’t have a coach, you need to get one now.
  • So helpful to have another voice to help you see what you don’t see.
  • I’m in the home stretch for finishing the rough draft of my book.
  • While it’s come so far, I know I have a far way to go before it gets published.
  • Still working through some tendinitis from working out and typing.
  • Learning a lot about my body, crossfit and age.
  • Thankful for some wisdom when it comes to mobility exercises.
  • It was so exciting to see 2 people get baptized yesterday.
  • I love the stories of grace.
  • It never gets old.
  • If you took a next step at Revolution yesterday, know I’m praying for you this week by name.
  • Been working through this conference online.
  • Super helpful stuff for church leaders.
  • Time to get back to it…

Why People Follow You


According to Tom Rath in Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow, there are 4 reasons that people follow a leader, 4 needs that every follower has that a leader meets. They are:

  1. Trust: Trust is everything for a leader, but especially for a pastor. Because we are dealing with people’s lives, hearts and souls and not merchandise like a company, trust becomes the pinnacle of leadership. The moment your followers stop trusting you, stop believing you, the game is over. Character and integrity take a lifetime to build, but can be lost in a moment. This is why boundaries are so important for a leader, this is why a leader must continually make sure he is putting the needs of the organization first instead of his own empire. This is why authenticity and being the same person in private as you are in public is so important.
  2. Compassion: While compassion may not be high on the list of CEO’s, if you are a pastor, it is in your job description. To care for, love, serve, shepherd, celebrate and weep with those you lead. Pastors need to be available to those in their church, to listen, counsel, pray with and sometimes just to give a hug. People want to know that you care. This comes across in personal interactions, but also how you talk about others, especially in a sermon.
  3. Stability: If you are a church planter, stability is difficult. Even if you are an established pastor, stability can be hard, especially if you are making changes or leading your church into the future. A leader must learn how to balance leading change and keeping things stable. Followers want to feel safe, secure and that the world will not fall in on them. As we were planting Revolution six years ago, several people left at once and when I asked why their answers essentially were, “Too much is changing, we aren’t sure if we’ll make it.” Most of those people have since come back, but followers want to know something will make it.  
  4. Hope: No one likes a negative leader. Yes, it may sell books and run up blog stats if you spout out about how the world is ending or it has never been so sinful (before you say that be sure to read the book of Judges and 1 Corinthians). According to Gallup, the best leaders make their followers “feel enthusiastic about the future.” Leaders continually must be looking into the future and helping their followers see that the best is yet to come, even when it feels impossible. Not by painting rosy pictures that aren’t possible, your followers are too smart and will see through that. But to continually say, “If you follow me, if you stay with us, here’s where we’re going.”


Links for Your Weekend Reading


Every Saturday morning I share some things from around the web that I found helpful, interesting or challenged my thinking and I hope you will too. If you want to see past links, go here. Enjoy your weekend!

Paul Alexander on 10 things you lose when a church grows.

The most difficult thing to lose as the church grows is not just people but key people. Particularly Staff and Volunteers. However the reality is the people that got you to where you are aren’t necessarily going to take you where you’re going. They had a particular personality, gifting, and skill-set to be the right person at the right time. But that also inevitably means that eventually everyone is the wrong person at some point as well.

5 things netflix is showing church leaders.

Netflix and other on-demand video providers, have already changed the culture more than you think. And they’ve probably changed you more than you think. Remember the good old days, back in say, 2007,  when people would gather around a set together to watch a TV show live when it was first broadcast? Barely, right? Whenever culture shifts, church leaders should pay attention.

Rich Birch on 5 habits to help church leaders save time.

Don’t just start “doing” … but take time out to plan how you are going to attack the day. Taking an hour at the beginning of the week and 10 minutes at the beginning of the day to plan out what you are going to focus on will maximize your time. 

How to live intentionally and missionally as a family.

We still ask questions like, “Should we have gotten our kids involved in that sport or encouraged them to do that job?” But we always go back to our main question: “What are we about? What is our mission?” We don’t think we’re special; any family can do what we’re doing—loving, encouraging, and blessing. How it looks in our family works for us.

Why You Aren’t Ready for What’s Next


When I was 25 I was a young, punk of a leader. I had a Master’s degree and had been a part of large, successful ministries. I was always the smartest person in the room (in my mind and I made sure others knew it). I also had had a relatively easy life up until this point.

I was sitting in an interview with a large church for a student pastor position. The interview was going well and I thought I would for sure get the job. The executive pastor was getting ready to wrap up the interview when he asked if anyone had any final questions. The lead pastor had been in the interview the entire time but hadn’t said a word. He looked at me and said, “I have one question.” I was ready to talk vision or strategy, but his question caught me off guard. He looked at me and said, “Tell me your deepest hurt.”

I was silent.

He then said, “Tell me about your deepest wound.”

I stumbled for an answer.

While I had been hurt, I had never really been abused or beaten. I wasn’t abandoned or from a broken home. My life had been easy up until this moment. I gave him a rather lame answer that I can’t even remember.

After my answer he said, “Thanks Josh, but we won’t be hiring you. I’m afraid of a leader who can’t name his deepest hurt because I don’t know if he’s past it, but I also don’t know what he’ll do when he meets it.”

Little did I know, the next 3 years after this moment, I would encounter hurts and pain I had never dreamed of.

Fast forward 10 years and I’m on the other side of the table of interviewing people. One of the questions I ask each person is, “Tell me about your deepest pain. What do you do when life hurts? When God seems silent? What you can’t connect with your spouse? When your ministry feels like a failure?”

Like that lead pastor, I’m scared of leaders who stumble through this answer.


Because they will face a desert, they will face failure, they will come up against their deepest pain at some point and I don’t know how they’ll respond.

This right here is why many people fail to move forward in life, fail to capitalize on their gifts or see the doors open to them that they wish to have open. 

We like authentic people and leaders, people who have been wounded as we have but have found a way to move forward from it. Who aren’t scarred by it, they are marked by their past, but they aren’t destroyed by it.

There is something about a leader who has faced what we have faced and come out the other side. We want to be around them, we want to be like them, we want to follow them to where they are going.


It’s Not Them, It’s You


Have you noticed how people often seem to have the same problems? They get frustrated in one job, so they quit, change companies, careers and still have the same frustrations. Or, they get frustrated in one marriage or relationship so they walk into another one, only to have the same frustration.

The common factor?

The one person.

At some point, difficulties and problems in our lives need to start being our fault and not everyone else’s fault. 

We don’t like this in our culture and thinking though. We are the victim, it isn’t our fault we are the way we are. If other people hadn’t hurt us, hadn’t walked out on us, cheated on us, lied to us, we wouldn’t be the way we are. Or, if people could wise up, see the world from our perspective, understand why we are right and they are wrong, things would get easier.

This became clear to me a few years into Revolution Church. Like most church planters, I had a rough go as a student pastor, but every student pastor has a hard season. From 2004 – 2007 was brutal in my life and God took me through the ringer a few times. When we started Revolution in 2008 I used this season as an excuse to bulldoze people, get my way, not listen to critics or coaches and pressed on. I hurt people, burned people, burned myself out and missed opportunities to learn. Slowly, as the church got older and so did I, and I got further and further from that hard season of 2007, I couldn’t keep using that as a reason. The further away we get from those times, the more insecure and immature we sound when we blame it on that.

Also, if you continue to run through relationships and jobs for the exact same reasons it is time to stop and realize, you are the common factor in all of them.

It is you. Not them.

It is easier though to continue complaining, yet, this doesn’t help us have freedom.

Until I faced my hurt, my part in it, what God was trying to teach me in it, I couldn’t move forward. I was always trying to prove myself to someone from my past. I was always trying to prove I was smart enough, talented enough, good enough or worthwhile. I was trying to prove I was better. In this, I missed how God wanted to grow me and I missed the chance at some great relationships and opportunities because I was bitter, hurt, prideful and spiteful.

Those aren’t great descriptors for a pastor, but they embody many church planters and people who simply attend church.

One of the most common sins among Christians and leaders is bitterness. We don’t let go of things easily. We make people pay (those from our past and those in our present who pay for the sins others committed).


It makes us feel superior if we can blame someone else. 

At some point, healthy people are able to say, so they can move forward, “It’s not them, it’s me.”

At that moment, change becomes a possibility.


Helpful Hints from Visiting Other Churches


I love visiting other churches. I love learning from what other churches do well, stealing ideas to improve Revolution. I love being able to worship with my wife and hear great sermons and have my heart be challenged. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to attend some churches in Tucson and in California on vacation. Here are some things that I was reminded of for my own leadership and for Revolution:

  1. Signs matter. I’m blown away by how many churches have horrible signage. Most churches assume everyone knows where everything is: the front door, exit, bathroom, worship service, kids ministry, etc. If you think you have enough signs, you don’t. Someone should be able to pull onto your campus, walk in and find everything without having to ask for help.
  2. Say hi but don’t mob people. I’m an introvert so I don’t like the 15 people shaking my hand, hugging me or the 2-10 minute greeting time where we talk to people around us. I know some people do and if you do, you can skip this one. You should say hi to someone, but don’t mob them. They should receive a smile, a touch (handshake, high five) and a thanks for coming and we’ll see you next week. If people want more, they’ll get it. Extroverts have no problem getting more interaction at church.
  3. Show me, don’t point me. When a guest asks where something is, don’t give them directions. I remember visiting one church and we asked where the kids met and they said, “Go through the auditorium, out into the courtyard, look to the right, when you see a soccer goal, look beyond that to a modular trailer and it’s next to that.” And we started walking. We asked 5 people along the way to make sure we were heading in the right direction. Show a guest to something, don’t tell them directions or point. 
  4. Treat me like I don’t know what’s coming next, because, I don’t know what’s coming next. Tell me what’s next. Tell me how long I’ll be there, how long the service will last. Tell me what page the bible verse is on because I may not know and don’t want to feel stupid as I look for it.
  5. Preaching matters. Preaching takes up half of a service or more. Make sure it is good. It doesn’t have to be world class, but be prepared. Don’t stumble around. Make me care about what you are talking about. I don’t care simply because you stand up and preach. Tell me why I should care, speak to my heart and my head. And, tell me what to do with what you just told me. If I walk out with no clear next step, studies show I’ll probably forget everything you said by Wednesday.
  6. Worship matters. Worship is the other half of the service, make it count. I wrote a letter to worship leaders here that can explain what that means.
  7. Kids ministry matters. In today’s culture, if you want to reach families, kids matter. It needs to be safe and secure. If you don’t give me a tag for my kids, I won’t leave them with you. If my kids didn’t like it, I probably won’t be back next week. If you are a kids worker, when you say hi to a child, get down on their level and talk to them.
  8. Say thanks. This seems like a silly thing, seeing as the person who visited your church chose to, but they didn’t have to. They gave up their morning to be with you. Got the kids out of bed, got dressed and came. Tell them thanks. This might be a gift or words. Tell them to come back, let them know you hope to see them again.
  9. Make announcements shorter. Announcements are too long at most churches. Period. Make them shorter. Cut as much out as possible.



10 Ways to Simplify Your Life


I love simplicity and the idea of simplifying your life so that you can be more effective and be healthier. In fact, it is a large part of my new book. So I was really excited to read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.

Here are 10 things I learned in the book on how to pursue less and get more:

  1. If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will. This is so true and if you understand this, everything in your life changes. Most of us allow someone else to dictate our schedule, life, pace and purpose. It might be a boss, spouse or child, but we don’t say “no” or stop signing up for things. Most people if they are honest, when they are in a stressful, hectic, unsustainable season, it is because they didn’t prioritize their life, someone else did.
  2. Essentialists see sleep as necessary for operating at high levels of contribution more of the time. Sleep is important. Everyone knows this and yet, many live as if they can survive on small levels of it. We hear stories of the leaders who get 3-6 hours per night. Some can do that, but most of us still need 7-8 hours each night. Make it a priority and get a good night sleep.
  3. If the answer isn’t a definite yes then it should be a no. This insight has been so helpful as we are hiring new staff members right now. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve waffled on a choice and went back and forth but this idea, if it isn’t a definite yes, than it is a no. Worth the price of the book in my opinion. I’ve applied this more than any other concept in the book.
  4. When people don’t know what the end game is, they are unclear about how to win, and as a result they make up their own game and their own rules as they vie for the manager’s favor. If you are a leader, listen up to this point. This might be why your team is in shreds, never having a good debate on an issue or simply infighting. They want your attention because they think that is the win, unless you’ve given them a win.
  5. One strategic choice eliminates a universe of other options and maps a course for the next five, ten, or even twenty years of your life. Once the big decision is made, all subsequent decisions come into better focus. I’ve believed this idea since we started Revolution. Targeting 20-40 year old men has answered so many questions without having to think about them. It has shaped our logo, songs we use, ministries we do and don’t do. All of it. Most pastors struggle with this idea and their churches suffer because of it.
  6. People respect and admire those with the courage of conviction to say no. Our head tells us this isn’t right, but in our heart, we know it is true. Mostly because few people have the guts to say no. We wonder if we’ll miss something, if our kids will fall behind or their future will be in jeopardy for not doing every sport. Say no, remember #1, take control of your life or someone else will.
  7. It’s true that boundaries can come at a high price. If you’ve pulled a boundary with someone, you’ve felt the hurt of this. Things that come at a high price though are often the best things in life.
  8. Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. At the beginning of each day, I lay out what I hope to accomplish in that day. The most important things I need to accomplish. At the end of the day, I’m able to know if I moved the ball forward based off what I felt was most important. This also helps me know if I’m doing too much, need to delegate something or take something off my plate.
  9. The Essentialist designs a routine that makes achieving what you have identified as essential the default position. We all have habits and routines and they shape how we live. That isn’t the problem. The problem is that few of us have thought through how to make routines and habits that move us forward instead of falling behind. We don’t structure our lives proactively. Effective people make routines that work, they organize their lives so they move forward.
  10. “Fewer things done better” as the most powerful mechanism for leadership. Yes, yes, yes! Pastors, stop doing everything at your church. It is diluting your mission and keeping you off target. Most churches could cut half of what they do and become 10 times more effective. Why? Because the level of excellence in those things would skyrocket. Do a few things well and let everything else go. Every company that does this is more effective and yet churches, with the mission of the taking the gospel to the nations, the gospel that saves and gives eternal life, we are diluting ourselves into thinking we can do everything and be effective. We can’t.

Overall, this was one of my favorite books of the year. I can’t recommend it enough.


Monday Morning Mind Dump…

mind dump

  • I love the feeling of a normal week.
  • After 4 weeks off from preaching, some vacation, working on Acts 29 stuff, working ahead on sermons and revamping our elder & missional community system, I’m back to working on a sermon I will preach this week.
  • Feels good.
  • Yesterday was a crazy day at Revolution.
  • We had our monthly newcomer’s lunch and had over 30 people.
  • In the middle of summer!
  • Had another guy we are training to be a leader preach yesterday.
  • Logan did a great job.
  • If you missed it, you can listen to it here.
  • Not preaching 4 weeks in a row makes me really excited about preaching this week.
  • Starting my 10 weeks is always fun.
  • I preach 10 weeks in a row and that is my limit. I think every communicator has a limit of how many weeks they can effectively put together in a row and should shoot for that.
  • I have 16 days until my book is due at the publisher.
  • The stress I should feel about this is pretty minimal since most of it is done.
  • I’m just ready for the next step to happen.
  • Took the kids to see How to Train your Dragon 2 yesterday.
  • Super fun.
  • Had to get it in before Fire & Rescue comes out.
  • They are dying to see that.
  • Over the last 4 weeks I spent some time working ahead on our sermon series for the fall. Super excited about what comes after Change
  • We’re going to do a series called Multiply on 1 Timothy, then a 3 week series called Waiting on God on the book of Habakkuk.
  • Definitely timely for our church and where we are.
  • If you think of it, say a prayer for our team Tuesday at 5:30 and Wednesday at 5:30 as we have two important interviews on the next step for hiring our 2 new staff members.
  • I’m more and more hopeful and excited about what lays ahead for Revolution as we add to our team. The potential of what God will do through this team is huge.
  • I can’t wait for it.
  • Time to get back it…

“I Want Deep Preaching”



Here are some things that if you preach on a regular basis, you will hear at least once in your life:

  1. I love that you preach deep.
  2. I left my last church because the preaching wasn’t deep enough.
  3. I’m so glad you preach the bible at this church.
  4. I don’t like your preaching because it is too topical.
  5. I’m leaving your church because you aren’t deep enough (maybe someone said this to you yesterday).

Deep preaching is a moving target, for the simple reason: Deep preaching takes on different meanings for different people.

Usually it is a churched person that wants deep preaching and what they often mean is, “I want preaching that makes me think.” Or, “I want preaching that fills me up.” Often, the person asking for deeper preaching is actually an immature Christian who doesn’t want to read their bible for themselves. Not always true, but I’ve found that to be common thread.

I was told by someone recently, “You preach too topically for me.”

If you’ve ever said that or thought that about a pastor, here’s something to keep in mind: every preacher preaches topical messages.

Topical preaching is simply preaching on a topic. A good preacher, looks at a text, studies it, prays over, discerns what they think the author is saying, what their church needs to hear from this text and then preaches on it. Now, some preachers will simply decide on a topic and go looking for a passage that says what they want it to say. That isn’t good preaching and that isn’t always what topical preaching is, though for the people who have a disdain for topical preaching, this is what they are talking about.

“Deep preaching”  to me is when the preacher is lazy. If a pastor isn’t careful, in an effort to be deep, his sermons will simply be an information mind dump. They stand up and preach a seminary lecture or quote a bunch of commentaries or dead guys.

That isn’t preaching.

I remember doing a preaching lab with some younger preachers and one of the preachers gave no application in his sermon. When I asked him about it he said that he wanted to preach a deep sermon and that “the Holy Spirit will apply what he just preached.” While I fully believe the Holy Spirit brings the conviction and change through a sermon, this is simply being lazy. If that is your view of preaching, why are you preaching? Why not just read a text and then sit down and “let the Holy Spirit do his work?” Or better yet, we don’t even need a preacher, just have people read a passage silently and then listen to the Holy Spirit.

That would be ludicrous.

Romans 10:14 tells us we need preaching. We need preachers who will do the hard work of studying, praying, confessing their sin and applying the text to their congregation.

Which means, you will preach on a passage and not preach everything in the passage. 

This is okay, but hard for younger preachers to handle.

You feel like you are failing or not being biblical. That isn’t the case. There are times when you get to a text and something jumps out for your church, but if you were to preach that passage in a year, you might emphasize a different part of the text. Are both right and biblical? As long as you say what the author said, yes.

It also means you edit your sermon. You spend more time on an idea than another. Every preacher does this, even though the Christians looking for “Deep preaching” don’t think it happens. If it didn’t, every pastor would simply preach on one verse every week or one word just so they preached the whole text.

Editing is one thing that separates a good sermon from a great sermon.

It is getting to what is most important in the text for your church to hear in that sermon.

We don’t need more “deep preaching” in our churches. We need more preachers who will do the hard work during the week so that when they preach, they are laser focused on the heart, so that we see the transformation we long for in our churches and in our society.