Both/And: Types of Worker

Jim Collins famously states in Good to Great that leaders should prioritise getting the people they want in their team on the bus first and then work out which seats they should sit in. In other words, look at character, competence and chemistry, build a team with the right people and then assign detailed roles.

I think this helps us to think a little about the both/and when seeking to build a team of workers.  Here are some dilemmas that have been suggested to me -examples of where I might be wrong to focus on who is available first.

1.       Should a church employ a pastor or a youth leader first? The assumption is that a youth leader cannot work for the church without having a pastor to supervise them. 

2.       Do we go for an evangelist or a pastor?

3.       What if the first person to become available is an administrator or janitor?  Some people might argue that we should employ them first to free others up for Gospel service.

I want to deal with the last one first because at firdt it sounds like  the sort of ridiculous option that should never be considered.  Actually, it’s not that daft an option is it? You see, it comes back to my earlier post about not making the process/input decisions to early. The real problem you are trying to solve is about capacity for Gospel ministry and if elders and other church members are being worn out and tied up with cleaning, maintenance and admin then maybe employing someone to do those things is exactly what you need to do. This may be especially true when a church isn’t quite ready to employ a full time leader because that will affect the balance of plural leadership.

Now, let’s talk about the other two.  I suspect that when we think about “youth workers” we think about a stereotype – they must be a young person themselves. Their primary concern will be running youth clubs and I suspect we may even have a negative view of youth workers as often in conflict with the church and therefore people who need keeping in check.

As it happens, I know one church that did employ a youth worker first. There were others in the church whose work/life balance meant that they could cover other aspects of pastoral care, evangelism, care of the elderly etc but that’s a by the by.

I think the important thing here is to go back to Collin’s view that you get the team on the bus first. The decision to choose one specialist or another is actually a “big church” luxury.  Small churches are most likely to benefit from adding people to the team who are generalists.

This does not mean that you can’t add someone to the team who has a specific focus or personality.  However, whilst there is a variety of gifts and roles so that we shouldn’t under-estimate the distinction between them, we should not over-estimate the difference either.

A good youth worker will be someone who is able to get alongside people and communicate the Gospel, they will love people. They will be able to listen to them and share their lives with them. They’ll be able to give them wise, godly biblical advice. That sounds very much like what we’d want in a pastor and evangelist too.

A pastor needs to be able to share open God’s Word so that people hear it, understand it and are convicted by it. As an elder, they should be hospitable – or care about others and share their lives with them. Those are the things that an evangelist has to do. Paul told Pastor Timothy to do the work of an evangelist.

An evangelist also needs to love people but the way they will lead people to Christ is not through gimmicks and manipulation but by opening up God’s Word with them. An evangelist isn’t there simply to do the job of telling people about Jesus so the rest of the church doesn’t have to rather by opening God’s Word and by setting an example, they should be equipping and encouraging the church in this.  An evangelist shouldn’t stop caring for someone as soon as they are “over the line” and have said the sinner’s prayer. An evangelist should have concern for discipleship.

In other words, whilst we may come with specific gifts, personalities and a focus, those of us called into full time church based work need to be ready to do the wider work required.  In a smaller church there’s no place for someone to say “Sorry I don’t do x because I am a y worker.”

This is important because I think there are two reasons why we get hung up over these types of decisions. We either want

1.       A clone of ourselves to replicate ourselves. Not only that but if we are honest, our sinful pride means we don’t want an exact clone, we want people who will be mini-versions of us. That’s why we recruit assistant pastors rather than co-pastors. That’s why we assume that if someone else comes on board we will be the “senior leader.”


2.       We want someone to come and do the things that we don’t want to do.

Once we get both of these attitudes out of our minds then I suspect we will make a lot more progress in encouraging people into Gospel service.