Ministry Hires: Building Applicant Pools Internally and Externally

Your parish or ministry is looking for a new leader. A new staff member. Where to go?

Many organizations submit a job description to a diocesan human resource page–maybe post it on a larger search engine like catholicjobs.com–and leave it at that. An “if we build it, they will come” approach.

Now this is a good start, but people are important. Arguably, the most important leadership and administrative decision when it comes to shaping the organizational effectiveness of your parish or ministry. Building up and strengthening an applicant pool for any open position is critical to ensuring your team can make a positive discernment and decision, and leverage the talents and spiritual gifts present in the Body of Christ.

Ideas for Expanding the Pool

  • Consider the Diversity of Your Area. If your current staff does not reflect the cultural or demographic diversity of the geographic area where you minister, set a goal to recruit at least one candidate (preferably more) who do reflect the demographics (race, ethnicity, language, age, etc.).
  • Pursue Success. Keep your eyes open for those who’ve been successful in similar roles in other churches/ministries, especially if they’ve grown or transformed their area of ministerial focus. Reach out and explain that your parish might not be to their vision yet, but you’re interested in their potential to serve as a change leader with a vision. If they’ve been building a strong ministry for many years in one location, they likely have able assistants ready to step up. By recruiting proven leaders to the areas of most need, you’re creating opportunity for others to grow.
  • Have a Dream. Share your dream, your vision for the particular ministry area you’re recruiting for with your entire staff, parish council, and/or other trusted volunteer leaders. Ask them to pitch the dream to individuals they know who might be motivated to take it on and then encourage them to apply for the position.
  • Plant Seeds Within Your Community. As Fr. Michael White writes, “be constantly on the lookout for new talent so that when the inevitable happens and someone leaves you’ve already got a pool of likely candidates.”
  • Contact Educational Institutions. Many centers of formation for Catholic lay ministers are hosted within larger educational institutions. While these institutions may have well-resourced career centers, these career centers rarely focus on forging connections with dioceses, etc. to help new ministry graduates. Build contacts and relationships with programs producing lay ministers so that through professors and directors of formation you can get connected to qualified candidates who might be a great fit for your ministry.

Many debate the merits of hiring from within vs. hiring externally. I think that’s a conversation that doesn’t require a set answer. More important than internal vs. external, is small applicant pool vs. large. Build your applicant pool, so that you aren’t discerning out of scarcity, but instead discerning based on the wide array of gifts God has given the Church and the Body of Christ for ministry.

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5 thoughts on “Ministry Hires: Building Applicant Pools Internally and Externally

  1. Building the internal pool is one of the weak points in many parishes. Not only do they need to surface people who have the needed gifts, but they need to encourage and build up those people to seek out training to become lay ecclesial ministers. The problems with hiring internally, especially in parish catechesis, come when a pastor replaces a trained leader with an experienced catechist of good will who has little or no formal training in leadership, no sense of the Church at large and little awareness that the mission of the Church is evangelization, not running programs. They don’t all have to have academic degrees, but there are many certificate programs available.

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  2. Yes–I agree w/ the problem of hiring based on “known good will” in absence of other necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities. That is one of my cautions to, for example, Fr. White’s post (linked in main article) that states rather unequivocally sounding, “hire from within.” I think the “hiring externally” link does a nice job highlighting some of the blind spots with that approach. Interestingly, hiring from within only seems to be a pastoral issue even more in non-Catholic circles, especially in non-denominational/emergent church-world [just my anecdotally based perception].

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  3. Himm I wonder if non-Catholic churches are missing the sense that the Spirit gives charisms for the good of the community?

    (By the way, the hiring externally link is not working… )

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    • Thanks! 🙂 I think I fixed it…if not, here it is directly: http://www.unseminary.com/6-reasons-the-next-hire-at-your-church-should-be-external/

      From what I’ve seen it’s more in the non-denominational and emergent church realm, which makes me think it might be related to hesitancy about those of different organizational culture, not “coming up from the grassroots” in what (in many cases) are relatively young congregations, etc. Also, many fast-growing emergent or non-denominational congregations tend to have good leader development systems within volunteer ministries (a strength denominational and Catholic parishes could learn from)…so not looking externally may be a more realistic temptation.

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  4. For our parishes, diversity and not coming from the existing parish culture (especially if it’s entrenched in “we’ve always done it that way”) would be two reasons to look externally, in addition to looking for a person with some kind of training or degree.

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