At many church plants today, the lead pastor starts with a full-time salary. This was not my story. I got my first (small) paycheck about 10 months after our church’s launch and was hired full time two years after the launch. I’m thankful to my board for working diligently to hire me as soon as possible.
As you consider hiring early in the game, below are a few rules I recommend you follow.
Hire yourself first. I wasn’t hired full time for two years not because I didn’t want the pay, but because I prioritized renting a permanent building before receiving a paycheck. Like a mom takes a few months of maternity leave to be fully dedicated to time with her newborn, ideally the church should have your full attention in its most needy state. A church can function without a full-time worship leader, but it can’t function without a pastor.
Wait if you can to save as much money as you can. A staff of five for a church of 50 is overkill; you’ll drain your budget. On the other hand, a staff of five for a church of 500 is more accurate. A general rule of thumb to follow is to hire one full-time staff member per 100 people at your church. If you can hire some heavy lifters early in the game, the few of you may be able to run with a lot of weight for some time. Always keep a pulse on the team but don’t apologize for asking a lot of them. I advise being slow and prayerful. And if someone is regularly requesting a paycheck, add him to your “do not hire” list. You want someone on staff who shows up for people, not only for a paycheck.
Proactive hiring is better than reactive hiring. Make it your goal to hire for what you want to grow into instead of what you’ve already established. I haven’t always done this well, and sometimes the budget or circumstances won’t allow it. Some of our positions on staff came from a need to take something off someone else’s plate. As the church grows, it will outgrow the shoulders of the person who has been carrying much of the weight. Other positions on our staff have been created for a need we sense or plan to meet.