10 Things – Hire For Personality

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Sheepdog-Iconography---Safety-Team[This is a continuing series based on an upcoming book by Bryan Donihue – 10 Things Nobody Told You About Church Safety]

Now that you’ve figured out that you have an actual ministry, have started by calling it the “right” name, and have found a great place in your church’s structure, let’s talk about WHO you are going to hire and HOW you are going to train them.

If you do not already have a team in place, you are trying to figure out how to fill your ranks with the warm bodies necessary for any volunteer service/ministry.

Most churches and ministries are in such dire need of volunteers that they will take anyone who comes to them. We have a tendency to rubber stamp any warm body that comes along, often rationalizing that they wouldn’t be there serving if they weren’t called by God to do so. And if you do have a team already in place, chances are there are a few “warm bodies” that are filling up slots in your group.

For most ministries, this is acceptable. While not ideal, the fact that someone has volunteered to be a warm body is more than enough welcome that any contraindications are often overlooked. I would caution that this is precisely the wrong approach with a safety ministry. Instead, you should be hiring for personality and willingness to learn. Someone who has the right personality and is willing to learn can be trained for competence and performance.

As an aside, you have to look at this process as if you are actually “hiring” someone for the position, even if it is an unpaid volunteer position. If you choose to look at your team as simply “church volunteers”, you will end up missing the point. Your team is one that has been given a lot of trust and authority in the church, sometimes grudgingly. A safety team is charged with keeping the people on the church campus safe. And if your team is one that has permission to be armed, an even greater trust has been given to you, and usually even more grudgingly by some people. So do not treat them as typical volunteers, they are your team, they must have your trust, and that means that you need to recruit and “hire” them with all care possible.

Why is it more important to hire someone for personality than for experience? With only two glaring exceptions, personality is the most important qualifier for service in this type of safety team ministry. Remember where you are supposed to fit in. As a team that is front and center during Sunday mornings, greeting people as they come through the doors, they must have a smile on their face, a warm personality, and be willing to engage with all kinds of people in a friendly, caring, non-threatening manner. The only to exceptions to this rule is that all of your team must have a clean background to be able to work with children and students, and any members that might be on an armed team need to have experience and competence already. Understand, none of this negates personality. The toughest part can be finding those who fit the personality, and who also fit any enhanced qualifications that you need.

By hiring for the right personality, you will be able to avoid issues and personnel conflicts that might crop up otherwise. When I first launched the Safety Team Ministry at Frontline, I was in the “warm body” mode of hiring. Anyone who wanted to join, did so. I went through training with each member, and as they came on board, they cycled into service. I had one gentleman that was a very jovial person. Just a good-natured, light-hearted person normally, but when he was on duty, especially when he put on our “burgundy” polo, his demeanor changed. He went from greeter to bouncer. In fact, his demeanor caused several complaints to be raised to the senior pastor. Once the subject was broached to me, I could see his change in demeanor, and even watched it happen in the course of a regular Sunday service. I worked with him extensively, but it seemed that he just could not get out of that “bouncer” mode when on duty.

I finally had to fire him from the team. How did I fire him? The first thing I did was try to assess EXACTLY what the problem was, and how it could possibly be avoided. I then began looking at the other ministries in the church to see where I thought he might fit in. Even though I could no longer have him on my team, I did not want to just cut him loose. He really did have a servant’s heart, and was sincere about serving in the church. Once I found a ministry that I thought would work for him, I directly approached the head of that ministry to talk about the shift.

None of this was done with an attitude of talking behind someone’s back. In fact, it was basically the opposite. When I approached this other ministry head, I explained what was going on, and then asked him if he would consider talking to my team member. Once I explained WHY I thought he might be a good fit for his team, this other ministry head was open to talk to my team member. I then took my team member out to coffee. This was a neutral location on purpose, as I didn’t want to appear heavy handed, and I wanted him to be comfortable.

When I started talking to him, I was absolutely honest with him. I had been working with him for some time on these specific issues, and he knew that he was not keeping up. I was especially diligent to de-emphasize the negatives, while praising the positives that I saw in him. Towards the end, I recommended that he talk to the other ministry head, and advised him that I had already smoothed the way. We parted from that table as friends. After some natural grieving time, this team member approached, and volunteered for this other ministry. He fit in perfectly well in the ministry, and happily served there for a long time.

If your new recruit has the engaging personality, they also must be willing to learn from any training given, and follow policies and procedures. They will need to be open to learning all of the aspects of the ministry, from meeting and greeting people, to offering first aid during an emergency, even to watching and protecting the people of the church. There is a lot of training that must happen, policies have to be followed, and your team must learn those lessons. The sensitive nature of a safety team at a church mandates that they be able to kindly and courteously do their duties every time. Unfortunately, one or two major mistakes can bring a whole program down if the right people complain about your team to the senior pastor or board. And if one of those problems happens to a church staff member or board member, your ministry may end very quickly.

Every year, Frontline Community Church hosts an event called “Rockin’ From the Roof”. During this event, we host live Christian bands up on the roof of our church, and turn our parking lot into a small carnival. We always give away several tons of free clothing and food to those in the community who need it. In 2012, we hosted over three thousand people in our parking lot during the event. Because this is such a huge event, I have the entire team present, as well as having several “special event” safety team members present. As this is an event that is primarily for the public outside of those that call our church home, how the team acts is vitally important to the church and the ministry.

During the 2012 event, we had a couple of incidents that were caused by, or involved my team members. One of those incidents I will be directly addressing later, but there was one that stood out that pertains to this chapter. During the event setup, I assigned team members to several key areas for a stationary post. I had a couple team members that roved around, relieving those who were posted, so they could move, get out of the sun, or even get something to eat. One of these vital posts was near the clothing give-away area.

One of the “special event” team members was posted in this area alongside one of my regular team members. While I tried to be clear about duties and expectations of the day, and especially for that post, this special event member kept wandering away from his post. This ended up causing an issue when we had one of the several “lost children” show up. While we were trying to find the mother, a tense situation developed in the clothing area. Because my regular team member was busy helping find “mom”, and because my special event member had wandered away again, we had to respond quickly to an area, and almost had an altercation mar the day’s events. I was fortunately able to assign one of the “rovers” to the area as backup, and went to go look for my lost team member. After I found the wandering team member, I realized that he was serving in the wrong ministry. He had the heart and personality, but did not have the willingness to learn and follow directions. Like the other team member, I was able to gently redirect him to a ministry where he fit better.

[This article continues on about training in the coming book]

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