STAFFING & The Vanderbloemen Search Group and Leadership Network Method for Analyzing the Cost Efficiency of Your Staff (FTE, full-time staff equivalency)

by Tim Stevens, Vanderbloemen Associates, 5/30/18.

… Below are three key factors to consider when answering the question, “Are we spending too much on staff?”

1. Percentage of Budget Designated for Staff

…Generally you will hear that your staff expenses (salaries, benefits, training, etc.) should not exceed 50% of your total general operating budget. That is a good rule-of-thumb, but there are several variables that you’ll want to consider, as each situation will be different.

  • Established multi-site churches with several sites often see staff costs as low as 35% to 40% of their overall budget. This is because they can find efficiencies with a central support staff, and if they utilize a video venue model, they don’t have to pay teaching pastors for every location.
  • If you believe in hiring proven leaders who can grow their ministry, you will likely have a higher percentage of your budget going toward staff. High capacity leaders cost more.
  • If most of your hires are internal (hired from within your congregation), you might be able to keep staff costs lower. These staff members might be in a dual-income family (thus reducing costs of benefits), and might be willing to work for far less than the national average due to their connection to the church and belief in the mission.
  • How well you leverage your volunteer base will make a difference in how much you spend for staff. I’ve worked with many churches that have a history of hiring staff way too quickly. Their first impulse is to hire, rather than to organize and equip volunteers. I think that is wasteful, both of the church’s money, but also of the giftedness of the congregation members, many whom would step up and serve if asked…

2. Staff-to-Congregation Ratio

The second benchmark is to look at how many staff you have compared to the size of your congregation (measured by average weekly attendance). Vanderbloemen Search Group and Leadership Network published a joint study of large churches (defined as 500+ in attendance) that took a deep look at salaries and trends in church staffing. That study indicates that the attendance to staff ratio is 76:1. That is, for every 76 persons in average worship attendance, churches have one full-time staff person. Those numbers consist of all staff, including pastors, directors, administrative staff, custodians and others. (It would not include staff devoted to non-church functions like a school).

Other studies have reported similar findings. Paul Alexander, who works with The Unstuck Group, reports that they see the average ratio of churches they consult at 86:1.

How to calculate your ratio:

Example Your Numbers
1. Add the total weekly hours of your part-time staff

(Example: 2 staff x 10 hours (20), 2 staff x 20 hours (40), and 1 at 30 hours would equal 90 hours)

2. Divide line #1 by 40 2.25
3. Add total number of full-time staff 6
4. Total Full-Time Equivalents (add lines 2 and 3) 8.25
5. Average weekly attendance (include kids) 950
6. Divide line 5 by line 4 115
7. The result is your attender-to-staff ratio 115:1

If your ratio is higher than 90:1, that means you are more efficient with your staff than the typical church. This might be a good sign, demonstrating a highly efficient team or showing an unusually good usage of volunteers. It also might mean your team is showing stress cracks. If you are in this category, and you have noticed your team is working unusually long hours and finding it difficult to balance family with work, then you probably need to work toward a solution that may involve bringing on additional staff. If you have high turnover, it might mean the expected work level is unsustainable.

If your ratio is lower than 70:1, then you are blessed with more staff than the average church. Start-up churches often have low ratios since they begin with a core of staff (worship, teaching, children, etc.) and initially don’t have any people. Their staff ratio can get closer to the average as the church takes root…

3. Combining These Two Benchmarks

For a deep dive into your numbers, consider both of these benchmarks together. What percentage of budget are you spending on staff and what is your attender-to-staff ratio?

  • If your ratio is low (staff-heavy) AND your percentage is low – you have room to increase salaries. Make sure you are paying your core staff what they are worth. It costs a lot more money to replace a high-performing staff member than it does to keep one. Consider this as you set next years’ salaries.
  • If your ratio is low (staff-heavy) AND your percentage is high – you need to consider reducing staff over time through attrition. You likely have too much staff. If your offerings are okay, you probably don’t need to lay off staff. But every time someone decides to leave, you should consider moving people around and avoid replacing them – that is, until your attendance or offerings increase.
  • If your ratio is high (lean staff) AND your percentage is low – you have room to hire additional staff, and may want to consider doing this for the health of your existing staff. They are likely feeling the stress of long hours and wearing multiple hats. Get them some help!
  • If your ratio is high (lean staff) AND your percentage is high – you likely have limited income and need to work hard to engage and equip your volunteers to help carry the load. Consider getting a copy of my book, Simply Strategic Volunteers, and focus on getting more of your laity engaged in the work of the ministry.

This article provides some broad categories that will hopefully give you some direction. If our team at Vanderbloemen Search Group can be helpful in providing customized consulting for your team, we’d love the opportunity to partner with you.

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STAFFING & A History of FTE (full-time staff equivalents) and How Many Staff Members Do You Need? #Staffing/MembershipRatios

By Susan Beaumont, Ministry Matters Magazine, 6/29/13.

… Faith Communities Today (Fact 2008, 2010) is a study out of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, that looked at, among other things, how 3,000 congregations allocated their budgets. Researchers discovered that the average U.S. Protestant congregation allocates 45 percent of its total operating budget to payroll-related costs. Mainline churches spend considerably more (49 percent) on payroll-related expenses than either the Evangelical Protestant (31 percent) or the Catholic/Orthodox communities (41 percent)

… A Leadership Network study (which focused on staffing costs in larger congregations) found that the following factors were related to staff costs:

  • Whether the church is growing. Staffing costs are leaner for churches whose attendance is growing, perhaps because growing churches have not “caught up” with emergent staffing needs.
  • The dominant age group of the congregation. Staffing costs are leaner, but only slightly, for churches where the average person’s age in the congregation is lower.
  • The year in which the church was founded. The younger the church, the leaner the staffing costs.
  • The location of the church. Staffing costs are lower for residential and new suburban locations and slightly higher for older suburb and downtown churches.
  • Race. Staffing costs are leanest for predominantly African American churches and highest for Anglo European churches.
  • Use of paid part-time staff. Staffing costs have no relationship to the percentage of paid part-time staff in relation to full-time staff, until a congregation employs three or more paid part-timers for each full-time staff.
  • Economic level of the congregation. Staffing costs are leanest for churches whose internal constituency is described as poor and highest for churches with an internal constituency described as wealthy.

Staffing/Membership Ratios

Perhaps the longest standing rule of thumb about staffing structures is the ratio of program staff to average worship attendance. In 1965 Martin Anderson wrote one of the first books to address staffing models in the larger church, Multiple Ministries. He recommended a staffing ratio of 1 pastor for every 500 members (1:500) . Looking back on that number, it is hard to believe that congregations ever functioned with such lean staff teams, but in fact they did. Remember that this book was written during a time when worship attendance and membership were more closely aligned, when membership meant different things than it does today, when volunteerism in the church worked differently, and when church programming was more homogenous and standardized than it is today. No church today would ever dream of targeting a 1:500 staffing ratio and expect to meet the needs of its congregants.

In 1980 Lyle Schaller wrote The Multiple Staff and the Larger Church in which he introduced average worship attendance as a more reliable indicator of staffing needs. Schaller proposed a ratio of 1:100 as a guideline for the typical ratio of full-time paid professional staff positions in mainline Protestant congregations. In 2000 Gary McIntosh wrote Staff Your Church for Growth and suggested that a 1:150 paid professional staff ratio was a more realistic and affordable guideline. Both Schaller and McIntosh focused on the combination of professional clergy leaders and professional program staff leaders. Their ratios did not include administrative or support staff. Both assumed that the staffing ratio remained constant across size ranges.

So, given these conflicting guidelines, what is the most effective way to think about the size of the staff team relative to the active membership base of the congregation? The same 2010 Leadership Network Study that looked at the characteristics of a lean staff team created an alternative way of thinking about staff size relative to attendance. Rather than thinking solely about program or clergy staff in relationship to attendance, the Leadership Network study looked at the ratio of all full-time staff equivalents (FTEs) to attendance. Furthermore the study looked at how that ratio changed as the percent of budget devoted to staffing expense increased and decreased. Here is what they found.

Staff Costs as a Percent of Budget              Ratio of Staff to Attendees

10-19%                                                1:108

20-29%                                                1:91

30-39%                                                1:73

40-49%                                                1:73

50-59%                                                1:70

60-69%                                                1:59

The conclusion here is obvious. If you spend more of your budget on staff, then you have more staff per attendee than other congregations do. The results also suggest that churches with higher staffing budgets don’t necessarily pay their staff better; they just hire more staff. The ratios are helpful benchmarks as to how many staff congregations employ. Given that the average congregation spends between 48 and 50 percent of its operating budget on payroll, we can assume the average congregation employs one full-time equivalent staff member for every 70 to 73 people in average weekend worship attendance.

Determining how large of a staff team that you need depends upon your mission and your context. No benchmark can answer the question for you. It should never be your objective to match the averages quoted in this article. However, these averages can be used as a starting point for good dialogue between you and your leaders. Do you lie inside or outside of the normative parameters outlined here? In what ways does the unique nature of your mission and your context require something outside of the norm?

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#OD723 #FTE

STAFFING & 5 Alarming Statistics That Will Forever Change Your Approach to Hiring and Keeping Star Employees

by Scott Mautz, Inc. Magazine, 7/9/18.

Gallup’s latest State of the American Workplace report is eye-opening, to say the least, if you care about hiring and retaining star talent. The findings led Jim Clifton, the Chairman and CEO of Gallup, to say, “The very practice of management no longer works. The old ways no longer achieve the intended results.”

Why such an aggressive stance? For starters, the report says the majority of employees (51 percent) are now searching for new jobs or watching for openings.

The 212 page report is filled with alarming statistics. I pulled out the five most telling stats and offer advice to help with your talent attraction and retention strategies.

1. 78 percent of employees are not convinced their leaders have a clear direction for the organization.

Job one as a leader is to set a clear direction based on solid strategies and stretching (yet attainable) goals. To set especially effective goals, be certain that the goals are relevant, meaningful and have been developed collaboratively with those who will be held to them (the study also showed only 30 percent of employees said they were involved in goal-setting).

2. 88 percent of employees would switch to a job that allows flexible work arrangements.

…The desire for flexibility came up repeatedly in the study. It appeared as the top perk/job benefit desired and was even more desired among millennials (versus boomers or Gen X’ers).

While some jobs aren’t suited to working from home (like retail or assembly line work for example), all jobs can be infused with a sense of flexibility via things like pliable work schedules or flexible time periods to go to doctor appointments or pick kids up from school. If you’re a leader, it’s time to meld flexibility into your work processes.

3. Only 23 percent of employees agree that their manager provides meaningful feedback.

The lack of feedback includes praise too, with only 3 in 10 employees strongly agreeing that they’ve recently received recognition or praise for good work.  It’s worth noting that receiving feedback is even more important for millennials.

Leaders simply must prioritize giving frequent feedback to employees. Here’s help in giving feedback effectively but for starters, simply commit to the act and remember that research shows the right ratio of positive feedback to corrective feedback is about 5:1. Which should make sense since people tend to do a lot more good than they do “bad”.

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AGILE ORGANIZATION & Talent Drives Strategy, Not Vice Versa in the Agile Organization.

by Steve Denning, Forbes Magazine, 6/17/1.

Talent Drives Strategy, Not Vice Versa

“The central premise of a talent-driven company is that talent drives strategy, as opposed to strategy being dictated to talent.,” says the book, Talent Wins: The New Playbook for Putting People First (HBRP, 2018) by Dominic Barton, the global managing partner of McKinsey & Company, and his colleagues Dennis Carey and Ram Charan, “The wrong talent inevitably produces the wrong strategy, and fails to deliver. Numbers like sales and earnings are the result of placing the right people in the right jobs where their talents flourish and they can create value that ultimately shows up in the numbers.”

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GENERATIONS & How I Learned to Staff w/ Generational Pastors

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/6/15.

I thought I would share about the goals, purposes and strategic intent of generational pastors. Let me explain this concept in more detail, as well as the genesis of these understandings, and where I think they are headed.

My genesis of this understanding began over 30 years ago. While consulting for churches I often found that successful ministries had consistency and longevity in pastoral leadership, and this dynamic was also present in their healthy sub-congregations. Successful churches would often have senior pastors, youth pastors, and visitation pastors that in effect functioned as generational pastors, and had been together for years. In many of these circumstances, the visitation pastor had been a former pastor, and eventually the youth pastor had become the senior pastor. The pastors were in effect moving along with the generations, but without a strategic intent to do so.

Plus, I noted that in many successful churches generational pastors where in effect in place, even though they weren’t recognized as such. For instance, Lake Ave. Congregational Church in Pasadena California had in the late 1970s pastors that shepherded the builders, boomers, college-career, and youth. They had been with the church for a number of years. The same was true at Lloyd Ogilve’s church: Hollywood Presbyterian. These were some of the first instances that got me thinking about why this model emerged and what were it strengths. Then I saw the same in Minneapolis at Grace Church, and Colonial Church of Edina. I also witnessed this dynamic in First Baptist in Birmingham, as well as Mt. Paran Church of God in Atlanta Georgia.

Subsequently I started analyzing this model, for these churches had long-term growth rather than the typical peaks and valleys of most congregations. The consistency and relevancy (plus respect) developed in these congregations between multiple-generations was one of their key competencies, and one reason for their growing favor in the community (Acts. 2:42ff).

As a result I began applying this to churches in the midsize range. Because church culture is bias against long-pastorates (at least in evangelical congregations) these churches are swimming upstream with denominational hierarchy, but still having very positive growth as a result.

The keys I have noticed to making this process work are the following:

1) The generational pastor must sign-on for the long term. A term of at least 6 years is required. If only five years, you have one year of learning, the last year you are becoming disengaged, and thus out of a five year process only 3 years are effective. This results in a 3/5 effectiveness ratio or 60% effectiveness, which is not enough to ensure success. Remember, we are battling a long history of the pastor functioning as a simple organization with a sole-proprietor.

2) The generational pastor must be given true authority and oversight of their generational sub-congregation. To only pay lip-service to such authority will seem hypocritical to the generational pastor. Thus, since the sub-congregation’s organizational behavior is that of a separate congregation, some separateness is warranted. This means allowing the generational pastor to have a degree of authority and autonomy, providing an arena in which to fulfill the church’s overall goals in a unique and indigenous way.

3) Finally, leadership thus exists more on a collegiate (or fraternal) status (i.e. among peers), than in the more typical paternal relationship. In other words, the senior pastor looks at the generational pastors as equals, but where each has a cultural mission and understanding. However, the senior shepherd recognizes that his or her position is to bring about unity among the whole, while retaining the individual contributions and synergies of the generational parts. That is why I recommend readings by executive-level management writers such as Belasco and Stayer, Collins, Welch, etc. The purpose of an executive leader is to foster unity out of divergent cultures, while preserving indigenous mission. He or she is a team builder among leaders of divergent cultures.

I hope this gets you thinking about the potency of the Multi-gen. model. It is a remarkable model, that is not atypical … only under diagnosed.

GENERATIONS & The Benefits of Hiring Culturally-specific Pastors

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/15/15.

Below are my thoughts to a good question posited by a student who said, “I have a few questions about the generational pastors. I see where that would seem to work in certain size congregations, but what about in a church with 4000 people?  What about in a church with 10000+ people?  Our church has 10 pastors:

  1. Executive Pastor
  2. Lead Pastor
  3. Worship Pastor
  4. Spiritual Formation Pastor
  5. Student Ministries Pastor
  6. High School Pastor
  7. Global Outreach Pastor
  8. Local Outreach Pastor
  9. Small Group Pastor
  10. Pastor of Care/Counseling”

Hello (Name of Student);

Thanks for sharing.  I have helped churches like yours move to a more healthy (and organic) style with multiple pastors, each for a different culture.  Let me explain.

Basically, you have a team of 10 pastors cutting (horizontally) across several cultures.  Thus, some pastors will have more work, and some less.

But, you also have “cultural” pastors in your High School and Student Ministries pastor.  I would suggest you create more “cultural” pastors (Hispanic Pastor, African-American Pastor, Senior Adult Pastor, Emerging Generations Pastor, etc.) and call them what ever you want.  Then you will have leaders for different cultures.  And, your emerging cultures (e.g. Hispanic, Emerging Gen., etc.) won’t feel like one culture controls the church.  Instead, a “council of ‘cultural’ pastors” will lead the church.

This also demotes departmental pastors to directors (like worship pastor to worship director, and small groups pastor to small group director).  The power thus resides in “cultural” pastors working in tandem, rather than in “departmental” pastors often competing against one another for scarce organizational funds.

A church can grow to any size this way.

In the book, Inside the Organic Church you will find the example of St. Tom’s church in Sheffield UK and their 9 “cultural” pastors for 9 different “cultural celebrations.”

GENERATIONS & Principles of Staffing With Generational Pastors

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/15/15.

A student once asked me several good follow up questions to my initial suggestion that churches can diversity by hiring generational pastors.  She began by stating, “My understanding is that these pastors move with the people so that there is consistency and ongoing discipleship from the same leader. When is a pastor hired for the new generation?”

I responded that technically and ideally, you would be hiring a pastor every 19 years (the socio-segment of a generational culture preferred by demographers).  But, if you hired her or him sooner, you would be careful to hire someone who is a missionary to the appropriate generational culture.

“By the way, what is the name of the Generation after Y?”

To this I responded that there is not consistency yet, though I heard on the news the other night the commentator calling them Millennials due to their birth around or near the beginning of the new millennium.

“In this scenario there are young children without a pastor.”

Not really.  A Children’s Ministry pastor/director is always designated, and hired if possible, for the children.  He or she would probably report to the generational pastors in charge of the largest parent constituencies.

“How does the cycle actually work? Can I get a clear picture of its movement or fluidity?”

And remember, this is different from the way church is usually led.  But, born-again Christians have not grown as a percentage of society in the last 40 years.  Thus, we must evaluate what we are doing and make adjustments.  And, this is exactly how a mission agency would look at staffing your church!

JOB TRANSITIONS & Research Sets the Record Straight on Switching Jobs

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I’m speaking this week at the National Summit on Church Staffing. Research I am citing busts many of the popular myths about changing jobs, such as: you should wait until you have a new job lined up or don’t tell your boss you’re looking for a new job. Such workplace myths have been disproven by research. Check out the research links in this article from the Harvard Business Review.

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#SocietyForChurchConsulting #StaffingSummit

HIRING & Six trends in church staffing #Vanderbloemen

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Hiring the right staff and pastors are some of the most critical things that churches get wrong. And as a consultant, of course I am pleased that this research by the leader of the nation’s largest pastoral search-firm points out that hiring a consultant is an important step. But more than that, here are field-tested ideas about how to develop a healthy staff that leads to an expanding church.”

By William Vanderbloemen, Church Executive Magazine, 7/31/15.

…Probably the most common question I get from senior pastors and executive pastors at client visits is, “What’s everyone out there doing?”

Smart churches are spending more money on fewer people…I am seeing smart churches pay more for a few top notch staff and hiring fewer of them.

Quality, higher-salary candidates might cost a few more dollars in the short-term but many churches find that they are more likely to make a higher impact in the long-term. Instead of hiring a pastor who can do the work himself, many churches are looking for a “leader of leaders” who can recruit, train and lead volunteers to accomplish the work.

Hire coaches. One client told me: “William, I need a coach for our team. And coaches just don’t touch the ball.”

Hillsong Church in Australia is a great example of this principle. You will find that the folks down under spend an inordinate amount of time training leadership. Their intern program receives enormous time and attention. Their training focuses on leadership development and not any one particular skill set. The result? When I’m visiting “down under,” I’m amazed at how little they are doing on as small a head count as they keep. Additionally, the leaders on staff are almost purely interchangeable among departments…

Get social. While you are reading this article many of you are also checking your email, tweeting and updating your Facebook status. Churches are recognizing this trend and are placing more and more emphasis on communications and social media, even in the form of a chief communications officer…

If you look at church history, you’ll see that every seminal Kingdom breakthrough has happened on the heels of a communication breakthrough. Rome built roads and Paul was given a route to run missions. Alexander’s conquests created one common form of Greek, and the New Testament came together. The printing press is invented, and the Bible’s printing ushers in a Reformation…

Hire from the inside and the outside. One of the best places to find good staff is inside your own congregation. We recommend hiring from within as a first option. In the 1980s Corporate America attempted to put a heavy emphasis on hiring only from within and in a lot of ways American churches followed suit.

But the trend we see among churches are those who also look outside their own congregations. Looking inside is not healthy if it is the only practice. I’ve witnessed plenty of inside hires that didn’t work out. I tell clients that I was born and raised in the Western culture …

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EMPLOYEES & Performance Incentives Fuel Church Staff to Stronger Results

by Warren Bird, LeadNet, 7/29/15.

Pastor Will Rambo could only imagine all the negatives that would come from implementing a performance bonus structure for the staff of The Orchard in Tupelo, MS, where Bryan Collier is the lead and founding pastor.“My first reaction was this is far too secular, too corporate and too businesslike,” Will says of the performance incentive plan. “I went into this pushing back hard.”

If the new goal-setting process and accompanying financial incentives weren’t handled well, Will could picture a church staff splintering and competing against each other, with a drive to get things done all for the sake of landing a bonus.

“I feared responses like people saying, ‘So will I get paid $5 per baptism?’ Will says, “or someone saying, ‘I need you to hurry up and do this so that I’ll get a bonus at year’s end.’ ”

Better Than Expected

Now, two years into the process, Will can gladly say his worst fears have not been realized. The 16-year old congregation has a church staff that is more engaged than ever, and is reaping the rewards of accomplishing even more together than any of them could have imagined.

“For years we’ve set goals, but they lacked follow-through,” says Will, also a senior pastor at one of the church’s five locations. “In this new approach, we moved to grander goals and dreams, those that require cross-departmental cooperation. We’re doing fewer things, but larger—a philosophy of less is more.

“Our staff is at the healthiest place they’ve been in our 16 years as a church.”

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STAFFING & Do Genes Affect Our Attitudes Toward Becoming a Church Planter or Staff Pastor?

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Researchers have found that certain genes affect whether a person gravitates towards independent work or interdependent teamwork. This is especially interesting when one considers that church planters may have a more independent work orientation and staff pastors may have a more interdependent work preference. This research reminds us that these choices can be influenced by our genes. Further research comparing populations of church planters with staff pastors would be insightful.”


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