Transforming Church Team Blog
resourcing leaders…reenvisioning the future

Where Have All the Leaders Gone: Recruiting the Right Lay Leaders – Part 2

What follows is the conclusion of my discussion with veteran church executive, Dan Stoehr, regarding his preferred approach to lay leader recruitment.  Here goes….


Scott:  How do you assess for the Spiritual gifts of your potential leaders?


Dan:  There are several great tools out there; we use Network, as discussed in your last blog.  If a potential leader has not taken the course, we at least have them complete the spiritual gift assessment in the book and ask them to complete the entire course the next time we offer it.


Scott:  How do you evaluate prospective leaders for their personal strengths and talents?


Dan:  Just like spiritual gifts, each person’s strengths are God-given, so we include desired strengths in our position profiles.  Our understanding of strengths comes from the extensive work done by Marcus Buckingham and various colleagues in Now, Discover Your Strengths and Go, Put Your Strengths To Work.  We try to keep this very simple:  we use the descriptive bullet points out of Network and the strengths books for the profiles.  Then, we can ask the candidates to assess themselves against each statement in the profile on a scale of 1 (“Not me at all”) to 5 (“God created me for this”). 


Scott:  You mentioned how you actually conduct “talent interviews” as part of the screening process.  Tell us about that process.


Dan:  Another useful technique is to conduct “talent interviews,” which are very different than typical skills and experience interviews.  I first learned about talent interviews in Buckingham’s book, First, Break All the Rules, which is the predecessor of Now, Discover Your Strengths. It has one purpose: to discern how well the candidate’s “naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior” match the position.  It is more structured with less back and forth banter.  The questions are open-ended, and there are no right or wrong answers.  Instead, you ask the question, keep quiet, and listen for specific cues.  You should ask several questions for each spiritual gift or strength in the ideal profile.  Here’s an example of just one question if screening for the spiritual gift of administration:  “Tell us about a successful project you organized in the last three months, and why it was successful.”  The question is open-ended, yet specific.  A person with this gift will probably become animated and will very readily have an example, give you details, and easily explain why the project was successful.  A person with less strength in this area may be stumped or give you a vague, even lengthy, explanation of why it’s important to be organized.  A short, specific answer is a much better indicator than a long, vague one.  By the way, we’ve used all of these techniques to great success when hiring paid staff as well.


Scott:  Certainly, not everyone you’ve interviewed has been ready for immediate placement into the key leadership positions.  How did you approach those with the greatest leadership potential?


Dan:  You know what’s most interesting?  By sticking to a very disciplined process, potential leaders identify for themselves whether or not they are a right fit for the position.  That’s the best possible outcome.  To summarize our process:  1) current key leaders identify and screen candidates, 2) the candidates themselves do a self-assessment, 3) we personally interview each candidate against the desired profile of gifts and strengths, commitment to the 7 Marks and support of the church’s core beliefs, core values, mission, vision, and strategies, and finally 4) without any pressure or expectation, we extend the invitation to accept the position.  At that point, it is truly the leading of the Holy Spirit whether a candidate accepts.  Most are ready to accept, in part because they feel very valued because we’ve done our homework and can tell them precisely why we believe they are the right fit for the position.  And, some don’t accept, because they don’t feel called to the position.  This is a very acceptable result.  Either way, this approach is exceptionally gratifying for everyone involved.  We do our homework, we invite, and the Holy Spirit takes it from there.  That pretty much takes all of the human anxiety out of it.


Obviously, this is only one way to approach lay leader recruitment.  If you have a different approach that’s been working for you, jump in and share your experience.  Let the dialogue begin!  Blessings, Scott


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