Reducing Staff Turn-over in Ministry

Let me raise an issue that is shrouded in ‘Spiritual’ language when it comes to the surface.

The average tenure of a staff person is less than four years and most staff leave under a cloud. When you consider that the average cost for replacing a staff person is up to twice their annual salary, this can quickly become a serious financial issue. However, actual cost is just one repercussion of turnover. The ‘hidden costs’ of lack of trust in leadership and the questioning of vision and values can be even more detrimental.

There are two terms that can help a ministry determine if a candidate, or existing staff person, is a good fit for a particular ministry role long-term:

  • Eligibility – CAN the person perform (the Ministry)?
  • Suitability – WILL the person perform (the Ministry)?

The second question is based on Enjoyment Performance Theory and suggests that:
… when we enjoy a task – we tend to do it more often. When we do something over and over, we have a tendency to get better at it through both learning and repetition. When a person gets better at something, the feedback he or she receives – both from others and internally – is normally positive. And positive feedback increases the enjoyment of the behaviour. The cycle keeps repeating itself – increasing the strength of enjoyment and tendency for the behaviour – and often results in behavioural habits that we don’t realise are behaviour choices.

Conversely, the theory holds true for those things we don’t enjoy and procrastinate or avoid doing. Furthermore, research shows that individuals who enjoy at least 75% of their work, are three times more likely to succeed. That’s correct, 3 times more effective.

Let me get more practical.

For the last twenty years I’ve found a common challenge among churches, networks and other ministries. This has to do with the “fit” between the staff person and the role they are being asked to serve in, or the degree to which they are a “good fit” in their current role. It is here that ministries can benefit from a reliable and valid assessment, to determine the “best fit” for a staff person:

  • Assessing prospective senior pastors, church planters and denominational leaders
  • Assessing existing staff members at all levels
  • Assessing future and current teams (paid and volunteer)

The fact is that as much as 80% of turnover is due to hiring staff who are not a “good fit” for the role they are expected to fill.

A behavioural interview is still the “go-to” process to pre-qualify pastors, pastoral staff, church planters and missionaries, but research shows that although interviewing is important, it only has a moderate ability to predict effectiveness and success. So, before you interview a potential new staff person or consider moving an existing staff person to a new role, it is important to gather all the information possible on the person. The right process can give you a level of predictive accuracy for future success, on its own, without any interview.

I’m not wanting to sell you on a new tool as much as alert you to the idea that there is a resource you might want to consider, to see if this could help you in your next hire OR to assess your current staff members. I’ve always found that the price paid to prevent a bad hire is money well spent.

If you would like to learn more about the Harrison Assessment, contact Colin at and schedule an appointment to discuss how it might further your mission to pre-qualify, assess and develop your leaders.

Colin is the Director of ResourceZone. He has 30 years of ministry experience as a pastor, college lecturer and consultant/coach to consultants, denominational leaders and local church pastors.  He can be reached at

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