6 Reasons the Next Hire at Your Church Should Be External

Hiring “from within” is a common value in many churches. In fact, some leaders see it as a badge of honor that they only hire people who have “come up” through their ministry context. In the worst cases, leaders are condescending about churches that bring in people from other communities. That is a narrow way to think and act. There are times when your ministry is best served by bringing in someone from another context.

Recently, I was talking with a respected church leader and outspoken advocate for “always hire from within” about a shift in strategy and a new openness to “hire external”. When I asked why the church shifted its approach, this leader said, “We probably should have hired externally earlier … we got too stagnant in our leadership circles.” I challenge you to consider looking beyond your tight leadership context for leaders from further afield. Here are a handful of reasons to look for candidates for your next hire who are decidedly “external” to your ministry:

  • Increase diversity of your leadership team // We live in an increasingly diverse world. Regardless of where you live, your community is more culturally diverse today than it was 10 years ago. [ref] All of our churches need to take deliberate steps towards reflecting the communities we live in. If you look around at your leadership team and everyone looks the same … it’s time to hire externally. Groups will naturally gravitate towards homogeneity and hiring external is one way to push against that.
  • Inject new life into a struggling ministry area // Be honest: Is a part of your church lacking the direction, energy and drive needed to make a difference? Bringing in a leader with a proven track record in that area can be a great way to turn it around. Past performance is a good indicator of future reality. Look for leaders who have experience turning around and growing the area that you are looking to develop.
  • Invest in the next generation // When you look around the table at your leadership discussions how many people are your age? Finding competent younger leaders can be tough for many churches. There is a “chicken and egg” problem when you attempt to find young leaders to push the ministry forward. Often young leaders attract other young leaders, but if you don’t have any to start … where will they come from? Looking outside your team to find competent young leaders is a good first step in raising up the next generation. Bringing in a younger leader from outside your ministry context can encourage other young leaders in closer orbit to step up and invest in the mission.
  • Redirect your team’s culture // Every time you add someone to your team you’re making a culture-shaping decision and declaring what’s important to who you are. Do your internal candidates push the culture in the right direction? People usually attract other people who are like themselves. If you are looking to really change some of the underlying culture that impacts how ministry is done, bringing in someone from another context can help with the shift. Explain to the new hire which aspects of his or her approach you hope will rub off on the rest of the team … don’t make anyone guess!
  • Create senior leadership team succession opportunities // The next 10 years are going to be fascinating to watch as waves of baby boomer church leaders retire. Many churches simply don’t have younger leaders ready to take on those senior leadership roles. In fact, some of the largest, most influential churches have huge gaps in their leadership pipelines. They are going to need to hire externally for these positions. Finding solid succession candidates close to home can be a challenge. Maybe you need to look further away to find the leader(s) to help your ministry continue to thrive for years to come.
  • Start a brand-new initiative // Do you have a new burden for a ministry area that your current team isn’t equipped to handle? Passion for a ministry area doesn’t mean you are qualified to lead that area with excellence. Often we place people in leadership because they have a high interest level, but they don’t have the experience to help guide that ministry into the future. In this instance, you’ll need to look beyond your current leadership circles and find someone with experience to help this ministry thrive and grow. Don’t shy away from talking with leaders who are doing what you dream of doing … ask them if they would love to join your team!


  1. Couldn’t agree more, and I’d add that having an internship program does not equate to giving permanent leadership positions to young adults.

    1. Joe … great call. Sometimes we undermine our desire to raise up the next generation by not fully empowering them.

      Great comment … thanks for dropping by.

      – Rich

  2. I’m thankful that there were a few churches who took a risk on hiring me as an external hire. I know that my philosophy on ministry and approach towards ministry has changed because of the time that I spent at each one. I think that external hiring has a ton of benefits for those of us who came from the outside too!

Leave a Response

Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.