Is it Okay to Poach Church Staff Members?

Nobody told me in seminary how much time would be spent recruiting, training, and supervising staff when I was a parish pastor.

Within Church World, there are certain administrators, musicians, worship and arts leaders, youth minister, and educators who are known to be Amazing. They are creative, efficient, positive, and fun to work with. And they are highly valued and rare.

So is it cool to poach a stellar youth minister from another congregation in town? Is it okay to check out the website of a partner church – known for great music – and contact their musician with an offer?

Things to consider:

  • Churches don’t own their staff members. Staff members can come and go as they wish, and who can blame them for leaving one position to accept another more lucrative, more interesting position?
  • All spiritual communities – especially those in the same denomination – are on the same team in terms of our mission and purpose – more or less. All (healthy) houses of worship exist to serve God, worship together, learn together, serve the neighborhood together. Our relationships with each other impact the effectiveness of our ministry and how we model to the world how believers treat each other. And so if I contact your church administrator and offer him a position in our “bigger and better” congregation, I am hurting our relationship. The least you could do is have a conversation with me about your interest in hiring someone on our staff.

Headhunters exist to find great employees and some large congregations indeed hire them to find The Right Pastor. God can work through headhunters.

But it’s different with most church staff members. Many are part-time. Many have relationships with a wide variety of church volunteers with whom they serve. If they are looking for new employment, there are Employment Opening sites. But when a Big Church Pastor lures the Small Church Pastor’s business manager who wasn’t looking to move, it feels icky. A little too 2 Samuel 12.

On the subject of poaching church members, we need to be happy when congregants can connect with God at a different church if they can’t connect in ours any longer. This is what we want, right? For people to be in a deeper relationship with God?

But if you lure members of other churches with unsolicited hospital visits and dropping off homemade bread at their door because you heard that they were not happy in their current church, you are a little devious.

This is all about healthy relationships. If we are in doubt about the right way to recruit staff members or welcome new members, it’s good to ask if anything we are doing might be damaging our relationship with our neighbors in faith. The hope is that we are all living in good faith.

One response to “Is it Okay to Poach Church Staff Members?

  1. Local larger congregation has hired two of our part time staff-several years apart but no conversation occurred either time. It hurts. Thanks for your insights.


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