A colleague in a similar position at another church recently sent me a policy which explicitly forbids hiring family members, except in a few very narrow circumstances. As someone who has been blessed to hire both of my sons in positions at Fairhaven, I obviously have no problem with hiring family. Both of my sons have worked in graphic design and web design positions, reporting directly to me. My oldest son has since moved on, but my middle son is our webmaster. Additionally, our children’s ministry lead pastor recently passed the baton to his son. His son graduated from Cedarville with a degree in children’s ministry and we hired him straight out of college. He’s been the second-in-command for several years, but is now the lead guy—and is doing a great job. Our Director of Facilities’ wife is the Administrative Assistant to the Next Generation ministries team. So we have family all over the place and frankly, it’s worked out very well.
What makes it work? It requires relational integrity. By that I mean it requires people who have or are willing to grow toward certain relational qualities:
- people who are willing to always speak the truth in love
- people able to have difficult conversations
- people who keep short accounts
- people open to others' opinions and observations
- people who are honest with themselves
Most of all, it takes people who constantly ask themselves the question, “What’s best for Fairhaven Church?” If we lead with our primary motivation being to do what is best for the ministry of the church and not ourselves, then we’ll have no problem working among family relationships.
Many times family members understand to a greater degree the sense of calling and mission that are required to work in ministry. They understand the hours, the demands, the struggles, and the need for personal commitment and investment. Why would I exclude competent, gifted, and connected people just because they're family?
If you're looking for some policy guidelines on how to make this work, check out an article in Church Executive magazine's February 2010 issue, particularly the inset on pp.27 of the print version, "Guidelines When Hiring a Family Member."