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Hiring Staff

Under Canon 15, the churchwardens are empowered, after consulting the incumbent, to make sure the parish has adequate and appropriate lay staffing. They’re the hiring and firing authority of the parish, and they’re responsible for making sure there’s a job description, a fair and open hiring process and a suitable workspace.

Even so, all matters related to managing the affairs of the parish should be under the joint management and control of the incumbent and churchwardens acting together.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission produces a helpful document called Human Rights at Work that includes a section on Interviewing and Making Hiring Decisions.

Hiring parishioners

There are obvious advantages to hiring parishioners – they know about the congregation and understand the functions of the church. On the other hand, the priest will need to act as both supervisor and pastoral caregiver.

To safeguard the interests of the parish and the individual, and with an eye to the Human Rights Code, strive to choose the most qualified and gifted person for the position. If that person is a parishioner, speak openly and frankly about how that person’s relationship with the clergy and the church will change.

Step-by-step guide

Consider this list as you start the process of choosing a new employee. Complete all these steps so that you make an informed choice.

Write a job description

This is one of the most important steps. It will make sure your expectations for the position are clearly defined, and it will help you create a job ad.

To get help with writing a job description, see the sample employment agreements or one of the ministry descriptions created for the Responsible Ministry: Screening in Faith program. There’s also more information available on the Job Descriptions page.

Post for possible candidates

If you decide to advertise, consider your most cost-effective methods. You may want to advertise with your local paper or on the National Church job board. You might also find Charity Village helpful.

Develop interview questions

Having consistent interview questions will help you evaluate each candidate on the same basis. Write the questions out to help you articulate your hiring needs. Check out the list of sample interview questions from the Responsible Ministry: Screening in Faith program.

The Human Rights Commission’s hiring guide outlines what you can and can’t ask a candidate for employment.

Consider selection errors

When you’re choosing a candidate, you need to be aware of the common errors that can lead to biases. Tests should reflect the actual skills needed for the job and be a sample of the typical work. For example, if you’re hiring for an administrative assistant, an appropriate test would be drafting a letter in response to a typical problem.


Trying to rate an individual positively or negatively based on physical and personal characteristics unrelated to their performance.

Halo and horn effect

Resist the tendency to rate the individual as good or bad based on one trait or comment. Remember that people are complicated, never wholly good or bad.

Central tendency

Occurs when assessors don’t want to be negative or positive but instead tend to rate all people in the middle. This can result in inaccurate assessments.

Excessive strictness or leniency

Tendency of some assessors to rate either leniently or strictly. It’s best to have clear expectations, which are then realistically evaluated.


Transferring your own feelings of awkwardness or contentment onto the person being assessed.

Comparison error

Rating someone based on how they compare with others rather than on their own merits. A very effective person may rate less only because they’re being compared to an outstanding person.

Logical error

Judging one trait assuming that it’s related to another. For example, someone with quick reactions may be judged as highly intelligent even though speed of reaction isn’t an accurate gauge of intelligence.

Reference checks

Reference checks should confirm what you’ve already learned about a candidate and can help fill in any missing information gaps. It’s an important step to make sure the candidate has represented themselves accurately and will fit with the culture of your parish. It’s also a requirement of the Responsible Ministry: Screening in Faith policy. (See the Sample reference questions.)

To help you with reference checks, you can use a reference check template. You can change it as needed, but when you contact references, you can’t ask for any information the Human Rights Code forbids during an interview.

The information you’re seeking should be related to the candidate’s ability to do the job. Start by identifying yourself and the organization you belong to. Ask if this is a good time for the conversation. Indicate the tasks and responsibilities that are required in the position you’re hiring for.

Employee vs. contract worker

It’s important to determine whether you’re hiring an employee or seeking the services of an independent contractor. Check the Employee vs. Contractor page for more information.

Making an offer

After you’ve chosen the candidate, you’ll need to create an employment agreement or contract. This outlines the terms and expectations of the working relationship and protects both the individual and the parish.

Ongoing performance reviews

Regularly review performance to let the employee know what’s working well, what’s been accomplished and where there’s room for improvement. This is also the time to review the expectations of the working relationship. The Incumbent and Parish Staff document includes a sample performance appraisal.

Rules & legislation

Regardless of their size, parishes must be responsible employers and make sure their practices comply with all appropriate legislation, such as:

Under the Responsible Ministry: Screening in Faith program, all high-risk parish staff (paid and volunteer) must have a criminal record check done before any work begins. This is to make sure you aren’t bringing a potentially high-risk person (such as a sexual predator) into the vulnerable environment of the church.


To help your parish uphold good human resources practices, you can consult the following resources: