Contract or Hire?
Should you Contract or Hire Creative/Communications Staff?
In my 10+ years in church communications, I have done had staff on salary and contractors on projects. Both have worked in different seasons of our church life and growth. My current recommendation would be to hire for the primary role (Communications Pastor/Director) and bring in contractors to work with this key person on various areas of expertise.
Here’s my top reasons why-
Communications is a very broad category of church work that encompasses a series of highly technical skills: photography, creative, art direction, strategy, metrics, public relations, crisis management, branding, video, audio, web design, graphic design, copywriting, social media, admin, verbal communication, etc.
Generally, you aren’t going to find one person who is good at all these things, and if they were, they couldn’t do all these tasks in a 40 hours a week anyways. Hiring contracts for projects allows you to find someone who’s an expert in that specific thing, rather than a generalist. For example, I hire one person to do very creative and beautiful branding for a sermon series, and a different person (and a different type of brain) to do detailed layouts of lots of text for the booklet of discussion questions to go along with that series.
Working in Tandem
Hiring contractors allows you to be working on multiple projects at once because more people are involved. You could be building the brand of your kids ministry with one contractor while also filming testimony videos during the same week with a different contractor. One staff member can be in one place at a time, but the graphic designer can be working at home for a few hours on the project, while the video person is out filming a testimony, while the web design contractor is updating the website.
Simply put, for most smaller organizations, you will get way more paying per project or per hour, than having a full-time employee who needs a desk, computer, benefits, and sits in on lots of staff meetings that take away from their hours of actual work output. Every year I do the math on contractor vs. staff, and at nearly 3000 people in our multi-site church, we still don’t pay out enough to contractors to justify bringing them on full-time staff salaries.
When we had a full-time videographer on staff for a few years, he got a bit bored and stifled creatively. By nature, a person who loves to do creative work wants to do lots of different projects in lots of different places. It’s difficult to work full time for one organization when you’re getting offers to shoot a wedding in France or help on a film set in Chicago and you only have 2 weeks vacation a year to do those side gigs. When we moved to contractors, it allowed us to get the creative worker’s best energy, and great new ideas borrowed from all the other work they’re doing and seeing in their industry. It expanded our skill set, our flexibility, and our quality of the product. Plus, the team enjoyed the work.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, you’ll need to decide what’s best for you, and there are times we do hire staff on full or part time for communications, but I encourage you not to jump to it immediately before considering what you really need. A creative contractor model is used by some of even the largest and most known ministries in America like Willow Creek, Elevation Church, and Bethel Music to complement their staff skill sets.