The Academy Awards, also known as The Oscars, is perhaps one of the most globally televised ceremonies that exist today. It’s the one night of the year where millions of people around the world discover what movies were truly worth seeing, what actor’s performances were worth celebrating, and what red carpet wardrobes were probably worth wearing. Or avoiding.
Because this awards show is nearly 4 hours long and broadcasted live, the Academy Awards decided several years ago to select and employ ‘seat fillers’ to ensure that every seat in the audience, especially when a camera pans across the room, is filled at all times. Whenever a celebrity needed to leave to temporarily to present an award on stage, or suddenly had to rush out to the bathroom to fix a broken strap, the production crew will send out a seat filler to swiftly take up the vacant seat. Although anonymous to most celebrities sitting nearby, these ‘seat fillers’ are becoming more and more common for all types of awards shows now that they are being held in larger arenas.
This concept of seat filling is not necessarily unique to award shows, but can often be seen within any growing church who is in need of hiring. Rather than taking the necessary steps to fill empty seats with those who actually have the passion and skill sets needed to produce long-lasting results, there are some churches whose fear of an empty seat persuades them to select those they know are unqualified, simply because they are available.
The following are three (3) characteristics all professional ‘seat fillers’ share. Perhaps after reading these below, you will have the wisdom needed to reevaluate some of the ways your church sources and selects new staff to hire, especially when doing so under the pressure of the bright lights.
Seat-Fillers Rarely Apply
Although there are websites available for people to apply to become seat fillers at events like the Golden Globes, the Emmys, or the SAG Awards, when it comes to the Academy Awards, seat fillers do not apply, they are selected. According to the A.V. Club, a popular website that reviews new films and reports on other pop culture media news, seat fillers for the Academy Awards must have ‘a relative working for either the Academy or PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm responsible for all Oscar vote counts.’
Simply put, positions held by seat fillers are rarely posted for public knowledge, nor is there a set criteria that candidates need to meet. With that amount of nepotism and secrecy mixed into your church’s hiring process, it won’t be long before every staff member’s spouse, brother, and distant third cousin (on their mother’s side) is sending you their resume. Make sure your church keeps its hiring process as open as possible to recruit the best talent for every seat.
Seat-Fillers Are Moved Around Frequently
When interviewed by ABC News, Monica Enriquez, professional seat filler for over 15 years, described her role as ‘fancy game of musical chairs.’ On any given award show night, Enriquez said that she can expect to be moved to a different seat an average of 8-10 times.
While a few minutes sitting next to George Clooney may have a seat filler smiling from ear to ear, when it comes to filling up the vacant seats on your staff, you will burn people out in no time if you continue to move them around different departments solely based on your biggest need, and not their biggest (and best) fit. The more you have to move someone around, the more it should become obvious that their contribution may be limited, if needed at all.
Seat-Fillers Are Grossly Underpaid
Finally, it may be surprising to many that despite showing up hours before the award show is scheduled to begin, and standing in long lines wearing expensive clothes that don’t fit, seat fillers are never paid by the Academy. According to Kristen Felicetti, filmmaker and contributing writer for AOL.com, seat filling is considered a ‘volunteer gig.’ The brave few selected for this role are even restricted from talking with celebrities, and typically have their phones removed, in the event anyone feels the urge to take a selfie.
Are there any ‘seat fillers’ currently on your staff that are paying the church more to work there than the church is actually paying them? If so, you may discover one day that the number of hours they continue to work during the week for little pay, not to mention serve on the weekends for no pay at all, will push them closer and closer out the door to look for other employment opportunities, leaving you with an empty seat that someone more qualified should have been hired to fill from the very beginning.
As leaders, we must always remember this one simple truth when hiring new church staff:
Working in ministry is always a privilege, never a consolation prize.
Do everything you can to hire skilled leaders, not just seat fillers. The performances are much more award worthy.