Guest Editorial: 10 keys to a healthy church staff
Church staffs are perhaps one of the most important factors to having a healthy church. If the pastor and worship pastor cannot get along; if the youth pastor and administrator cannot get along; why should there be any expectation for church members to get along? Below are “10 Keys to Having a Healthy Church Staff.” I pray God uses them in your church as He has in ours. I love my staff and thank God that we are more of a “family” than we are a bunch of employees.
Key #1—Love each other! This is the most critical aspect of a healthy church staff. Each staff member must genuinely love those they serve with. I believe with all my heart this begins with the senior pastor. The senior pastor sets the pace and must lead by example. I do not believe there is anything worse for a church staff than an unloving pastor. The senior pastor needs to remember that he pastors the staff, too. Too often, senior pastors view staff as hired hands, or just employees, and forget that they have been called by God to shepherd those they serve with. A staff that does not love each other will not be blessed by God. After all, Jesus said that the world will know us by our love one for another; likewise, I believe church members will know their church staff by their love, or lack thereof, for one another.
Key #2—Pray with and for each other! The depth of a church staff will largely be determined by how and how much they pray together. A staff should pray together consistently and fervently. It should not be uncommon for a staff to get on their knees together, or to pray in each other’s offices as needs and concerns arise, or just to lift a brother/sister in Christ up to the Lord. A healthy staff will make prayer a high priority and will be richly blessed by being a staff that labors together in prayer.
Key #3—Encourage each other! One of my staff members likes to ask this, “How do you know if someone needs encouragement?” Then he answers, “If they’re breathing.” In other words, as long as someone is drawing breath, they need others to breathe words of life into them. Encouragement is one of the absolute most important things a staff can do for each other. EDIFY, EDIFY, EDIFY! Again, this starts with the senior pastor. The senior pastor needs to set the pace and ought to be the most edifying person on staff. It is so easy to be critical and negative with each other, in fact, Satan thrives where negativity reigns . . . BUT . . . where humility and encouragement reign, the Holy Spirit is there and is there in power. Encouragement is the most unifying element of a healthy staff. You can never encourage too much . . . never forget that!
Key #4—Respect and trust each other! Staff members need to respect each other and trust each other to do the ministry God has called them to do. As a pastor, I recognize that those I serve with have been called by God to do their ministry, and I expect them to do what they do with excellence and for the glory of God! I respect and trust my staff. They are the experts in their area of service and they do not need me micro-managing their every action. It is important to pray together, dream together, plan together, etc . . . but staff members do not need to tell each other how to do their ministry. When you respect and trust each other, it opens the door for honest conversation about ministry, where healthy discussion can happen as each minister learns from one another and encourages them in what they do.
Key #5—Support each other! There should be no territorialism among the staff. Yes, each staff member is responsible for their “area of ministry” so to speak, but there should a desire to help other staff members be successful in what they do. Each staff member needs to be a “team player,” and ready to help as needed and as they can. Church staff should know what is going on in other areas of ministry for several reasons: (1) To pray; (2) it shows the staff communicates with each other; (3) it allows them to help answer questions people may have and direct them appropriately; (4) it affords them the opportunity to help as they can; and (5) it reveals a love and concern for another staff member’s area of ministry.
Key #6—Fellowship with each other! Staff members should get together and get together often. Celebrate birthdays, holidays, etc. together. A healthy staff should not just see each other during ministry hours and events. Healthy staffs enjoy being together and fellowshipping with one another. Fellowship must be a priority. A staff that fellowships together will be unified and that unity will be evident to the church body at large.
Key #7—Laugh and cry with each other! The church staff needs to be the absolute most enjoyable group to be with. A healthy church staff will laugh together and laugh together often. When you get together for your fellowships, do not just sit around and talk. Play games and do other fun things that will make unifying memories and traditions. Staff members should not dread getting together, but rather should look forward to it as a highlight. Staff members should also learn to cry together. There should a deep level of love and trust with each other. When a staff member is burdened, other staff members should help them carry their load. Staff members need to know what is going on in other staff member’s lives so they can pray, minister and encourage. I love that the staff I serve with can be laughing hysterically one minute and on our knees weeping together in prayer the next. A healthy staff will rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep!
Key #8—Listen to and learn from each other! Everyone who understands communication realizes that one of the most important aspects of communicating is listening. In fact, the best communicators are often the best listeners. Good personal communicators listen, not to formulate a response, but to understand where the other person is coming. When staff members listen to each other, it shows respect, trust, and humility and that they value what others have to say. A healthy staff will long to hear what others have to say, and while they may not always agree, they should welcome other’s thoughts and opinions.
Key #9—Challenge each other! Healthy staff will know how to push each other to be and do their best. There is a fine line that has to be walked here, but is one that is essential in order to be the most effective staff you can be. Know this, challenge or constructive criticism will never be well received if a relationship of respect and trust does not exist. In fact, the reason “territories” develop among staff is because there is no depth to their relationship, therefore leaving no room for healthy criticism and challenge. We all need to recognize that not every idea is a good idea, no matter how great it may seem to us, and we need other staff members to have the freedom to tell us when our idea just flat stinks. Healthy staff members will not wear their feelings on their shoulders and will welcome . . . almost demand . . . someone to challenge them and help them be and do their best. A staff that does not have the freedom to be honest with each other will limit their effectiveness for the Kingdom, because no man is an island and together we can do more!
Key #10—Minister to and with each other! Healthy staff members will minister together and minister well together. Make visits together, volunteer and serve in each other’s ministries when you can, write a note of encouragement to another staff member, be creative in how you serve each other . . . but the bottom line is, minister to and with each other! Every church staff member knows that ministry is cumbersome and unpredictable, and who knows how to minister better to staff than staff members themselves? Ministering to each other is the ultimate way to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
I know there are other keys to effective and healthy church staffs, but these are 10 that we practice in our staff and have benefited from greatly. Before you read the next great leadership book as a staff, make sure you are doing these 10 things first and foremost. Leadership books, workshops, etc., are all great, but do not get away from the simple things that will make a significant difference in your staff. I believe these 10 things, while simple, when applied, truly make the church staff unified, strong and incredibly effective for the Kingdom of God.
Jeremy Freeman is senior pastor of Newcastle, First.