Ministry staff can be some of the great blessings a pastor will experience. Having people who can share in ministry commitment and serve in places the pastor cannot reach make the capacity of the local church’s ministry grow and grow. These friends help bring the expectations of ministry down to a manageable size and provide the pastor to have friends who can truly strengthen his hands.
Unfortunately, staff relationships can also be an enormous frustration to all those involved. When the goal of working together effectively isn’t achieved, the presence of ministry staff can actually make the work seem harder—a reality no one involved would ever choose on purpose.
Here’s a few critical elements that make staff relationships most effective:
1. Shared Vision
When pastor and staff share the same vision, they can move in the same direction. Sadly, many teams never achieve this because the church just wants to grow and isn’t intentional about how they do that. In many staff settings, each team member pursues his own vision, leaving the church with multiple directions to pursue. Chaos ensues, along with a fight over resources, as each staff member fights for their program’s needs. The result is a lonely pastor, a self-focused team, and a frustrated group of deacons.
Every pastor needs to see his church on a journey. We are headed somewhere—hopefully on the path to becoming the church we were meant to be. When there are multiple visions, it’s as though we haven’t really decided where we’re going and we have several different ways to get there. No wonder it’s not working.
Pastor, you are the keeper and communicator of the vision. Work together with your leaders to discover a clear direction for your church and then help every leader discover how their ministry area can contribute to that direction. A trip is a lot more fun when we’re riding together and enthusiastically headed the same way.
2. Intentional Access
Far too often I have spoken with staff members who feel they have no real access to the pastor that leads them. Aside from a group staff meeting each week where assignments are handed down, these frustrated friends have little opportunity to share with their pastor, ask important questions, and learn from his leadership experiences.
As a pastor, I tried to fill this gap by scheduling a 30-minute meeting with each staff member each week. While I tried to be available whenever they might need me, this dedicated time meant I could sit down with each team member and address their questions, as well as discuss their own personal development. I recommend this approach for each team member who reports directly to you as a leader.
3. Annual Getaways
Taking a few days each year to retreat together as a team gives you the chance to discuss ministry life in a relaxed setting that can nourish relationships. Staff retreats work best when they are true retreats—not an excuse to have a three-day staff meeting. Use these times to play together, eat together, pray together, and have honest discussions about the challenges of ministry life. A little calendar planning is okay, but be sure the retreat is really a retreat.
Of course, there are many other suggestions one could make toward improving staff effectiveness. Ultimately, the goal of steps like these is to strengthen the connection each team member feels with the pastor and with the other members of the team. When that team functions well, everyone’s capacity is magnified and their potential comes more within reach.