I have spoken to many pastors throughout the years that have the attitude that their staff exists solely to make them successful. Having been part of a large pastoral staff for many years, I would have to agree that my role was to make my Senior Pastor as successful as possible in leading the church God had entrusted to his care. However, having also had the responsibility of leading a very large percentage of that same staff as the Executive Pastor, as well as leading my own staff as a Lead Pastor, I also know that the staff I lead needs certain things to succeed as they serve and fulfill their calling. The staff doesn’t just exist for the Lead Pastor; the Lead Pastor also exists for the staff.
Staff members are not looking for a perfect pastor. They just need someone who is willing to love them and care enough to help them succeed. This imperfect pastor (me) has discovered certain things that his staff needs to succeed.
My staff needs to know that I care for them as individuals.
My role as a shepherd is not only to the congregation that I serve, but to the people the Lord has brought alongside me to help lead. In fact, I believe my primary responsibility is to the sheep we call “staff.” I need to know their strengths and weaknesses, their needs and wants, and how to best minister to their families. Simply stated, they need to know I love them.
My staff needs to know where we are going as a church.
Most every called staff member longs to be a part of something bigger than himself or herself. More than just “doing church well.” I need to be able to communicate a vision (preferable future) worth following. A vision that obviously centers on the glory of God and emphasizes reaching out to people who are without Jesus.
My staff needs to know that I value their voice in decision-making.
I learned a long time ago that I don’t have all the answers, nor am I the only one who hears from God. I may be the “quarterback” of the team, but I need input from the “receivers” and “linebackers” who have a different viewpoint of the field. When we buy into something together, we’ll make it happen together.
My staff needs to know what I expect from them.
Most staff members want to do a great job, but if I’m not being very clear about what I want them to do how will they know if they’ve done it well? I can’t expect them to read my mind! It starts with a detailed job description and it’s continued with every specific assignment. I also have to make them aware of any expectations I may have from their family. I cannot assume they know what I expect.
My staff needs to be empowered.
I cannot delegate responsibility without delegating authority. My staff needs to know that I will publicly stand behind any decision they make, even if I have to correct them for it privately. They cannot be afraid of making decisions that relate to their area of responsibility. Every decision does NOT have to come through me. My staff needs to know that I trust them, yet also realize that they will be held accountable and, when necessary, corrected. As Ronald Reagan famously said, “trust but verify”. Delegation without investigation is relegation.
My staff needs to be corrected privately.
No one likes to be humiliated publicly. It creates a culture of fear that hinders creativity and initiative. ALL personal, job related correction should be done privately.
My staff needs to be celebrated publicly.
Recognize a job well done. When a staff member has had a big win in their area of responsibility, I need to publicly appreciate him or her. Give them some extra time off if a particular task required extra time and energy. Recognize him/her in staff meeting. We always start off our staff meetings sharing “wins” in the church – specific examples of how God is changing lives in different ministries or by underscoring high impact events. We know that God is the One that does this, but He uses leaders!
My staff needs a model worth following.
Staff members are not looking for a perfect pastor, but they are looking for and deserve a pastor with personal and professional integrity. That means having an authentic and growing walk with Jesus, not exaggerating stats, having a backbone with difficult people, expecting loyalty but also giving it, tithing my income, sharing Christ with people, etc. We must lead the way in modeling hard work, especially when it comes to being prepared to preach on Sundays. My staff can work hard all week (following up, calls, events, recruiting, etc.), and if I go up and lay an egg of a message because I didn’t prepare properly, everybody loses! Pastors, lead the way by your example. It’s what your staff needs!