In this issue of Pastorpedia, pastors Knute Larson, Jeff Bogue, and Jim Brown address church staffing concerns by answering these questions:

  • If you could only have two other paid staff, whose roles would you choose?
  • What policies and practices promote healthy staff unity and productivity?
  • What communication issues do you and your families face at various “levels?”

Jeff pastors Grace Church in Akron, Ohio. Jim pastors Grace Community Church in Goshen, Indiana. Knute is the former pastor of The Chapel in Akron, Ohio and now coaches pastors.

What to Take for Staff Infection!
Something, for sure. We cannot just hope it goes away.
Yes, prayer helps, and for sure strong Christian attitudes and motives. But policies and practices need to be carefully chosen also.
In my own coaching of pastors the last five years, staff issues are tied with board relationships as the most prominent needs.
And in the smaller churches, it is about germs that hurt connections with the main volunteers and tribal chiefs.
So in this Pastorpedia the three of us address what helps us.
See if you want to take this medicine!
Knute, for Jeff and Jim

Scroll down for the text version
Watch the video

If you could only have two other paid staff, who would they be?
Jeff Bogue

  1. A worship guy. Weekend services are the billboard of your church (a wise man named Knute Larson once taught me that :)). Being able to execute quality weekend services is critical to being able to attract and hold families. These services do not have to be flashy. They can be of all different styles, musically, etc., but they must be quality as they project heartbeat, vision, and mindset. Having a ministry partner on the musical side of this is critical. This person will have a broader view of more than just music and will help you to bring in creativity, quality, and people development for the weekend services—and also for special services like Christmas and Easter.
  1. Director of children’s ministry. The number one reason young families return to the church is for their kids, so having a vibrant, exciting, safe, creative children’s ministry is a very high priority within the church.

Too often pastors hire to address the demands of the congregation. There is nothing wrong with hiring a youth pastor or a care pastor, but these are usually not the first hires that should be made. Our youth pastor was our sixth hire and our care pastor was our number 11. Hire for vision, not “need.” When vision is driving your church, the resources to meet “need” will come. If “need” drives your church, the resources to tackle vision will be spent on ministry areas that do not bring the greatest return.
Jim Brown

  1. Without a doubt, worship pastor. This was our first hire at Grace Community. The local church should be a worshipping community. The relationship between the senior pastor and the worship pastor is most critical. These two positions get the most stage time and lead the services. Make sure you get a person who clicks well with you and has an ear towards heaven and lives elbows deep in people’s lives through the week. Don’t compromise on this position—it is just too important!
  2. Children’s pastor—a vibrant children’s ministry is a must. Reaching the now generation is critical. Most people choose a church based upon how effective the children’s ministries are.
  3. Every staff member hired is important, but many of the ministry slots can be staffed with responsible volunteer adults who have a passion and gifting to lead ministries. Some churches are too heavy on the paid staff side. In fact when it is that way the volunteer participation is dismal. We have always operated with a slim paid staff and a huge volunteer staff compared to other churches of our size. I think churches drift into hiring paid staff too quickly and then build churches with people who do not have ownership of the ministries. It is imperative to build ministries that develop servant volunteers. Grace Community is loaded with servant volunteers.

Knute Larson

  1. An assistant who is really good with people—he or she would be the point person for worship services (details and themes—I would work with volunteer worship). Also details of communication with the church and leaders. Also my schedule. Also assimilation volunteers.
  2. A “family pastor” who was good with teens and can supervise coordinators for the children’s ministries and also key couples for college age and young adults.
  3. I would major on vision, pulpit, leadership, the city and community, and Sunday and Home ABFs.
  4. From there on for a while: part-time staff in this order: worship, kids, administration (finances, buildings), seniors/care.

Policies and practices for good staff unity and productivity
Jeff Bogue

  1. A weekly staff meeting—a couple hours together talking through the issues and enjoying being together. Pray together at that meeting. Make sure you stay connected to one another’s hearts.
  2. Once a year staff retreat. Get away for a couple of nights—work at friendships more than plans and policies.
  3. Have at least three days in the office together.
    Our policy is Monday-Tuesday- Wednesday: I basically want everyone in and around the offices.
    Thursday- Friday-Saturday-Sunday: A lot of days off begin to occur, and people begin to move out to do the actual work of the ministry outside the office.
  4. Answer e-mails by the end of day. Communication, communication, communication. Make it a practice and a policy that by the end of the day e-mails are answered. Others will know that you’re hearing their communication.
  5. No sacred cows. We do not play politics, and you will be addressed if you try to. Best idea always wins, so open discussion with open brainstorms are critical.
  6. Biannual reviews: We review our staff once a year and set six-month and 12-month goals. Then, at the six-month mark we review those goals and set out the goals into the next 12 months.
  7. Deal with the “elephants.” In order to be on the staff of a church, you must be a “great person” and good at what you are paid to do! Staff should be passionate and professional. If you are working to motivate a person to serve Jesus by working hard, it is time for them to get into another line of work. Being “nice” is not a substitute for being good, so if someone is not excelling, and the proper investments into training and resourcing have been made, help them move on.
  8. Offer training opportunities, read a book together, watch a video from another church. These do not have to be expensive, but they should be ongoing.

Jim Brown

  1. Always take into consideration these three core characteristics before hiring: character, competence, and chemistry. It is easier to find the first two characteristics, yet the third, chemistry, is usually the one that will make the team. It is imperative to build teams that work together.
  2. It must be fun—ministry will suck the life out of you if you let it! Laughter must be a core ingredient of teams. It is not uncommon for us to break away and pile into an office to watch a funny video or prank each other.
  3. Daily staff prayer meetings. We have a staff prayer meeting each day with every staff member that is working that morning. Sometimes we will sing together, pray together, and just take time to lift each other up.
  4. Take good care of your team. A staff member should never want to leave because he is not paid well or cared for.
  5. Schedule moments to do life together. We have trained together to do “tough-mudders” or road races. We schedule early morning hoops.
  6. Kill negativity. I work hard at removing the poison of negativity.
  7. Celebrate birthdays and big days.
  8. Create yearly ministry goals and evaluate them.
  9. Free staff up to be with family.
  10. Honor them publicly and through social media. I love our staff and praise God that He has given me such a phenomenal group of men and women.
  11. Develop a team mindset instead of specialists only. This is where Grace Community is so very different than many. We truly function as a team when it comes to decision-making and mapping out the ministries. Each pastor has a designated area he or she oversees, yet he offers input in all the ministries of the church and shepherds and cares for the body together—people don’t always look to the senior pastor for everything.
  12. Have the hard conversations when performance is lacking with staff.
  13. Love each other. “Love covers a multitude of sins.”

Knute Larson

  1. Clear reporting system with accountability for goals and spirit.
  2. Weekly staff meetings where we have lunch, fun, plans, worship, and coordination. A Friday meeting, in addition, would be just to pray for weekend services. All part-time and support people first hear a two-minute summary of the sermon and worship, then P-R-A-Y: Praise, in the large group; Repent, about character, in quiet; Ask, in groups of 4-5, where no requests are given—you pray for what you are “worrying about,” and someone else backs it up; Yield—the leader closes with a prayer related to verses.
  3. Merit pay, fair vacation time, good benefits.
  4. Agreed upon “staff covenant” and DNA specifics asked of everyone—discipleship group, three thank-you notes a week, worship involvement.
  5. MBWA (Management by Walking Around).
  6. Strong example of hard, wise, unselfish work by the leaders.

Communication issues with staff and their families at various “levels”
Jeff Bogue

  1. As a rule, you cannot over communicate, so communicate, communicate, communicate; e-mail and texting are wonderful gifts that help us to communicate strongly.
  2. Look people in the eye when you have something difficult to say. You should crush all ideas of rumors and gossip. They should be addressed quickly and aggressively.
  3. Have an open-door policy so that your staff can come and look you in the eye and tell you what’s on their mind and you can do the same back with them.
  4. Bring the spouse into the six-month review. At Grace this review is not so much about job performance, although job performance is discussed. It’s more about the health of the marriage and the health of the person. We have found that if you are not talking to the spouse, the concerns are not being clearly communicated and direction is not being fully understood.
  5. Praise people publicly and thank them profusely. Never forget that ministry is a family affair, so look for opportunities to bless the spouse and even the children.
  6. Form a “pastors’ wives” group. Facilitate the wives getting together on a regular basis for support, prayer, and times to vent about the things only pastors’ wives deal with.

Jim Brown

  1. Create closed Facebook pages for staff where you can share life events, prayer requests, and encouragement.
  2. Create closed Facebook pages for pastors’ wives so they can support each other. My wife has a page set up for wives only.
  3. Never leave your staff wondering what you are thinking and what you expect from them. And remind them often how great a job they are doing.
  4. Regularly pray for your staff and ask the Holy Spirit to give you insight into how you can lead them and love them.
  5. Answer emails from staff ASAP.
  6. Tons of decisions can be made in the hallways!
  7. Always affirm each other in public. Argue and disagree when in private until you reach agreement. But never leave the office saying, “Well, that’s just ___—you know, he is a little…”
  8. If someone has an issue with another staff member, ask him to go to that person first and work it out. People often want to pit you against your own teammates. Stand united!
  9. Make time for your own staff and have an open-door policy for them.
  10. Pray on the armor of God every day and pray for unity and clear communication. Most people issues stem from lack of clear communication.
  11. Love each other and treat each other equally and unselfishly.

Knute Larson

  1. A strong executive team of 3-5 others rather than a lone executive pastor, when size increases.
  2. Candid updates every staff meeting; email updates about board plans.
  3. Annual retreat, including spouses at least every other year.
  4. The weekly prayer time on Fridays, including maintenance and interns.

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