Joel Arthur Barker wrote a popular book several years ago titled Future Edge. One of his conclusions about how things will work in the days ahead has to do with team work. The team approach, he said, will be the hallmark of the great companies of the twenty-first century. What is true of the great companies of the twenty-first century is also true of the effective churches of the twenty-first century. Teamwork is the key. A pastor who is able to motivate his staff to work as a team is one who will be effective. That makes our role as staff leaders extremely crucial.
So how does the pastor lead the staff? To that question, many different answers are given. In most cases, I have noticed, it is pastors voicing their opinion about how they should lead. So I decided to turn it around and see what staff members thought about how a pastor should lead. While I still served as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Richardson, Texas, I presented a form to the staff of the church in which they could express what they liked their pastor to do and what they did not like their pastor to do. In addition, I received input from a survey of ministers of music and another survey from church business administrators.
Based on that input, here are six things staff members expect and desire from their pastor as staff leader.
Expectation # 1: BE REALISTIC. Almost every staff member expressed this idea in one form or another. This does not mean pastors should not expect the best from the staff who serve with them. Nor does it mean pastors should not hold the staff accountable. This is simply the reminder that staff members are human beings who have a lot of pressures on them from church members as well as from their families. Being a good staff leader begins with a willingness to be realistic about what we expect of our ourselves, what we expect of the staff, and what we expect from our congregation.
Expectation # 2: BE CONSISTENT. Again, each of the staff members made reference to this expectation. Negatively, one staff member said she didn’t like it when a pastor spoke out of both sides of his mouth. Positively, another staff member called on the pastor to “walk the talk.” Both were talking about consistency. As pastors, we often do not realize how much our words and our actions impact the staff members who work with us. We will give both security and confidence to our staff if we will carry out our ministry and relate to the staff in a consistent way.
Expectation # 3: BE SUPPORTIVE. Every person likes to be stroked. This is a fact of human life. It naturally follows then that every staff person likes to be stroked. And when that word of commendation and encouragement comes from the pastor, that is even better. I talked to a staff member once who worked with his pastor for ten years. He told me, “Never one time did my pastor ever commend me for anything I did.” That reminds me of the wife who said to her husband of ten years: “Honey, you never tell me you love me any more.” He responded, “I told you once and if I ever change my mind, I’ll let you know.” Many pastors are like that. You’ve heard the expression: “No news is good news.” As pastors, we often operate on that basis with our staff. If we don’t say anything bad to them, then we feel that is enough. But it is not enough. Few staff members would agree that “no news is good news.” They want to know if they are doing well, and they want that word of support to come from the pastor.
Expectation # 4: BE AVAILABLE. One church member said to his pastor: “You are just like God: incomprehensible on Sunday and invisible the rest of the week.” Some staff members would probably give that testimony about their pastor. Perhaps the complaint I have heard most from staff members over the years as I have spoken at other churches is that they just do not have enough quality time with their pastor. I am a pastor myself. And I recognize the limitations of our time. I still believe, however, that we make a mistake when we isolate ourselves from our staff. Meaningful time spent with the staff will motivate them and energize them to do their work better and more in line with the direction the church is going. As a result, both you and the church will benefit.
Expectation # 5: BE PREPARED. This relates particularly to our preaching responsibility, but it also applies to other areas of our responsibility. Pastors who are lazy, who display undisciplined work habits, who are never prepared to conduct a meeting or lead a committee or deliver a sermon are the scourge of the staff. Staff members feel more comfortable and experience more freedom when they know their pastor will be prepared to do his job. This also relates to the staff meeting. In a recent meeting with a group of ministers of education they unanimously declared, “Our staff meetings are the biggest waste of time during the whole week. We spend two hours, and never accomplish anything.” The reason is simply that the pastor is not prepared to lead the meeting.
Expectation # 6: BE INCLUSIVE. Perhaps what burns staff members more than anything else I s when the pastor gives special attention to one or two staff members and leaves the others out. Being inclusive means valuing the opinion of each staff member. It means communicating with each staff member. It means including all staff in the scheduling. Being inclusive is a key to being an effective leader.
Now, look at the list of expectations. Spend some time evaluating how you are doing in each of the areas. Score yourself from one to ten with ten being the top score. Then, spend some time thinking about how you can improve in the areas where you scored the lowest. Share these ideas with your staff. See if they agree. But remember this: it is not enough just to be prepared when we step into the pulpit. It is not enough just to be a good worship leader. We must also be a good staff leader, for the hallmark of the great churches of the twenty-first century is teamwork.