By Y Bonesteele
First and foremost, we understand that ministry leadership involves a dependency on the Holy Spirit. Still, learning management skills and information can equip us with tools to help our church or organization.
In a survey of 14,500 U.S. workers, Harvard Business Review reports that employees say they work best when:
- They are clear about what they are expected to do.
- They are willing to ask questions and feel safe doing so.
- They are not overwhelmed with rules about how the work has to be done or with unproductive meetings.
- Their organization supports creative problem solving (e.g., implementing employee suggestions for improvements) and provides rewards and recognition for jobs well done.
- Supervisors notice and acknowledge employee feelings, understand how their decisions will impact employees, and help them manage their emotions.
- They see purpose and meaning in their work and are committed to their organization.
During the pandemic, researchers studied hospital nurses to test their findings. It revealed how much more these aspects were needed in a work environment in the middle of a crisis.
Pastors and church leaders are like nurses––we are trying to heal, train, and comfort those who are spiritually ill. Post-pandemic, all of us are trying to work in some familiar ways, but also pivoting towards newer ways of doing ministry.
We are more aware of technology, of the needs of those who physically cannot come to church, of the need to rebuild small groups and discipleship practices. Moving forward, we can work more collaboratively and these six findings are worthy to be noted.
1. Clear Expectations
Goals and expectations are needed in any job, that’s why we have job descriptions. But if your job description is too vague or doesn’t match up with the actual work, your workers or volunteers might not feel they can be successful in their job or might always be worrying about what’s expected.18% of pastors said a poor fit and unrealistic expectations were reasons for their leaving a previous church, according to Lifeway Research. Click To Tweet
In 2015, Lifeway Research reported 18% of pastors said a poor fit and unrealistic expectations were reasons for their leaving a previous church. If it is true for pastors, it probably is true for ministry staff and volunteers as well. In the same report, 30% of pastors said their church had no document clearly stating what the church expects of its pastor. For your pastor, ministry leaders, staff and volunteers, have clear goals in your ministry, possibly even yearly ones, to ground your staff with clear expectations.
2. Ability to Ask Questions
In any staff setting, but especially in ministry-centered work, trust is essential. Staff need to know they can ask questions of leaders without any reprimand. Leaders need to accept questions and then answer appropriately with grace and without judgment. If context and explanations can be given especially when “no” is the answer, that can go a long way in helping your staff feel assured in asking further questions.In any staff setting, but especially in ministry-centered work, trust is essential. — Y Bonesteele Click To Tweet
People want the freedom to ask questions in a safe environment where they won’t be belittled, badgered, or abused. Great leaders have reasons for their answers.
Although workers want clear expectations, they do want room and flexibility to do their job the way God has gifted them. No one likes a helicopter leader. In the 2015 Lifeway Research report, 1 in 5 (19%) pastors left their previous church because the congregation did not embrace their approach to pastoral ministry. Churches can have a hard time being flexible with their pastors. Pastors, don’t have a hard time being flexible with your staff and leaders.
People want flexibility in how they do their ministry as well as when they do their ministry. Be sure meetings are purposeful and that your staff need to be there. Churches and ministries seem to love endless meetings. Wasting time on irrelevant work can aggravate your staff. Make sure you’re not doing things just because that’s the way it’s always been done. Let your staff do their jobs as laid out by their overall mission with the flexibility to do it their unique way.
4. Creative Problem Solving and Praise
Ministry staff want to be able to contribute to new ideas and methodology, especially younger staff or volunteers. They delight in being creative. With your mission and values in place for your ministry, there is plenty of room for innovation.Not everything needs to be new and different, but find areas your ministry can take more creative and outside-the-box thinking and let those with creative prowess lead the way. — Y Bonesteele Click To Tweet
Not everything needs to be new and different, but find areas your ministry can take more creative and outside-the-box thinking and let those with creative prowess lead the way. You’ll be surprised at the ideas others may contribute.
As you try new things, take time to celebrate wins and victories. Acknowledging people’s efforts and successes goes a long way, even if it’s a simple gesture or a handwritten note. People want to know they’re valued and appreciated.
5. Acknowledged Emotions
Acknowledging people’s emotions does not mean you have to carry tissues around everywhere and hug everything out. It does mean that you understand people work their best when they’re not under stress from underlying emotions caused by extraneous circumstances. Staff and volunteers work better in general when their personal life is being taken care of — physically, emotionally, and relationally.35% of pastors say the demands of ministry prevent them from spending time with their family, according to Lifeway Research. Click To Tweet
In the 2015 Lifeway Research report, 35% of pastors say the demands of ministry prevent them from spending time with their family. In a non-ministry environment, that would be devastating. How much more in a ministry environment when you’re telling others how important family time is? Both pastors, ministry leaders, staff and volunteers need to care for their emotional and relational health. Many ministry teams work together well to give each other this leeway, but if it’s not yet part of your ministry culture, know that people’s emotional health is vital to their ministry productivity.
6. Purposeful Work
Even in ministry, sometimes the daily grind, the criticisms, or the lack of results can deter us from the goal in mind. We forget that there’s purposeful work in doing ministry, whether it’s preaching, teaching, administrative work, wiping bottoms of babies, dealing with hyperactive middle schoolers, and the list goes on. Growing God’s kingdom is the most purposeful work we can do; but if workers forgets that, it can be easy to get downcast, apathetic, and unproductive.Although we know God is the One always in charge and in control of all the results, our work is meaningful because we get to partner with Him. — Y Bonesteele Click To Tweet
Daily remind those who serve with you of what’s at stake: souls for the kingdom, hearts for the Lord, workers for the harvest. Although we know God is the One always in charge and in control of all the results, our work is meaningful because we get to partner with Him. Don’t let your team or staff forget the ultimate goal: God’s glory and the growth of His kingdom.
Y is an editorial coordinator at Lifeway Christian Resources. She has her M.Div. from Talbot School of Theology with an emphasis in Evangelism and Discipleship.