This article is a follow up to the previous article on staff management.
Learning how to lead a staff is one of the most important aspects of a pastor’s life if that pastor wants to be an effective leader. Every study shows that the vast majority of churches grow based on their leader and how that leader leads those around him or her. This ability isn’t taught in most seminaries; it is learned on the battlefield where the casualties are human beings who never experience faith in Christ because of a poorly led staff. Don’t ever forget that people’s destinies are in your hands. Failure to lead well may mean that some live and die without knowing Jesus. So lets do a down and dirty look at what it takes to lead a staff.
Effectively leading a staff begins with the hiring process. The way you hire someone sets a tone for that person’s ministry. If you hire a person to maintain an area of the church, that is what they will most likely do. If you hire the person with a clear expectation that they are responsible for growing their area of the church, they are more likely to do just that. Each staff person needs to know up front that decline is not acceptable. If a person doesn’t know what is expected of them, there is no way for them to know if they are succeeding or failing.
Make these expectations measurable, reasonable, and clear. Put actual numbers to the expectations. For example, let’s say you hire a Youth Director and the in the job description you set out one clear expectation – “Grow the youth department by 100% over the next four years through youth worship and small groups.” Then set some time line goals along the way such as, in three months have a plan developed, in six months grow the youth department by 10%, 30% in twelve months, and so on. This way you don’t have to wait until the end of the fourth year to evaluate the effectiveness of the staff person.
Once you have set out clear expectations you get out of their way and let them run within the boundaries you set out. As long as the person develops the youth department around youth worship and small groups you let them do their thing and don’t micromanage what they do. If the staff person is new, you should keep a close eye on the results of their work. If their area is effective and growing, you give them more freedom. Once they have proven they will do what they say they will do, when they say they will do it, you give them even more freedom. This is moving from delegation of tasks to empowering the person to make his or her own decisions.
But getting out of the way doesn’t mean abandoning them. Staff needs two things from you as their supervisor: room to run and prove themselves within certain boundaries, and the assurance that they are not alone but there is someone who they can bounce ideas off of or go to for assistance. It is critical that every staff person knows their supervisor is available anytime they need to bend their ear. The trick is to empower people without abdicating responsibility for supervising them.
Once you are convinced they are not able to do what is necessary you step in and either let them go or get them more training if you think they have the ability but not the knowledge. Knowing when to resource a person rather than fire them is critical. But once you are sure they can’t or won’t cut the mustard the quicker you let them go the better.
I always approached a failing staff person this way: “Tell me where I failed you, because it’s obvious you aren’t getting the job done. I hired you so I must have missed something along the way. Tell me what it is, and let’s see if we can fix this because if we can’t you’re going to have to find another place of service.” In approaching the conversation this way, I take the blame but I also put the person on notice that if they don’t shape up they will be fired. But I always ask, “What do you need from me to make this happen – training, resources, more money?” Every leader has the responsibility to provide whatever is needed for the staff person to succeed.
Growth of Staff Is Tied to the Growth of the Lead Pastor
If you want your staff to keep growing, you have to keep growing in your ability to lead a staff. Staff usually does not outgrow the lead pastor’s ability to grow. As goes your growth, so goes the growth of your staff. If they see you always trying to improve your leadership, the odds are more in favor of them doing the same. As you grow you will be more in tune with who is growing along with you and who is falling behind.
Every pastor needs to focus on his or her personal growth pattern. What grows you the most? Where is your passion fueled? For some it’s reading, for some it’s being with pastors in larger churches, and for others its simply seeing people discover what it means to be a Christian. Whatever causes you to be a better leader, do as much of it as you can without abandoning your responsibility to lead.
The biggest area for growth in most pastors is moving from depending on themselves to growing the church to realizing that the best way to grow the church is to learn how to value getting ministry done through others. The more you develop this value, the larger the church can become. You will also find that you will develop better staff around you, some of which may outgrow you. That is the ultimate in effective leadership.
Question: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received on managing staff effectively? Share your responses in the Comments section below.