By Bill Easum
Being the pastor of a church requires many things not taught in seminary. One of those things not taught is the managerial aspects of leadership. Whereas leaders look outward to the future, managers look inward to the moment.
In a small church the pastor has to be both manager and leader if the church is going to grow. The problem is these are two different skills that require different talents. Some pastors are able to do both and that is one of the reasons their churches grow. But most pastors find it hard to implement the managerial side of leadership. Many can give some level of leadership but few take the time to do the managerial responsibilities. That’s why as a church grows the tendency today is for the pastor to hand-off the managerial aspects of leadership to someone else- often an Executive Pastor and/or Business Manager.
So since I have written a lot on leadership I want to use this article to share five of the major managerial tasks of leadership a church needs in order to grow.
Selecting the Right Staff
Before a church grows to 125 in worship the pastor usually has to function with a lot of unpaid staff. But pastors who want their church to grow know the same standards apply to unpaid staff as paid staff except the number of hours they can spend at the ministry. So those pastors carefully select those unpaid leaders and hold unpaid staff accountable. As a church grows beyond 125 the selection of paid staff begins to become important. As the church passes 300-500 staffing becomes the number one issue with which a lead pastor has to contend. It is not unusual at this size church for the effective lead pastor to spend more time with the paid staff than with the lay leaders.
Many pastors are comfortable with a committee selecting their staff which is one of the main reasons most staffs never function like a team. Imagine any major league coach allowing someone else to choose the member of his team- it never happens. In some traditions the polity dictates a representative committee does the hiring and firing of the staff. Large effective churches in those traditions find ways around the polity so that either the pastor or executive pastor or business manager does the actual hiring. Taking over the responsibility for hiring and firing staff was one of the first things I had to take away from a committee when growing my United Methodist Church to one of the largest in South Texas.
Many pastors are uncomfortable with firing staff. They will allow poor staff to remain on board long past their time because they can’t fire them and the personnel committee won’t either because they love them too much. So the church languishes. And guess what? The effective staff sees the ineffective staff remaining and getting paid even though they aren’t producing which causes the effective staff person to look for another church since effective people like being around a leader as well as other effective people.
So, one of the primary responsibilities of a lead pastor is either to hire and fire or put someone in that key position that has the same understanding of mission and enjoys working with the good, bad, and ugly of personnel. Unfortunately most pastors just want to pastor. They are too nice to execute the managerial aspects of leadership and as a result their church doesn’t grow.
Now, keep this in mind- hire for talent and passion more than skill. Skills can be taught, talent and passion can’t. What’s the difference? Talent is why a person is driven to push harder than others and how that person comes to his or her decisions. Talent is the “Who” of a person. Skills are the “What” of a person. When you are around a talented person you just know that probably anything that person did would be done well or the person wouldn’t do it.
Set Clear Expectations and Hold Staff Accountable
I can’t tell you how many churches I’ve consulted with where the staff doesn’t have a clue what the lead pastor expects from them. And when they think they know what is expected it is usually the wrong set of expectations. Let me explain. Effective expectations aren’t what the person is supposed to do or be responsible for. Effective expectations define the outcomes the lead pastor wants to see happen. Expectations should be tied to results not programs or tactics. The best leaders don’t care how something is achieved; they only care that it is achieved.
Not long ago I encountered an example that simply floored me. I was asked by a lead pastor to coach his fulltime youth director. When I asked a youth director what was expected of him he said, “I’m responsible for having the best youth ministry in town.” Upon which I asked him, “How do you know if you’ve achieved that goal? What are the expected outcomes?” He replied, “I’m supposed to have youth worship once a week and take the youth on retreat once a year.” To which I replied, “But what outcomes are expected of these two ministries?” He then showed me the how-to steps given him by the lead pastor for each ministry. To which I replied, “How to do something isn’t an expectation. What does your lead pastor expect to happen as a result of worship and the retreat?” He had no answer. All he had been told was how to make them happen.
Folks, that’s not a legitimate set of expectations. Do a program or holding worship is not an outcome. They are tactics. So what if there is worship once a week and only one person shows up? What if the retreat happens with only a handful of youth? No effective lead pastor is going to be happy if that’s all a fulltime youth director accomplishes.
Outcomes must be measurable. Some examples of outcome might be: “Within 24 months the numbers of youth in youth worship must increase 100% and the number of youth who go on the retreat must increase 50%.” You might even add some other outcomes like “Shot toward 25 youth conversions during this period. Expectations such as these are clear and measurable and staff can be held accountable.
Motivate the Staff by Focusing on their Strengths
Ever wonder what happens in the locker room during half time when a football team is being soundly beaten only to emerge in the second half and cream the other team? You can bet the coach gave them a motivating speech. And the coach didn’t harp on the teams weaknesses but on the strengths he knows they have.
I’ll never forget the first five years at the church I pastored for 24 years. Those first few years I was saddled with a personnel committee that did its best to the staff to work on their weaknesses. I remember one man saying to me “You can get anyone to do anything if you punch the right button.” That man was an idiot and by the way he worked for the government basically doing paper work. I still remember the day I told the committee either they let me hire and fire the staff or I was leaving. Everything changed after that announcement. From then on I had my staff focus on their strengths and actually encouraged them to stretch so far they would fail from time to time. But then, failure is the prelude to the greatest of the learning periods in one’s life.
Effective lead pastors know the best motivation is to focus staff on their strengths. People don’t really change much over the years. The strengths they bring to the staff table in the beginning are most likely to be the strengths they will leave with. If you have the right staff, then motivate them to lead with their strengths and overlook their weaknesses (unless they are moral). And if their weaknesses are too strong to overlook, replace them.
Develop the Staff by Helping them Find the Right Fit
Getting the right people on the bus is just half of the task of staffing. Getting the right people on the bus in the right seat is the whole story. People are most effective when they are gifted at what they are being asked to do. Once a fit is found, never promote that person to a higher responsibility. Instead, if they are valuable where they are simply pay them more and let them do what they enjoy doing. A person who enjoys what they do in ministry and does it well is the church’s most valuable asset.
Spend the Most Time with the Best Staff
I’m constantly amazed at the “savior” factor in many pastors. A staff person can be give all the resources and training available and still perform terribly and instead of letting that person go the pastor spends extra time with the person as if trying to save that person from getting fired. That is always a waste of time that ends badly. Remember people don’t change that much. If a staff person hasn’t gotten the hang of the responsibility with three or four months the odds are they never will. So don’t waste time with staff who are always behind or unhappy or ineffective. Let them go.
Effectively staffing and developing a staff is tough but rewarding work, both for the lead pastor, as well as for the staff. If you will follow these five simple guidelines it will help you in your quest to have one of the finest staffs possible.