We often use the expression, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” And it does. Teamwork in ministry is essential—especially between the pastor and his staff.
Most pastors and churches that are a little larger have the privilege of having staff who help in the ministry and serve alongside them.
Ministry is work. Paul referred in Ephesians 4:12 to “the work of the ministry.” There’s nothing wrong with a pastor expecting a staff member to do his job or adhere to ministry policies. (Actually, there is something wrong with him not expecting it.)
But if a ministry environment is focused only on job descriptions or ministry policies, there can be a lack of joy and a misunderstanding of mission amongst the team.
How can a pastor—while maintaining expectations regarding getting work accomplished—cultivate joy, growth, and a passion for excellence among the church staff? Below are eight suggestions—some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years:
1. Praise your staff.
Pastor, you know the encouragement it is to you when your wife praises you or when a church member thanks you. Be that encourager to your staff. Thank them for investing themselves in the work of the ministry.
Praise them publically by thanking them in a staff meeting or recognizing their help publically in church. Praise them privately with a note or even a simple personal word of thanks.
2. Pay your staff.
Do your best to pay a competitive rate for labor. If you’re not able to do as much as you’d like, look for creative ways to give encouragement and communicate thanks. Probably the most significant way to creatively give encouragement is to provide some comp time for them after a big event.
3. Love the families of your staff.
Pray for your staff. Pray for their children by name. Show interest in their accomplishments.
One of the highlights of the year for our staff is our annual “staff Christmas day.” All of our staff and their families gather for a time of testimony and prayer, and then we head down to Knott’s Berry Farm for a fun day with our families. This day is my Christmas gift to our staff, and it’s a way I can thank them and love their families.
4. Be sensitive to the seasons of trial of your staff.
In recent years, several of our staff members have been diagnosed with cancer and have undergone chemotherapy. Others have lost children or other close family members. During these times, I do my best to be sensitive to the special needs they and their families are experiencing.
This may include some sick or comp time beyond written policies. It may mean providing quality family time at a hideaway in the mountains or Disneyland…or something as simple as delivering meals to their home.
5. Give your staff an example.
The pastor’s faithfulness can be an encouragement to the staff. Strive to lead your staff by example in terms of faithfulness to God, to your family, and in your personal work ethic.
6. Create memories with your staff.
I like to occasionally mix things up just for the sake of making memories. Every now and then, bring in snacks for staff meeting, or give a gift of a coffee gift card. Perhaps change up the format of a staff meeting and ask for testimonies. On smaller staffs, you can be even more creative with memory-making ideas.
7. Support your staff in their work.
Encourage their creativity, and listen to their perspective. If their vision supports the ministry purpose, support their ideas and plans. Encourage their creativity as they think of musical concerts, fall festivals, school fundraiser ideas, etc.
8. Provide ongoing training for your staff.
Every staff member I’ve ever known appreciates an environment where they are being sharpened, trained, and equipped for the work of the ministry.
Don’t just give them a job description and a desk and say, “I’ll see you if there’s a problem.” Provide training in ministry philosophy and practical teaching on how to serve with excellence.
Over the years, the Lord has assembled a dedicated team of co-laborers to serve with me at Lancaster Baptist Church and West Coast Baptist College. I’m thankful for them and for their willingness to invest years of their lives into the ministry here. I know that they serve as unto the Lord and that the Lord Himself rewards their labor for Him. But I, too, am grateful for their investment. And I want to do anything I can to encourage them.
Serving the Lord in the work of the ministry is a joy and a privilege. By looking for ways (such as these mentioned) to encourage the staff, a pastor can help to cultivate that sense of joy, a momentum for continuing personal growth, and a passion for doing all as unto the Lord.