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Combine the vision of Moses and the management savvy of Aaron

Gil Rendle and Susan Beaumont in When Moses Meets Aaron: Staffing and Supervision in Large Congregations (Alban Institute, 2007) have written about employment relationships, performance management, and supervisory relationships.

Rendle was a senior consultant with Alban Institute, a United Methodist clergyman for 15 years, and is now a consultant. Beaumont, with whom Church Executive posed these questions, is a senior consultant with Alban Institute and is ordained within the American

Baptist Churches USA.

Is there a difficulty in aligning the personalities and skills of staff to achieve desired goals?

Different personalities on the staff team are a valuable resource and a potential liability. Diversity of temperaments promotes creativity, and the diverse team is better able to anticipate and meet the complex needs of a large congregation.
However, care must be taken to appreciate and nurture the divergent preferences of the team to avoid conflict and chaos.

Are most church staffs goal oriented?

People drawn to work in a large church environment are typically very achievement oriented, and they are attracted to the large congregation’s capacity for excellence. The more relevant question is whether or not the goal orientation of staff members is coordinated and aligned. Many large congregations are served by goal driven staff members with poorly aligned agendas. Each member of the team heads off in his or her own direction to accomplish individually determined goals. The effective staff team demonstrates an aligned goal orientation.

What determines getting things done in churches?

Intentionality and focus. When congregations are intentional about what outcomes they are seeking, and when they align leadership focus, they can accomplish amazing things.

Have you seen the model where a paid staff member reports to a high capacity volunteer?

Yes. In my opinion, both volunteers and paid employees can be viable members of a staff team. Volunteers can function effectively on a staff team (even in a supervisory capacity) so long as there is clarity about the essential functions, core competencies and performance goals of the position. Volunteer leaders don’t work out well on staff when we fail to require accountability because the person is “just a volunteer.” Receiving compensation, in the form of a paycheck, is not necessary to create appropriate balance between authority, responsibility and accountability.

Do 360-degree evaluations really work well?

When 360 degree evaluations are done well they can be extremely effective tools for providing employees with system-wide feedback. The challenge lies in creating a process that invites appropriate people into the feedback process, applies criteria relevant to the position, and filters the feedback to insure the anonymity of participants.

Where do churches go wrong in staff design?

The most consistent error in staff design is the underutilization of administrative support staff. Congregation leaders have a natural bias toward adding program staff members. They believe they are “wasting” resources when they dedicate budget dollars to administrative support positions. As a result, congregations end up with exhausted program staff members who are spending way too much time on administrative detail. When appropriate levels of administrative support exist, both program and administrative staff can do the work that they are most gifted doing.

How are large churches different than smaller churches in staffing, other than the numbers?

As congregations grow progressively larger the make-up of the team is more heavily skewed toward administrative support and program support, with a smaller proportion of clergy staff. Earlier in the growth cycle congregations add clergy members to accommodate increasing preaching, liturgical and sacramental demands. As the congregation grows larger, the base need for clergy stabilizes, but the need for specialists in program areas and the need for administrative support continue to grow.

What does the story of Moses and Aaron tell our modern-day church about managing?

Moses and Aaron were a remarkable management/leadership duo. Moses led the nascent nation with visionary zeal and a focus on the larger issues of identity and direction. Aaron translated the vision of Moses into daily management decisions, helping people negotiate movement from point A to point B. The pastor leading a multiple staff team must combine the visionary focus of Moses with the daily management savvy of Aaron.

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