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Does ‘living epistles’ describe your staff? (part 1)

By Paul Clark

“You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor. 3:3).

Leading a staff is demanding. It’s dynamic, relational, highly spiritual and biblical.  It’s often the dividing line between pastors who can thrive in a large-church setting, and those who struggle. Unfortunately, most churches are program-driven, even with their staff. They’re utilitarian, instead of relational.  It’s about what you do, not who you are and who you are becoming. Yet staff relationships are meant to mirror 2 Cor. 3:3, in that they reflect the care and nurture that the church leaders want the rest of the church to imitate themselves.  Just as genuine “koinonia” is envisioned within the Body of Christ, the same transformative fellowship should exist within the church staff.

This is what gives the staff credibility with the people. People will listen because they see genuineness and transparent care among the staff.  It builds trust, security, and sets the standard of care for the rest of the congregation. In the next few paragraphs, let me address some of the critical factors that help create a staff environment where “living epistles” can be written.

Cultural values: What are the cultural values that are important to your church organization? In other words, what are the values that are important to you as you live together and work together as a staff? Let me suggest a few that I believe are key to a healthy staff:

  1. Relational
  2. Transparent
  3. Honest
  4. Communicative
  5. Affirming
  6. Optimistic
  7. Fun

What are your core staff values? Are your values being infused into your staff culture in a purposeful way as you live and work together?

Personality types: An extrovert and an introvert are like two different animals: one loves being with people—it charges their batteries; the other needs solitude in order to be healthy.  I’m an introvert by nature. Over the years I’ve sometimes been treated like as oddity because I don’t like attention and I’m not drawn to people like a bumblebee to a flower. Understanding the God-given personalities of the people on your staff will help you to be sensitive and understanding as you work together. They’ll appreciate it more than you know. Personality can play into everyday situations in ways you might not be aware:

  1. Does your assistant need every fact in order to understand the situation or can he interpret facts, add correct meaning and be intuitive?
  2. Do people on your staff prefer a logical rationale for making a decision or are they motivated by the cause and the passion?
  3. Are your people quick to make decisions—they need closure, or are they always open to new ideas and new information?

These are the issues that make staff life complex, and understanding personalities can help smooth the terrain.  Consider using the Myers-Briggs diagnostic tool to help you discover the engine that drives each person on your team.

Generational differences: Do you have mostly baby boomers on your staff or a bunch of Gen X-ers?  Are there potential conflicts in the way the generations relate to the world around them?  You bet there are. Staff members of varying generations enjoy different rewards, schedules and environments. If you have a diverse workforce that includes a range of ages, then you already know that what motivates the boomer, doesn’t motivate the millennial. The rewards that are important to the millennial don’t make sense to the boomer. Social media, flexibility, hierarchy and power, and visionary leadership are just a few of the work issues that separate the generations. Team-oriented activities that create a sense of community and provide environments where cross-generational interaction can naturally occur are crucial.

In my next blog post for CE, I’ll address a few more challenges in the staffing arena such as coaching, motivation, the dreaded performance evaluation and dealing with problem employees.

Paul Clark is pastor of ministry environments/operations at Fairhaven Church, Centerville, OH. He has served in the areas of church administration and operations for 18 years. His passion is to translate great vision into organizational reality, sharing his thoughts and ideas at www.visionmeetsreality.org and @paultclark Twitter account.

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