Balancing Grace & Accountability – part 3

Dr. Glenn Miller, host of the Leadership and the Church podcast, and CEO of Miller Management, is joined by his colleague Dr. Ken Parker, of First Baptist Church of Kearney.

Today’s episode deals with practical issues of managing a church staff by setting clear expectations, providing annual evaluations, and promoting staff relationships.

In part one of this series we laid the Backdrop of Grace & Accountability, in part two we discussed how to Set Staff Up for Success, and this week we are looking at how to Manage and Assess Staff over the Long Haul.

Managing Staff over the Long Haul

Dr. Miller points out that Dr. Parker is used to working with staff over the long haul, as he can see employment years on their website. So our host wanted to know, “What are the benefits that come from having long-term staff?”

Our guest thinks there are several benefits. One being that staff can grow and develop together. They can also grow into their position and even beyond. Long term staff can also bounce back better. They know they can bounce back because in all likelihood they have failed in some capacity before and were able to learn from it. They have reaped the benefits of having a place to make a mistake and not do that thing again. Especially if they have experienced grace before.

Ditches of All Grace or All Accountability

Glenn states that the obvious ditches of ALL grace or ALL accountability is where one could land. It’s easy to see the fault in that, so is it important to balance grace with accountability? “There is no question you have to balance it. I fall into the category of whatever we do for the kingdom, whatever we do for the Lord, in the ultimate sense, that needs to be our absolute best effort.” – Dr. Ken Parker.

Even still, we are dealing with human beings – we are going to have a bad day or bad week. But Ken points out that these conversations should be pre-emptively done. During onboarding, their church has Office Protocols that addresses these issues. He encourages the staff member to bring up what is going on, in whatever capacity they can, rather than projecting on to others. Be clear up front. Let people in. “That typically evaporates the great tension that surrounds that,” notes our guest. And can be very helpful.

Another note with dealing with long term hires during a bad day from our guest: “One week is okay. Two weeks are okay. Fifty-two weeks is not okay.”

Ministry Covenant vs. Ministry Description

If you remember from our hiring episode, we touched on this topic already. This is the organization that Glenn referred to in that episode of utilizing the term Ministry Covenant rather than Ministry Description.

Ken says they chose that wording because it really exemplifies what it is. “We are trying to help them realize it is a fulfillment to a calling,” says Ken, versus just a job. Things brings in the accountability to the human, to the manager, and to God. The covenant deals with personal life outside of their job and the tasks that are required for the position.

Balance for the Long Haul

Our guest then wants to know, knowing all the things above, how do we help folks in the long haul? Knowing that things can change? For FBC Kearney, they have several staff members meet with a personnel committee. Not necessarily for performance review, but a check-in. Not a rating of your tasks, but to value them as people. Ask them how they are doing. Make sure that they are where they need to be, and show them you are an advocate for them, personally. Yes, the committee brings others into the process. That may seem like too many people getting involved, but the difference of opinion could be very beneficial.

Lastly, our host wants to know how our guest views his relationship to his staff. How do you treat your staff? Our guest responds that first and foremost, they are a brother or sister in Christ. Then, as as their Pastor. He is not only seen as a supervisor, but also as a Pastor. He wants them to be able to come to them as both a supervisor, but also as they would to their Pastor. He can separate that out, because he is called to be both. Granted, there is a complexity; but they have learned the delicate balance.

“Slight detour, should staff members be church members?” asks our host. Our guest responds that he “likes staff members to be church members, because of their vested interest.”

Leadership Lessons

In closing, when hiring, accessing, and balancing grace and accountability, here is the advice that Dr. Parker has for our listeners:

  1. Always be honest, even when people ask the hard questions. Whether that’s regarding the role for a person, or the nature of the church.
  2. Do what you can to see people as wholistic. Let them be able to grow in their position.
  3. If someone turns in a resignation letter, accept it. Even when it’s painful, or like the person. By the time the person has gotten to that point, they have already left mentally.

Up Next

Next week, Glenn Miller and Jennifer Ross will close out this month’s topic of Balancing Grace and Accountability by covering when it’s time to say goodbye to staff in ministry.

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Special thanks to our guest, Dr. Ken Parker, and our master of all things podcasting, Chris Miller, for this third episode in our Balancing Grace and Accountability episode.