Caring for Ministry Staff as the Leader

Dr. Glenn Miller, host of the Leadership and the Church podcast, and CEO of Miller Management is joined by his colleague Dr. Jeren Rowell, President at the Nazarene Theological Seminary.

The first week in our Ministry Leader and Staff Care series, we talked about Pastor burnout and how to see the signs that it may be coming. Last week was focused on how as a congregation can take better care of our ministry leaders. Today we are going to focus on how ministry leaders can care for their staff.

Senior Leaders are not all great ministry leaders.

– Glenn Miller

Caring for Your Staff

The thread our guests notes over and over again is the thread of clear communication. When care fails within a community, it can often be traced back to poor communication. “Information is inspiration. When people don’t know where the organization is headed, they begin to feel disempowered,” notes Dr. Rowell.

How do we get the courage to have that crucial conversation?

First, there needs to be a trusting relationship. So often, these conversations are attempted in an atmosphere of power dynamics. If these conversations are done inside of trusting relationships, you have a better chance of closing the communication cycle. Our guest laments that, “Sometimes we think we’ve communicated clearly, but the message that was received was not what I was intended to say.”

Before ending the meeting, try saying something like “Let’s make sure we understand each other, can you repeat back to me what I said?” The message of being clear and kind are good places to start. (Similar to a past episode.)

When you must have a conversation that you are reluctant to have, what encouragement would you give?

Our guests first piece of advice is know how you approach conflict, in general. Second, we need to properly understand what conflict is trying to do. It’s easy to think that something is amiss and try to make it comfortable. But conflict in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. How we react to it, might be. Conflict just shows us where we have an opportunity for growth.

The third step is to name the emotions and negative feelings, right off the bat in the conversation. Note that this could be uncomfortable. Name those emotions so you can clear the decks. Then work together to find solutions.

Where do we make mistakes in caring for our staff well?

One center point our guest sees is: a failure to clearly communication expectations upfront. Across the organization – to ministry staff and congregation. “Let’s name it together. Let’s write it down. Then when there is a problem, we can go back to those written words and evaluate where we are,” notes Jeren.

Another area where we make mistakes in putting expectations onto the new hire, based upon the last hire. Sometimes there are preconceived expectation that aren’t really a part of the job. (Like the Pastor’s wife really doesn’t have to play the piano if the last Pastor’s wife happened to like doing that.)

Dr. Rowell instead encourages us to focus on what brought us together. What are we trying to accomplish? And how we are trying to move forward with those things in mind.

When it comes to managing your staff, any final words?

“I’m a Pastor, so I have three points; and they all start with P.” – Dr. Jeren Rowell.

Three things: Pray. Play. Plan.

First, Prayer. And not just perfunctorily, develop relational life together; pray in the presence of one another. Second, Play is an overlooked and underappreciated aspect of staff leadership. Find relaxing opportunities that allow you to get to know one another. (i.e. Staff Family Night: a time to just be and enjoy.) Third, Plan to care for your team well. People thrive when they know who you are and what we are trying to do.

Our guest notes that these ideas might b pretty simple, but when done correctly, are very effective. Our host makes the comment that “Ministry is work. Go bowling every once in a while.”

What can congregations do? How can you help your ministry leader take better care of your staff?

One of the most important things our guests notes is to not get into the trap of triangulated conversations. This happens when people take their conversation to the wrong person, instead of the person that there is an issue with.

“If you’re not going to follow the Bible, I’m not sure I can help you.”

Second aspect that may been obvious but is sometimes overlooked is to provide adequate resourcing for the staff. When you hire new staff, they may need new tools. You may need to look beyond the staff personnel, and ask what do they need in their hands to do their job?

Lastly, Dr. Rowell encourages the listeners to lead by example. Create an atmosphere of encouragement and support. Not undermining culture, gospel, etc. Utilize Trust and appreciation. “Trust is the X Factor. But need the atmosphere of appreciation. Accountability and transparency are how those are built.”

Next Time

Join us next week for part four in our Ministry and Staff Care series, where Ken Parker talks about how as leaders we can take better care of ourselves.

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Special thanks to our guest, Dr. Jeren Rowell, and our master of all things podcasting, Chris Miller, for this third episode in Ministry Leaders and Staff Care series.