This morning a very helpful article was put on the LifeWay blog about how pastors can be bad bosses. Identifying 10 behaviors or patterns that pastors without management skills display, Rainer points out one of the deficiencies of many in ministry leadership: shepherding people through spiritual crisis is much easier than leading and managing people. I've been on multi-staff churches and spent time around a number of other church ministry teams. Perhaps the most glaring thing that jumps out as to why those pastors were struggling as bosses was that they weren't operating as the staff CEO--the Chief Encouragement Officer.
By nature of the position, a pastor has the leverage, position, and opportunity to be the biggest cheerleader and supporter for the staff and volunteers. With that position comes a sacred trust between the volunteers/staff and the pastor. That's where this encouragement means the most. By embracing your role as the Chief Encouragement Officer, you're doing more than accomplishing a checklist on your vision statement or simply managing people, you're investing in them, you're building the Kingdom, and you're multiplying yourself as you lead others.
Chances are if you're on a multi-staff ministry team, you'll have people who will one day desire to serve as a lead pastor or in a different role. Rather than stifle that or make things uncomfortable, embrace the opportunity to develop a protege. Things as simple as going along for a shut-in visit provide ample time in the car, over lunch, and back in the office debriefing to invest. Or if you're in a church largely dependent on volunteers without the luxuries afforded by multiple staff, your role as an encourager is going to give them something to hold onto and draw on when they get beat up.
So how can you become a CEO as a pastor? Here's 6 ways:
1. Make an effort to spend time with them - You'll never be a very effective leader if your ministry is to or through a computer screen. It's time-consuming to make the effort to get together with people and encourage them, but it's worth it. A quick phone call or thoughtful text message go a long way too.
2. Talk about more than the church calendar - It can be very easy to slip into the routine of always talking with co-workers and volunteers about what's going on to be done. But make sure you're talking about your families, your dreams, your goals, and what's going on "outside the office."
3. Publicly champion your staff - This goes without saying, but the one with the microphone is the one people listen to. And on Sunday mornings, as the pastor, you have the mic. And this is your chance to brag on the volunteers renovating the foyer, the worship leader introducing great music, or the kitchen crew for knocking it out on the church-wide fellowship. Whatever it might be, people need to know what's going on, and those who work hard with you need to know their work is important.
*Side note - None of this means anything if you're not making the private, personal encouragement as well. I've seen this in churches where in public everything was portrayed as Pollyanna, but in private it was dysfunctional and toxic. Then this becomes disingenuous and counterproductive.
4. Embrace constructive feedback - Constructive feedback is where something is built as a result, destructive feedback goes by a few other names: chew-out, correction, complaining, etc. Chances are if you've got to have a feedback conversation, they already know what went wrong. It's like a parent who chides a child for spilling milk. The milk takes 5 minutes to clean up, but if handled wrong will take much longer to rebuild a child's soul. Same thing applies in ministry. Give solutions, engage in free dialogue, listen attentively, and work on problem-solving.
5. Find out their favorites - What does your secretary like from Starbucks? What's your staff's favorite candy bars? The volunteers who show up each week to set up and tear down probably like donuts. All of these little (and usually inexpensive) ways of showing appreciation go much further than you know.
6. Pray with them - Most of these are really pragmatic, but this last one is because of the uniquely spiritual nature of our leadership. If you're serving in ministry as a staff or volunteer, it can be tough. You'll get discouraged. Someone will complain. You'll feel like a dud. Pastors serve as the encouragement catalyst for the staff and volunteers. When talking with them, ask how you can pray, and then do it. I sat down with a guy a couple weeks ago who was dealing with a ton of junk, and took a couple minutes to pray for/with him. It made a difference.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.