In the February 14, 2005 issue of Alban Weekly we asked senior pastors to answer a survey identifying the one thing they feel their staff does well and the one thing they would change about their staff team. It probably comes as no great surprise that communication emerged as a top response in each category.
According to this survey, what would some senior pastors like to change in regard to their staff’s communication?
- To have honest communication about what is really going on.
- To develop a climate where we can give each other helpful feedback on our work instead of just hoping or wondering if others feel OK about it.
- To be able to speak honestly to one another in the spirit of encouragement, wanting each to have fruitful ministry within and beyond the congregation.
- To continue to look for ways of improving communication throughout the entire staff.
- To meet together on a regular basis, which is difficult because the other staff members are part time.
The senior pastors who indicated that their staff communicates well offered these descriptions:
- We communicate with each other on an as-needed basis. Whenever I am in the office, I am available to staff. This augments meetings and brings up topics that just don’t find their way into staff meetings.
- We have established good lines of communication. We can all express frustration in relatively productive ways and seek solutions that work for us all.
- There is an atmosphere of trust that enables open communication. This was established by all staff pursuing theological education, though not in a seminary setting.
- We have open, regular, usually informal communications so there are not surprises and each has a sense of what the others are about.
- The staff is learning how to ask one another for suggestions and help before the very last minute. We state what we need without apology.
- We maintain open communication via notes, e-mail, telephone, and personal contact.
- We listen well to one another.
Regardless of the category in which you would place your congregation, here are a few ideas for developing or maintaining good communication within a staff:
- Meet as a team on a regular basis. The regularity with which you meet will vary according to staff size and availability. If your team includes part-time and volunteer members, you may need to meet at nontraditional times, such as in the evening or on a Saturday. Design your meetings in such a way to elicit participation from everyone and to honor each person’s input.
- Maximize opportunities for communication outside of meetings. Informal conversations often result in deepening levels of communication. When used appropriately, the telephone, e-mails, and notes can keep staff members informed in helpful ways.
- Ask team members directly for feedback, and take the risk of offering constructive feedback to others. Exchange feedback in ways that build trust and enhance cooperation among team members.
How to Thrive in Associate Staff Ministry by Kevin E. Lawson
A dead-end job? A sure route to burn-out? Congregational staff ministry is neither according to Kevin Lawson. Rather, he presents ample evidence that associate staff ministry is a calling with its own identity, integrity, and exciting possibilities. Based on his groundbreaking study of 500-plus associate staff members in 16 denominations, Lawson demonstrates here the communication and self-care skills that people in these often highly specialized positions can utilize to grow beyond mere survival into dynamic ministry. Click here to read a chapter.
When Better Isn’t Enough: Evaluation Tools for the 21st Century by Jill M. Hudson
Many sociologists and a growing number of church scholars have noted that we live in a time of transition–from the modern era to the postmodern. Whenever a shift of this magnitude occurs, it leaves all of life, including the church, in flux. We instinctively strive to stabilize the situation by re- establishing what has worked in the past. Increasingly, however, congregations are finding that the same old things done harder or better don’t seem to make a difference. Author Jill Hudson argues, “We must identify new criteria for success, and perhaps even for faithfulness, and hold ourselves accountable to them.” Click here to read a chapter.
Designing Worship Together: Models and Strategies for Worship Planning by Norma de Waal Malefyt and Howard Vanderwell
Many sociologists and a growing number of church scholars have noted that we live in a time of transition–from the modern era to the postmodern. Whenever a shift of this magnitude occurs, it leaves all of life, including the church, in flux. We instinctively strive to stabilize the situation by re-establishing what has worked in the past. This book draws on more than two decades of collaborative worship planning by pastor Howard Vanderwell and musician Norma deWaal Malefyt of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, offering thoughtful, field-tested processes and tools for planning, implementing, and evaluating life-enriching weekly worship. Click here to read a chapter.