Your church staff needs to be made up of more than warm bodies.
As a church leader, if you hire someone to do a job, then you need to not only hold that person accountable, but you should aim to serve that person to become the best he or she can be.
But how do you know if someone is doing a great job?
Is it their promptness?
Do they have a jovial personality?
Is there a way you can know if their work is furthering the mission of your church?
In short, yes, you can know how well someone is performing and if his or her work is supporting your church’s mission and vision. Before digging into how this is possible. Let’s take a moment to talk about why you must conduct staff evaluations.
3 reasons you should conduct staff evaluations
There’s way more to conducting church staff evaluations than adding another to-do on your checklist.
Providing evaluations is one big way you can create a healthy church culture (LINK).
Before we dig into the details, let’s take a look at 3 reasons why you must conduct staff evaluations.
#1 – Feedback is a part of servant leadership
Are you in a position of leadership?
Do people report to you (staff) or do people look to you for direction (volunteers)?
If you answered yes to either one of these questions, then you are called (by God) to serve those you lead. This is exactly what Jesus was getting at when he said:
“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves” (Luke 22:25–26).
This doesn’t mean that you’re always washing someone’s feet or letting your staff or volunteers get by with whatever they choose. Far from it.
As a servant leader, your goal is to help your staff members live and love like Jesus and to do everything for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31), which means your church staff will need feedback.
I know this sounds like a tall order.
But hear me out:
God calls you to serve your staff.
Your church staff needs you.
They are in a position to receive the vision God is giving your church.
They desire to do the best they possibly can.
They need you to lead them to fulfill God’s call upon their life.
Heed God’s call in your position by providing your staff with helpful feedback.
#2 – The science of practicality is on your side
Not only are you called by God to serve your staff.
According to research, providing your staff with clear expectations and opportunities to learn and grow are essential to leading your team well.
We will dig into this a bit more below. But when you hire someone, be sure to provide him or her with a clear job description and well-defined expectations.
When your staff knows what’s expected and they have the tools and training they need to get the job done, then they are much more likely to perform well in their position.
Know what else?
When you provide a clear job description, you’ll make your job a whole lot easier when it comes to evaluations.
Think about it.
If your staff members don’t clearly know what they need to do, and you start evaluations, then they’re going to be really nervous because they won’t know if they’re hitting their performance goals or not.
More on this in a bit.
#3 – Feedback builds leaders
Feedback is essential for any type of work.
It’s the one thing that can help anyone improve in anything.
This is true for most things, including:
And more …
Regardless of the work your church staff is performing, feedback is critical to helping them know if they’re doing well or if there’s room for improvement.
By not providing any feedback, you’re leaving your staff guessing and stressing. They won’t know if they’re on the right track, performing well in their work, or what in the world you think about them, which can cause a tremendous amount of anxiety.
Don’t let your team walk around blindly in the dark.
Instead, provide them with the feedback they need to progress in their work.
Below, we’re going to dig into church staff evaluations. But at this point, it’s important to highlight the importance of providing ongoing feedback.
As a church leader, you can serve your staff well by setting them up for success and providing consistent support.
Here are two big ways you can accomplish this goal:
Integrate staff goals into the church’s goals
Conduct one-on-one meetings
The first thing you want to do is integrate church staff goals into your church’s goals. The easiest way to do this is to ensure that the work of the person who’s on your team is woven into the very fabric of your church’s vision and mission.
For example, the work of your staff needs to be tied directly into the work of the church. Sure, there will be miscellaneous tasks and projects that don’t necessarily “move the ball down the field” for your church’s mission. But, overall, the work your staff does should directly support the work of your church’s mission.
What is more, you need to be prepared to conductone-on-onemeetings.
Depending on your church’s context, these meetings can take place weekly or bi-monthly. During these meetings, the goal is to connect on a personal level with each staff member, see how his or her work is progressing, and to ask how you can help him or her accomplish his or her goals.
Now, I understand it’s difficult to have these types of meetings during busy seasons (e.g., Christmas and Easter). However, the influence these meetings will have on the life of your staff is well worth the time investment from your schedule.
A short guide to conducting staff evaluations
Convinced you need to evaluate your staff?
Here are 5 steps you should take.
#1 – Create clear job descriptions
You know what’s impossible to do?
Provide an honest, objective, or helpful evaluation without a clear job description.
Without clear metrics to measure, it can be a Herculean task to provide a helpful evaluation.
Think about it.
Without a specific task, responsibilities, or goals established, what are you going to evaluate? Whether or not they were on time every day? How many days they took off? Whether or not they looked busy?
When you’ve clarified your staffs’ roles and responsibilities, you’ll be in a much better position to know how well they are (or are not) performing.
Know what else?
Clear job descriptions are also uber helpful for your staff too.
As I mentioned above, job descriptions provide clear marching orders for your church staff. It gives them clarity in their work, helping them to determine what they need to do daily and how best to prioritize their work.
#2 – Clarify your values
Have you nailed down your church’s values?
Are you clear on your church’s mission and vision?
If so, then you must evaluate your staff based on these core pieces of your church.
If you haven’t clarified this part of the life of your church, then check out these resources before moving forward:
After you’ve clarified your church’s values, you’ll need to be prepared to evaluate your staff based on these values. As you live out these values and hold your staff accountable to do the same, you will move your church staff and entire church family toward living out these values. In a big way, as you and your team exemplify these values, you’ll influence the rest of your church to do the same.
Let me show you how this works.
Let’s say one of your values is to “live and love like Jesus.”
To see how your staff lives out this value among your team and with your entire church, you could ask these two questions:
“What is one way you’ve expressed your love for Christ in the way you serve your colleagues?”
“How have you lived and loved like Jesus among our church family? What’s one example that comes to mind?”
When you ask questions pertaining to your values, it’s also a good idea to be prepared to provide your own observations. In sharing these observations, tell your staff ways you’ve seen them living out your church’s values and perhaps ways you can see them better reflect your church’s values.
By helping your staff live out your church’s values, you will—in time—create a healthy church culture, which is the foundation to fulfilling God’s call upon your church.
#3 – Set specific goals
For your staff, you must provide goals.
There are two types of goals you want to help them set:
Personal growth goals
Let’s take a look at job goals first.
When you provide annual and quarterly objectives,, you create tremendous clarity for your staff by helping them to prioritize their work around the goals you agree upon.
Now, the ministry goals you set shouldn't be excessive. For instance, you don’t want to set a dozen goals for your staff to accomplish at once. Instead, you want to provide focus for your team by limiting the number of big goals they need to accomplish within specific periods of time.
When it comes to staff evaluations, provide your team with 1–3 goals they should aim to accomplish before their next evaluation. The goals you set together will serve as the guiding force for your staff members—to help them determine their priorities.
When it comes time to talk about goals, here are some questions you can ask:
Are you happy with the progress you made toward your goals?
Do you have everything you need to accomplish your goals?
Are there any hurdles within the church (e.g., culture, staff, or resources) that inhibit you from accomplishing your goals?
What can I do to help you accomplish your goals in the next quarter?
As you end your evaluation, it’s essential to discuss and agree on goals with your staff. This way, as you check in with them, you can get regular updates, see how they’re progressing, and ask how you can help them accomplish their goals.
These personal goals should be aimed toward professional development. These goals will need to either help your staff members improve in their current position or help them train to take on new roles or responsibilities. For example, when helping someone on your staff to improve in a specific area, agree upon resources he or she should digest.
Practically speaking, here’s what you need to do:
Identify 1–3 personal growth goals
Pick educational resources
Identify a mentor or coach
For these goals, the level of accountability you offer is different from job goals. The point of these goals is to help your team members improve—not to discourage them from growing at any level
It’s easy to get excited about conducting church staff evaluations.
You want to help your team improve.
You’re working toward creating a healthy church culture.
You want to make strides toward reaching your community for Christ.
In your excitement, it’s easy to double-check your job descriptions, conduct one evaluation, and forget to have another one—again.
Well, that’s not too helpful. 🙂
When it comes to church staff evaluations, it’s best to do the following:
Set an annual evaluation
Schedule a semi-annual evaluation
Host regular check-in meetings
At a minimum, you want to conduct an annual and semi-annual evaluation.
Only providing one annual evaluation is too infrequent. It’s way too easy for anyone to get derailed from their goals and get stuck in the proverbial rut. Semi-annual goals tend to work best for most church calendars. This is just enough time to set a six-month goal, have regular check-ins, and reconnect for an official review halfway through the year.
#5 – Get peer feedback
Your church staff members are not robots.
Their work influences more than whatever they’re working on.
Like you, your staff is a member of the body of Christ—a team member, manager, or employee. In other words, their life and work directly influences the people all around them.
During your church staff evaluations, it’s also important to consider inviting peer reviews. These reviews can be anonymous, and they’ll provide a more robust evaluation of the staff member you’re evaluating.
Peer feedback is especially important for larger staffs or if you have a decentralized leadership team. If you lack regular contact with your team, it’ll be difficult for you to get an accurate assessment on whomever you’re evaluating.
Evaluating your staff
Evaluating your staff can feel daunting—especially if you’re just getting started.
If you feel overwhelmed, start with placing evaluations on your calendar. Once you make a commitment to evaluate your staff, you’ll be in a much better position to prepare yourself and your team.
Since this is the case, there’s a ton of helpful advice out there on how to find your next pastor.
In this post, I created a short guide based on the best available advice to help you put together a pastoral search. Before getting into the nitty-gritty, let me save you some heartache and lay out the four common mistakes to avoid when searching for a new pastor.
4 common pastoral search mistakes
You’re going to make plenty of small mistakes along the way, and that’s okay. But you want to avoid stepping on one of these landmines during your pastoral search. One of them could blow up your entire process. So, tread lightly. 🙂
#1 – Avoid advice
Let me state the obvious:
Finding a new pastor is challenging.
Know what else?
This task isn’t something your church does every day.
In this post, I’m going to share practical advice handed down over years of pastoral search committee experiences. Following these tips will place you on the right track. But there’s one colossal limit this blog post possesses:
It will not turn you into an expert.
Becoming an expert in anything takes time, dedicated practice, and experience.
Does this mean you shouldn’t move forward in your pastoral search?
Far from it.
Here’s what this means:
In your search for a new pastor, don’t overlook your potential lack of experience with hiring people. Instead, be humble. Acknowledge the possibility that you, your church staff, or your church members may not have the skills you need to promptly find the right pastor for your church.
This process isn’t a simple task you can mark off of a church project-management to-do list. The life of your church marches on without a senior pastor, and in his or her absence, you may lose church members, experience a decline in giving, or lose forward momentum. When (not if) this happens, your search for a new pastor will feel more urgent, which can lead your search committee to make a rash decision.
As you prepare to search for a new pastor, consider soliciting advice from outside sources, such as your:
When it comes to pastoral searches, many churches have erred in two ways:
1. Moving too fast
2. Moving too slow
First of all, there’s no need to move too fast.
Don’t offer the position to the first person you interview. Give yourself and your search committee time to interview several candidates. There’s no need to rush the process.
The other error you want to avoid is moving too slow.
It’s easy to make the position public, receive interest, and then never return an email or phone call. Moving too slow will cost your church the interest of great candidates, and an unnecessarily lengthy search process will negatively influence your church members.
#3 – Lack of communication
Searching for a new pastor is a public (church) thing—not a private matter.
Even though your church may have a board, bishop, or search committee who’ll make the final decision in hiring a senior pastor, you shouldn’t leave your church members in the dark.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to forget to keep your church up-to-date.
How’s the process going?
Has your search committee narrowed down their list?
Will you invite a candidate to interview soon?
These are just some of the questions your church members are thinking. Instead of tempting them to gossip, it’s best to continually share updates while being open and honest..
Know who else needs to know what’s going on?
People who’ve applied for the position.
As you work through the pool of applicants, be quick to let those who didn’t make your short list know, and provide them with encouraging words to keep pursuing their vocational call to ministry.
Have you identified candidates you’d like to learn more about?
It’s best to let them know as well.
As I shared above, you don’t want to keep your candidates sitting in the dark for too long.
#4 – Unrealistic expectations
Executive skill set.
These are just some of the characteristics you may be looking for in your next pastor, and it makes sense. It’s nice to have someone who can “do it all.”
But here’s the deal:
From vocational ministry to the business world, you’ll never find someone who is or can do everything. So, be careful that you don’t place unrealistic expectations on the pastor you’re searching for that Jesus himself can't fulfill.
In your pastoral search, your search committee will have to define exactly what you’re looking for in a candidate. During this process, be sure to clarify your church’s priorities versus qualities that are nice to have.
A 7-step playbook for finding your next pastor
Now it’s time to get work.
After pouring over a ton of different resources from denominations, networks, and independent churches, I put together this 7-step playbook for finding your next pastor.
Here is the table of contents:
1. Pray, pray, and pray
2. Build a search committee
3. Find an interim pastor
4. Know the vision of your church
5. Know who you’re looking for
6. Review your applications
7. Interview your candidates (thoroughly)
It's time to get started.
#1 – Pray, pray, and pray
At ChurchFuel, we’re practical people—it’s what we do.
We have a biasness for action, and a tendency to act first.
We’re not alone.
As a church leader, you’re beyond busy.
Your schedule (LINK) can be unruly.
You have more work to do than hours to do it.
Now, in the search for a new pastor, you have a huge task to accomplish. At this point, it’s easy just to put your head down, make a plan, and start knocking out the work you need to do like whack-a-mole.
Take a breath and prepare to pray—a lot.
Calling a new pastor to serve your church isn’t a simple task. Sure, you can hire anyone you like. But you want to do more than find a hired hand. You want to discover the next pastor God is calling to lead your church, and this is a spiritual matter that can only be accomplished through prayer.
As you prepare to search for a new pastor, here are three things you’ll need to pray for:
2. Search committee
3. Future candidates
As for wisdom, you need to submit your work to the Lord. Place yourself and your church in his hands, and ask for him to lead the way. A prayer for wisdom isn’t a one-time event. Seeking God’s input through prayer is something you’ll need to do on an ongoing basis.
In your prayers, you’ll also need to pray for your search committee. At this point in the process, you haven’t put together a search committee. But you’ll want to start praying for God to put together the right team.
Don’t stop praying for your search committee after they're formed. You’ll want to lead your church to pray for them throughout this process. So, however you share prayer requests with your church members, be sure to include a call to pray for your search committee.
Finally, you’ll want to pray for your future candidates. Ask the Lord to lead the right person to serve your church, and pray for that person’s well-being and family throughout this process.
#2 – Build a search committee
Remember, searching for a new pastor is a public (church) task.
This is a principle that undergirds finding a new pastor—especially when it comes to forming a search committee. If prayer is the fuel that drives your church, the search committee is the engine behind finding your church’s next pastor.
Since forming a search committee is vital to this process, let’s take a moment to talk about the following:
What is a search committee?
How many people should be on your committee?
Who should be on your search committee?
What roles should form your committee?
Let’s dig in!
What is a search committee?
A search committee is a group of people in your church who are temporarily organized to find your church’s next pastor. From developing a job description, screening candidates, and setting up interviews, the search committee leads the process of finding your church’s next pastor.
How many people should be on your search committee?
For your search committee, it’s best to have an odd number of people, in the range of 7–11.
An odd number of members will help your team to avoid a stalemate.
Shouldn’t the search committee unanimously agree on the decisions they make?
This would be nice.
But a unanimous decision isn’t necessary.
Here’s the deal:
Your search committee should be made up of people with different perspectives. When this is the case, there’s a good chance that not everyone will agree on whomever your church decides to call as their next pastor.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a bad thing.
When disagreements are present, then your search committee will be able to talk through differences, make a compromise, and move toward the middle in whatever decisions they make.
For your church committee, you don’t want fewer than 7 members, and you want to avoid having more than 11. If you have less than 7 people on your search committee, then there’s a good chance your committee will get overwhelmed by the work and move too slow during the process. On the other hand, if you have more than 11 people, you run the risk of taking too much time to make decisions.
Who should be on your search committee?
Your search committee should reflect your church.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Involvement in the church
Positions in the church
Regardless of the polity your church does or doesn’t have for selecting a search committee, make sure your committee reflects the life of your church as best as possible. This way you can ensure that this process is a public (church) task.
What roles should form your committee?
Here are the three essential roles you need to fill in your search committee:
The chairperson is the man or woman responsible for leading the search committee. The chairperson’s primary role is to schedule meetings and oversee the work that needs to be done.
The secretary will take notes and help everyone stay on track.
Finally, the communications director is the person responsible for communicating with the church and with the candidates.
Don’t overlook this last position. Without having a dedicated communications director, you run the risk of keeping your church and candidates in the dark or slowing down communication to a standstill.
#3 – Find an interim pastor
In between senior pastors, your church will have a considerable gap to fill—especially in the pulpit.
One idea to consider during this pastoral transition is to identify an interim pastor.
An interim pastor is someone you can hire, an assistant pastor, staff member, or even shared responsibility among your church's leadership. Whatever your church decides, be sure to clarify the most critical work that needs to be done in the absence of your previous pastor, and ensure that someone or a group fulfills these responsibilities.
Here’s what else you need to know:
Having an interim pastor will help you fight the urge to hire someone too fast.
An interim pastor can preach and take on other responsibilities while your church works toward calling its next pastor.
#4 – Know the vision of the church
There’s one vital step your search committee needs to take before moving forward:
Your search committee needs to agree (not by a vote) on the vision of your church.
Thankfully, this isn’t something your search committee will need to define. This is something your church has probably already nailed down in a vision or mission statement. So, your committee won’t have to recreate the wheel at this point.
Here’s why this important:
The mission and vision of your church will influence the type of pastor you call.
In one way, the location of your church (urban, suburban, or rural) will naturally influence the type of pastors who will submit an application or be open to considering serving your church. Differently, your church’s mission, worship style, and philosophy of ministry will also influence what type of pastor you hire.
Here’s what else to keep in mind:
What is your church’s vision for the future?
For the answer to this question, your search committee needs to take stock of where you’re at and what type of pastor you need to help you get to where you want to go. When your team is armed with this information, then they’ll be in a better position to define what type of pastor can help your church fulfill its mission, which leads me to the next point.
#5 – Know who you’re looking for
Creating a job description is one of the first big tasks your search committee will need to complete.
Don’t treat this as a simple task to complete.
This job description is so much more than a random posting on a church staffing website. This description stakes a claim about your church and the type of pastor your church is seeking. What is more, the description you create will also influence the kind of candidates who apply.
When creating the job description or ministry profile, here are specific things you want to include:
Personal, familial, and spiritual characteristics
Job (pastoral) expectations
Philosophy of ministry
Ideal ministry setting
Personal testimony and call to ministry
Don’t rush this process—your search committee won’t be able to complete this in one evening. For a lot of this information, if your church is affiliated with a denomination or network, then you can lean on your network for input.
Keep in mind the future of your church. For example, if your church needs help breaking the 200 barrier, then it’s ideal to find a pastor who has experience doing this.
Know what else?
Depending on the size of your church, you’ll need to be careful of what type of pastor you call. For example, it’ll be difficult for a pastor of a 200-member church to lead a church of 2,000. Can he or she learn how to do this? Sure. Unless you have the time or a transitional plan in place where your current pastor will mentor the next pastor, then prayerfully move forward if your committee “believes” a candidate may fit the bill.
Here’s a different side of this coin to consider:
A pastor transitioning from a solo situation to a team or a team to a solo situation may struggle.
The skills anyone needs—including pastors—to work with or without a team are different. If someone is skilled at being a solo pastor, then he or she will need time, resources, and support to learn how to work well with a team.
If a pastor akin to working with a team is considering a solo pastoral opportunity, then be sure to ask him or her if they’re ready to work without a team. This might seem inconsequential. But the type of work required in a solo setting versus a team setting differs, and the pastor considering a call in this scenario needs to consider this.
#6 – Review your applications
Let’s say you’ve already completed the steps listed above.
What is more, let’s also imagine that a couple of months have already passed, and you’ve received multiple applications.
What do you do next?
Are you supposed to interview every candidate?
After you receive applications, the first step your search committee should take is to create a short list. Based on the criteria you established in the previous step, examine applications and decide whether each candidate fits the qualifications.
At this point, there are three things you can do:
At the first step, you can simply pass on candidates who do not meet the requirements for the position. As a search committee, you need to be prepared to receive applications from candidates who do not meet the qualifications—especially in the area of skills and experience.
In pastoral searches, many people will wrestle with a perceived internal call from God to serve as your next pastor. Some candidates may be called to serve in vocational ministry. But based on their pastoral experience, they are not the right person for your church. In these cases, it’s okay to say no and to let them know as quickly as possible.
During your search, there will be other candidates who you’re on the fence about. In these moments, it’s okay to pause and further explore this candidate. When you run across candidates who you’re not sure about passing on or moving forward with, you can follow up with them to ask a few questions. This can be done via email or someone from your search committee can speak with the candidate directly and report back to the team.
Finally, if an applicant meets the qualifications for the position, you can go—move forward—with interviewing them as a potential candidate, which leads me to the next point.
#7 – Interview your candidates (thoroughly)
Have your short list handy?
Great, now it’s time to move on to the interviews.
How many candidates should you invite to interview?
Well, it depends.
At a minimum, we suggest interviewing at least 3–5 candidates.
Now, when I say interviews, I’m not only talking about a friendly fireside chat over the phone. What I have in mind is inviting the candidate and his or her spouse to visit your church for a few days.
For this process to be effective, you’ll want to schedule 3–4 days and make sure they connect with multiple people and groups, including:
Church leaders and spouses
Small groups or Bible studies
Basically, you want candidates to meet as many people as possible.
By making multiple connections through your church, you’ll be better able to gauge how well your church members respond to candidates.
What is more, during your interview process, there are three areas you want to look into:
2. Personal life
3. Family life
Let’s take a look at these in detail!
#1 – Experience
When it comes to a candidate’s experience, look closely.
Here are some things to be on the lookout for:
Social media accounts
When your committee is reviewing a candidate, it’s essential to connect with his or her referrals or recommendations. This is a time-consuming yet vital step you don’t want to skip. There have been plenty of cases of churches who did not connect with a candidate’s referrals, and then discovered months or years later of significant issues that disqualify him or her from the ministry.
Here’s what else you’ll need to do:
Invite your candidates to preach and teach.
At a minimum, you want every candidate you’re seriously considering to preach. It’s one thing to listen to a candidate’s sermons. It's another thing to hear him or her preaching from the Bible for your church.
Also, depending on your church and the candidate’s time, it’s also a good idea to have him or her teach a Sunday school class, lead a small group, or whatever is essential for your church.
Requiring this step will give you and your church first-hand experience of each candidate’s ability to preach and teach.
#2 – Personal life
The pastor you call is your next shepherd.
He or she should be able to set a grace-filled example of what it means to live and love like Jesus.
There’s only one way you can find this out:
By asking each candidate questions, listening, and chatting with referrals.
Here are just some of the questions you’ll want to ask:
What are your views about [fill in the blank]?
What do you think about the use of alcohol? Smoking?
Can you describe your devotional life?
What place does family have in your life?
How do you approach sermon preparation?
Are you involved in your community?
What hobbies do you have?
There are many more questions you can ask. But this list will get you started.
#3 – Family life
Finally, the last big area you want to explore is a candidate’s family life.
Assuming your candidate is married and has kids, you might ask these questions:.
How often do you go out with your spouse?
In what ways are you discipling your children?
How would you describe your relationship with your spouse?
You don’t want to leave these questions to your candidate. During the interview process, you can also ask his or her spouse similar questions to gauge their relationship.
Before moving on, there’s one last thing I’d like to emphasize:
Require your search committee to maintain strict confidentiality.
It’s okay for your team to speak in general terms. But it’s best for everyone to hold back their thoughts on individual candidates until a final decision is made.
Calling your next pastor
In the end, it’s time for your church to make a decision.
How this decision is made will be influenced by your denomination or network. For example, do you allow your church committee to make a decision or recommendation, does your church’s leadership (elders, deacons, board) make the decision, or does the entire church cast a vote?
To make your decision, we don’t suggest requiring a unanimous vote. Instead, we suggest requiring two-thirds (2/3) of your committee or church to vote in favor of your next pastor.
Regardless of whom you call, your work isn’t done.
It’s now time to partner together with your future pastor to share the gospel, make disciples, and be a light in your community.
Teams come in all sizes and styles. Some teams wear uniforms, practice daily, and compete in tournaments and championships. Some work together on a building project, a life-saving endeavor, or in pursuit of a prosecution. No matter what the team looks like, a common goal is always the pursuit.
Churches have teams, too.
These may consist of staff members, lay leaders, volunteers, elders, deacons, teachers, youth leaders, and the list goes on, but the common goal that unites them is to serve the church and to do it well.
Just as a sports team trains, practices skills, and receives instruction and encouragement from a coach to improve, a church’s leadership team must do the same. But what does that really look like? Where do you even begin, and what skills are important?
While there are many ways to train your team, we believe there are twelve core team training skills that can’t be missed, and we want to share a few of them with you.
#1 – Integrity
Integrity is consistently choosing to do the right thing.
Often the right thing is obvious and everyone can agree on what that looks like, but not always. Developing a team of people with integrity is the first area to tackle and the one that will make the greatest impact to your church and its ministries.
For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
#2 – Work Ethic
Work ethic is bringing your best to whatever you do.
We all work at something, but are we doing it in the best way possible? Understanding what a work ethic actually is and how to improve on it is vital to your and your team’s effectiveness. Kingdom work cannot be done well or result in changed lives with a team that does not value a Christ-centered work ethic.
Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17).
#3 – Unity
Unity is a shared effort toward a common goal.
Families, communities and churches alike all strive for unity. However, FINDING unity is often a lot harder than seeking it. Learning how to create an atmosphere of unity, by honoring our similarities and differences, complements effective teams. Being united is often discussed as a lofty, yet somewhat unattainable goal, but there are ways that teams can achieve unity.
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)
#4 – Communication
Communication is saying what needs to be said so people can do what needs to be done.
We are constantly communicating: speaking, writing, texting, emailing, posting…and chances are, we all believe we’re very good at it. But how do we really know that what we’re trying to communicate has been understood and can be acted upon? Effective communication is possible. It gets everyone on the same page and working toward a common goal, while minimizing frustrations and missed opportunities.
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver (Proverbs 25:11).
#5 – Delegating
Delegating is trusting and empowering someone to act.
We all know that we can’t do everything, but how do we know what to give up and what to keep? Just assembling a team isn’t enough; if you’re trying to do everything yourself, you’re not leading. Churches are composed of members with a range of skills, strengths, and talents. Leveraging these by delegating tasks to the right people fortifies the team and the church as a whole.
The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone (Exodus 18:18).
#6 – Planning
Planning is deciding and documenting what needs to be done.
There are literally hundreds of planning methods, tools, and apps. Which is right for you, your team, and your church? You can figure out what needs to be done and the best way to do it. This will allow for successful implementation of projects, programs, and ministries.
Commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established (Proverbs 16:3).
That’s just a peek at six of the 12 skills we feel are most important for you and your team.
We also know that churches and pastors often struggle with team training, and the reasons are valid. Some of the concerns we hear from pastors are:
“I don’t know where to begin.”
“I don’t have the time.”
“We don’t have any resources.”
“There are too many resources.”
Take Your Next Step
Finding the right team training resources can be overwhelming when you have a million things to do. To be a great leader, you need to be intentional. So, we decided to offer a simple-to-use, everything-you-need solution. In 12 lessons, you will find action steps, Scripture references, input from pastors and other professionals, reading recommendations, and worksheets to use with your team.
You can “tack-on” these lessons to a monthly staff meeting or as a part of a leadership retreat. You can even teach the curriculum from your iPhone and send the video and materials to your leaders.
We guarantee that time spent training your team will be time well spent. The end result is you having more time to focus on your ministry, knowing your team is running smoothly and has the mission of the church in mind at every turn. We've included Team Training at no extra cost for all Church Fuel members.
Are you ready to do something about the increasing need for authentic leaders in your church? Church Fuel is a paid membership community of pastors and church leaders. You can join them on the journey towards having effective church systems, structures and leadership simply by clicking the link below.
From sinful situations or underperformance to someone who’s creating division, you will eventually run into a challenge with your team—especially as your church grows and your staff expands.
How you handle these situations depends.
Before getting into the practical ideas, there’s one thing you need to do first:
Examine yourself to make sure you are not the problem.
When it comes to performance, there’s one practical reason why someone may underperform.
Know what it is?
It’s a lack of clarity and support.
After studying more than 80,000 managers, the authors of First, Break All the Rules identified what the best managers do differently. When determining the strength of any workplace (this holds true for church staff members too), here are the top two items great managers focus on:
Clarifying expectations at work
Providing the materials and equipment their team needs to succeed
Before addressing an underperforming staff member, these are the first two things you’ll need to clarify.
Does your staff know what is specifically expected of them?
Does your staff have the materials they need to do their job?
If your answer to either one of these questions is “no,” then put down the mirror and get to work by creating clarity and providing support.
After examining yourself, you’ll need to identify the problem.
During this time, be as specific as you can be. From underperformance to creating tension with your team, jot down specific instances you can discuss. This will enable all of you to be on the same page.
#2 – Discuss
Do you have something you need to discuss?
For starters, avoid talking about anything in public or without a plan. The best thing to do is schedule a meeting for both of you to talk things through.
Before your meeting, write down the specific issues you want to discuss. Fight vagueness, and be prepared to talk through details.
The goal of this conversation isn’t to run someone’s face through the mud. Your goal is to take a level-headed approach, be self-controlled, and ready to talk.
During this time, provide whomever you’re talking with the opportunity to respond to what you shared. When it’s their turn to speak, fight to actively listen—instead of worrying about what you’re going to say next. This will make a big difference in working toward a solution.
#3 – Solve
Is the problem a lack of performance? Or is your staff member struggling with a character or sinful issue? In either case, prepare ahead of time specific solutions you want to work toward.
When creating goals, follow the SMART goal template:
For solutions, there’s one more thing to consider:
Does your staff member need training, a coach, or a mentor to help them work through the situation? Depending upon the case, consider providing whatever support you can to help your staff member succeed.
After you’re done discussing your goals, take the time to make sure whomever you’re talking with clearly understands what’s expected moving forward.
Finally, at the end of this meeting, agree to meet again to talk about the goals you developed. This way, there’s a specific timetable to work toward.
#4 – Follow up
After discussing the situation and working together on a solution, you now have to plan on following up.
Not only will you need to follow up in the end with your next scheduled meeting. But you also want to plan on following up in the interim. For this check-in, your goal is to see if your staff member has what they need to succeed and how they’re doing as a person.
Remember, as a church leader, your goal is to help your staff succeed. Checking in with people before your scheduled follow-up meeting will give you (and them) a good idea if they’re progressing, and what else they need to do to resolve the situation.
So, when it comes to your last follow-up meeting, there won’t be any surprises.
One common reason why this is the case is because of tension with their church’s leadership, which usually results in stalled progress.
Think about it.
If you (pastor) and your church’s leadership (elders, deacons, board) are not in alignment or having conflict, then your church will not be able to move forward. When the leadership is at a standstill in making decisions or possess significant disagreements about the vision and direction of the church, then your entire church community will be stalled like a car in a parking lot. It ain’t going anywhere.
Below, many of the tips revolving around dealing with church members are also applicable here. But there are a few unique things you’ll need to keep in mind when dealing with your church leadership.
#1 – Pray
This goes without saying, but commit to pray for your church’s leadership.
Not in the “my will be done” kind of way.
Instead, you should regularly pray for your church’s leadership—including yourself.
As a church leader, it can be easy to skip over the verses about praying for your church’s leadership and think they’re only for your church members. Don’t fall victim to this way of thinking.
The verses about praying for your leaders are also relevant for you.
When praying for your church’s leadership, here are some suggestions:
Pray for them to receive wisdom
“Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them.”
“He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.”
Pray for them to be peaceable
1 Timothy 3:3:
“Not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.”
Pray for them to be gentle
2 Timothy 2:24–25:
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.”
#2 – Think long-term
Let me state the obvious:
Possessing a long-term view will help you to work through leadership conflicts.
Now, let me make sure this sinks in:
When I say long-term view, what I mean is that you need to know that the church will go on with or without you. I don’t mean to be harsh. I just want to emphasize that the church you serve is God’s church and his timetable doesn’t always match up with ours.
In your church, someone plants.
Someone else waters.
But in either case, God brings the increase (1 Cor 3:7–9).
What is more, here’s another point to keep in mind:
Again, I don’t mean to be negative or imply that you have to let everything slide because you have one foot out of the door. If the church you serve doesn’t plan on closing its doors anytime soon, there’s a good chance God will continue to sustain it for many years after you transition off staff.
With this in mind, when you have a conflict with your church’s leadership, you’ll have to think through if the conflict revolves around short- or long-term implications. For example, if you are serving an established church, and you want to make cultural shifting changes, know that these will take time (some people may never accept them), and determine if the trouble is worth the fight.
As a church leader, patience is one of the best virtues you can exercise in working through conflict.
Know what else?
A long-term view is what you need to have when equipping leaders, which leads us to the next point.
#3 – Train leaders
Your job doesn’t require you to do everything.
One of your primary roles is to equip your church to do the work of the ministry (Eph 4:11–16).
From providing coaching (LINK) and serving as a mentor (LINK), there are two additional ways you can train future leaders:
Teach biblical leadership
Provide leadership resources
To lead your church, you need to develop men and women who are ready to lead (1 Tim 3). As you know, teaching biblical leadership toward life-transformation is a long-term process. Remember, be patient as you teach biblical leadership to your current and potential future leaders.
What is more, it’s a good idea to provide leadership resources. From working through material together or joining a program like Church Fuel, providing leadership resources is another way you can equip your leaders.
#4 – Find a partner
Is God leading your church to take a new direction?
Is there a consensus among some of your church leaders to make a big decision?
When you have a conflict with one of your church’s leaders, and you need to make a decision, you may have to find a partner within your church’s leadership to influence the decision-making process.
For whatever reason, there will be a time when you’ll be at an impasse with another leader. When this occurs, you may not be able to work directly with someone one-on-one. So, in this scenario, identify a partner among your other church leaders who you can help work out a resolution.
How to handle difficult church members
No church is filled with perfect people.
Even if someone has placed their faith in Christ, they will still struggle with the presence of sin. What is more, sin exists in the world, and Satan ain’t taking a nap.
What’s the point?
It’s best if you expect to deal with difficult people in your church.
When you expect to run into a difficult person, you can be better prepared to work with him or her.
At the end of the day, people in your church have been hurt in some shape, way, fashion, or form.
Know what hurt people do?
They hurt other people—not (necessarily) on purpose.
But when you understand and expect that people in your church are hurting and in need of grace and mercy in Christ, then you’ll be prepared to lead them to Jesus to receive grace and mercy.
Don’t be caught off guard.
Expect people to act like people who need grace and mercy.
To help you navigate these situations, here are some tips.
#1 – Pick your battles
Is a church member in sin?
Is someone causing division?
Or does someone just annoy you?
When dealing with difficult people, make sure you pick your battles.
Is it something sinful or damaging you need to address? Or do you feel agitated? There’s a big difference between the two, and you need to know the difference before moving forward.
#2 – Get clarity
Why is someone difficult?
Often, you’ll discover that whatever is causing someone to be upset may not be the real problem. There are many times when there’s a problem beneath the problem.
Is there a specific issue they’re passionate about? Or is their glass always half-empty?
Whenever you’re dealing with a difficult person, take the time to discover the problem beneath the problem. There’s no need to put a bandaid on a situation if it calls for surgery.
So, when you can, be like a child who consistently asks “why” to figure out the root of the problem. Whenever you discover the root of the problem, you’ll be able to chop it down in a loving manner.
#3 – Private
There’s one key to healthy conflict resolution:
Graciously confronting a difficult person in private.
This isn’t pop science, either. This is straight out of Matthew 18:15–17.
Talking about a difficult person isn’t the same as dealing with someone.
As a church leader, it’s essential to discuss difficult people with your leadership in a way that’s helpful, like, you need to be aware of this situation, which is different than gossiping.
If possible, avoid difficult conversations in public. If someone approaches you, and he or she is angry or visually frustrated, then focus on diffusing the situation and schedule a time to meet with him or her one-on-one.
#4. Focus on solutions
When your kitchen is a mess, you or someone else needs to clean it up.
Similarly, when you’re dealing with a difficult person, you have to deal with him or her or someone else will have to. Don’t pass the buck. Take responsibility and work toward a solution.
Regarding a solution, this doesn’t mean that you and the person you’re dealing with will agree, and that’s okay. This will be the case from time to time and to be expected.
At first, focus on a positive solution. Figure out what they’d like to see done differently, clarify what they want, and see if there’s some way you can find common ground.
Here’s the deal:
Your goal is not to have someone agree with you 100%.
That’s not the point or biblical.
Depending upon the situation, if it’s a non-essential issue, then you may agree to disagree. However, for more serious issues, such as a person is in sin and unwilling to repent, then you may have to consider church discipline. If the latter situation is the case, don’t walk alone. Be sure to work with your church’s leadership to work toward a healthy solution (Matt 18:15–17).
Over to you
Working with people isn’t easy.
What we shared here is a process to use or tips to try.
If there’s one thing I can leave you with, let it be this:
After you become aware of a difficult person, start preparing yourself to be ready to handle conflict.
Be in prayer, and be ready to graciously confront whoever is being difficult.
Don’t pass the buck.
Don’t plant your face in the sand.
By the grace of God, plan on shepherding well everyone in your church—even difficult people.
Your church looks to you to cast a vision and make decisions.
You don’t have peers who can relate to what you’re experiencing.
When you feel stuck or run into a problem, you don’t have anyone outside of your church to turn to for advice. As you know, you can’t bare your soul to just anyone in your church about a church problem.
Before you throw your hands up in surrender, there’s a real solution you can pursue:
Get a ministry coach.
I’m not talking about a motivational speaker hyped up on Mountain Dew who tries to pump you up with pithy statements.
(You know that’s what you were thinking.)
Instead, I’m talking about a coach who can support, guide, and provide you with practical advice.
Now, here’s one caveat about ministry coaches:
A ministry coach isn'ta mentor.
There are similarities, but there are some big differences.
Previously, we’ve sharedwhy pastors need a mentor, and what it means to be a mentor and mentee. So, I don’t want to get into the weeds here.
In short, here’s what you need to know:
A mentor is unpaid and his or her focus is on providing advice, whereas a coach is someone who’s paid and whose focus is on helping you to achieve a goal or overcome an obstacle in your ministry.
As I said, there's overlap between a mentor and coach in how he or she helps a mentee or student grow. But there’s a big difference between their arrangements and focus.
In a moment, we’ll dig into the details of coaching.
But first, there’s one last point I’d like to address.
The different types of coaches
Coaches are different.
I’m not talking about their personality, experience, or ability to help you and your church.
What I’m talking about is the different ways you can receive coaching.
In general, there are two different types of coaching you can receive:
Personal coaching can take place in person or online. Unlike someone who’s a mentor, a coach is someone who partners with you to provide support, guidance, and practical advice over the phone, on a video chat, or in person. The “medium” used to share their support doesn’t matter in this scenario.
When it comes to personal coaches, they should have experience in the area in which they’re providing support—in particular, they should know ministry inside and out. Since they’ve “been there, and done that,” they’ll be able to give you the advice you need to go from where you’re at to where you need to go.
In this scenario, you may not receive the undivided attention of a personal coach, but the advice he or she shares in a group setting can still be applicable and helpful for your situation.
At this point, you’re probably thinking:
What’s the best option for me?
At Church Fuel, we’ve found that providing a combination of personal and group coaching works best in empowering our members to fulfill God’s calling on their lives.
In seasons of your life, you’ll need a personal coach who can walk alongside of you, pointing out potential landmines and helping you navigate the way through the fog of unclarity.
In general, group coaching sessions are helpful for an ongoing basis. These sessions will force you to learn new lessons, and focus on growing yourself as a leader and your church in Christ.
The benefits of coaching aren’t theoretical—they’re extremely practical.
Let me show you what I’m talking about.
5 benefits of having a ministry coach
A ministry coach provides five powerful benefits. A good coach will:
Push you beyond your comfort zone
Guide you in creating a plan
Help you overcome obstacles
Help you create a life-giving, work-life balance
Help you navigate the five-core ministry relationships
Time to take a look at these in detail.
#1 – Push you beyond your comfort zone
As a church leader, it’s easy to get stuck.
You’re on call 24/7/365.
You move from one fire of urgency to the next—all the while trying to prepare for your weekday activities or Sunday worship service.
Exhausting, I know.
When this happens, you’ll end up focusing only on what’s in front of you.
Over time, you’ll slowly neglect the mission of your church.
Not because of any fault of your own.
Rather, you get stuck in survival mode.
This is where having a coach can make a world of difference.
Like a coach in sports, a ministry coach can help you to step outside of your comfort zone. They’ll challenge you in your comfort, and help you break free from the shackles of your own limitations.
Unlike a mentor, a ministry coach will be more inclined to shoot you straight. Their job isn’t to be your friend per se. Their job is to support your growth as a church leader. In this arrangement, there will be times when they’ll have to say painful things. But this is all a part of the growing process.
Talking about the growing process, this leads us to the next benefits of having a coach.
If you’re not learning and growing in your position, then you and your church are slowly dying.
The world and your community is constantly changing.
Think about it.
New technology is regularly created.
How people interact with one another has been changed by social media.
Beliefs and values are in flux.
Basically, if you don’t plan on growing as a leader, then your ability to make disciples will be throttled. In time, what works today in your ministry will not work tomorrow. If you’ve been serving in the ministry for longer than a minute, you know what I’m talking about.
Thankfully, this isn’t something you have to figure out on your own.
A coach is someone who can help you clarify your vision, talk through your church’s mission, and create a plan to accomplish the work God has called you to fulfill. What is more, a good coach will also hold you accountable to accomplishing your goals.
If we’re honest, anyone can set a goal.
To accomplish a goal, you should reach for something realistic and attainable, and when you hit a roadblock, you’ll need someone like a coach to encourage you to push through.
As a church leader, your work doesn’t end with accomplishing personal goals.
Your calling isn’t only to be the best you you can be.
Your calling also involves serving Jesus and his church.
So, when it comes to accomplishing goals, a ministry coach can also help you to lead your church from where it’s at (point A) to where God is calling you to go (point B).
With this being said, there’s one BIG point I want to make:
Not every church leader or coach is right for you.
Let me explain what I mean.
Today, it’s easy to get enamored by church leaders.
There are many (good) church leadership books you can read, podcasts you can listen to, and events you can attend. Oftentimes, what happens after reading these books, listening to these podcasts, or attending a conference, you come away feeling like only “that” person understands you and can help you.
In reality, this is typically not the case at all.
God can—and will—work through people who are equipped to support you in your season of ministry. For example, a pastor who leads a church of 10,000 may not be the best person to help you break through the 200 barrier.
The challenges you’re facing personally and as a church are probably miles apart from the person you think can help you.
When looking for a coach, you don’t need a celebrity. What you need is someone who’s a step or two ahead of you and can speak into the situation you’re facing.
#3 – Help you overcome obstacles
At some point, you’re going to run into a challenge you can’t resolve.
This isn’t a dig against you.
This is just the reality of being a human dependent upon God and other people.
Besides, church leaders have been running into problems since the inception of the church (Acts 6:1–7).
This is where having a ministry coach is super helpful.
Think about it.
When you’re facing a problem you don’t know how to resolve, wouldn’t it be beneficial to talk to someone who’s come up against the same thing you’re up against? Someone who can ask the right questions and clear the air?
Know what else?
There will be times when you’re stuck, and you don’t even know it—not in the sense that you’re dealing with an unresolved issue. But rather, there may come a time when you're not growing as a leader or your church isn’t progressing in making new disciples for Christ.
Again, when you have a ministry coach, he or she can wave smelling salts beneath your nose to wake you up to the plight of your situation.
#4 – Create a life-giving, work-life balance
Burning out will be one of the biggest challenges you face.
Like most pastors, you work well over 50 hours per week, and “balancing” your life isn’t going to work. Sure, you have family, friends, and church leaders to help hold you accountable. But it’s ideal to have someone from outside of your circle of influence to hold you accountable.
Enter a ministry coach.
Since a ministry coach is on the outside of your life looking in, he or she will have a clearer view of you and your workload. What is more, since he or she has ministry experience, a ministry coach understands what you’re going through, and he or she will be able to read the signs of your life to really know how well you’re doing.
For this to work well, you have to be willing to talk truthfully about your weekly schedule and how you’re feeling. Armed with this information, a ministry coach can help you to set healthy boundaries or encourage you to take a break to get refreshed.
#5 – Help you navigate the five core ministry relationships
If church leadership is anything, it’s relationally-based.
Everything you do revolves around working with or serving people.
What’s my point?
You’re going to run into a relational problem at some point.
When you work with a ministry coach, he or she will be able to help you navigate the five core ministry relationships of every church leader:
Let’s take a look at these in turn.
For starters, as a church leader, the most important relationship you have is with God.
Every day, you need to carve out time to talk to (pray) and hear from God (read the Bible).
Neglecting the Lord would be like not spending any time with your spouse. It won’t be too long until you feel cold, distant, and indifferent.
#2 – Church leadership
Working with your church’s leadership can be … tricky.
Depending upon your ecclesiastical structure (Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Non-Denominational, etc.), navigating the nuances can be challenging.
As a church leader, learning how to work with and through your church leadership is vital to the forward movement of the church you serve.
On the one hand, if your church’s leadership is divided, you won’t be going anywhere since everyone is going in different directions. On the other hand, if your church’s leadership works well together, then plan on experiencing forward momentum.
Regardless of the makeup of your church’s leadership, a ministry coach will be able to guide you in havingcritical conversations.
#3 – Church members
Not every church member is alike.
From saints to sinners, you’ll have to learn to work with a variety of church members.
Let’s be honest:
Figuring out how to relate to your church members as a pastor isn’t easy.
Depending upon your personality, you'll wrestle with either being too close or too distant.
There’s no right or wrong way you can build relationships with your church members. But having help in figuring it all out can reduce your learning curve and save you a tremendous amount of heartache along the way.
#4 – Family
Are you married?
Do you have children?
In either case, you have to getthese relationships right. Why gain the whole world if you lose your family in the process? Not a good move.
If you’ve been in church leadership for more than a minute, you know this is easier said than done. The consistent requests can easily pull you away from family obligations. Next thing you know, you’re five years down the road and your family relationships are strained at best.
Before this is your story, a ministry coach can hold you accountable and make sure you’re prioritizing your family in the business of ministry.
#5 – Friends
Friendships are probably not what you’re thinking about.
If anything, you push friendships to the back burner for the sake of everything else.
Here’s the deal:
Friendships are crucial to your well-being.
Like everyone else, you were created by God for community (Gen 1:28). What is more, the Book of Proverbs has really strong words against isolating yourself (Prov 18:1).
Don’t believe you can be a Lone Ranger.
Remember, according to an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
If you’ve sold yourself short in the area of friendships, let your ministry coach help you make them a priority once again.
Need a ministry coach?
At Church Fuel, we want to help you lead your church like never before.
To provide you with the training and support you need, we relaunched Church Fuel. That's right. Our site. Our membership offerings. Our products and resources.
For less than the cost of attending a conference, as a member, you’ll get access to five powerful tools:
Monthly video coaching
One-on-one sessions with a ministry coach
Full access to our resource library
With Church Fuel, you get more than content—you get a community.
You’ll learn from a group of peers and a personal coach who are facing the same challenges as you.
When you join Church Fuel, you become part of a community to grow together, challenge each other, and celebrate your wins as a team.
Trying to balance life and ministry can sound like a cruel joke.
Sermon preparation takes hours.
Pastoral care is never-ending.
There is a slew of church meetings to attend.
Family responsibilities don’t take a vacation.
And unless you have a staff or team, you’re on call 24/7/365.
What’s the moral of the story?
As a church leader, it’s really challenging trying to balance everything.
You work a ton of hours, every week looks different, and it can feel like an impossible task to serve your church well without burning yourself out in the process.
How do you balance it all?
Well, for starters, you don’t.
What you do is identify your guiding principles to help you create a rhythm for your week. There will be times when things are really busy, like Christmas and Easter, and then there are your “normal” workweeks.
To help you serve your church, love your family, and not lose your mind or soul in the process, here are 10 tips to help you find a good rhythm in your life and ministry.
#1 – Don’t neglect your first love
As a church leader, you don’t get a pass on devoting your life to God.
I know this sounds obvious, but hear me out.
When serving the Lord vocationally (as a pastor or church staff member), it’s easy to believe that the work you’re doing is a replacement for spending personal time with God in prayer or reading the Bible.
This isn’t something that church leaders do on purpose. In most cases, church leaders slowly drift away from their first love—God (Rev 2:4), which makes practical sense.
You spend your time serving, preaching, and taking care of others, and it’s easy to forget about your own relationship with God in the busyness of your life.
Don’t let this be you.
Before you dive into time-management hacks, take a moment to reflect on your devotion to Jesus.
How are you doing?
Do you feel like you’re walking closely with the Lord?
Or do you feel indifferent?
Before implementing any of the tips below, commit yourself to daily carving out time to talk to God (prayer) and hear what he has to say (read the Bible).
Don’t be afraid to block out a portion of time every day to spend with the Lord. If not, you may not get around to praying or reading the Bible.
“I schedule everything,” shared a member of Church Fuel. He went on to add, “When something needs to be done, I immediately put it on my calendar. If it’s not scheduled, usually it doesn’t get done.”
When you add daily devotions to your calendar, you’ll be able to create a habit, guard this time, and get ready the day before (e.g., go to bed on time if you want to get up early).
#2 – Create margin
To balance your life and ministry, you have to embrace this reality first:
Every week is different.
There are normal rhythms in your schedule, such as mid-week or weekend worship services. But outside of your normal programs and events, mentally prepare for every week to look a little bit different than the week before.
With this being said, here’s a big idea:
Create margin in your week by not filling your schedule to the brim. If possible, leave 60 unscheduled minutes in your daily calendar. If it’s mid-afternoon and you’re on track with everything you had planned, then feel free to use the time. But it’s best to have some wiggle room in your day-to-day so that you don’t get behind on anything.
Possessing this mindset will help you to better balance your life and ministry, which brings us to the next point.
#3 – Nail down your church rhythms
The first place you need to start in creating a healthy rhythm is to work with your church rhythms.
As you identify the big rocks in the life of your church, you’ll be better able to prioritize your schedule.
When doing this, there are two things you need to nail down:
For weekly rhythms, identify the weekly activities that take place in your church. As you write these down in your calendar, it’s also important to include the time you need to prepare. For example, if you preach, then you’ll need to guard a decent amount of time to prepare. What is more, if you have a weekly event, you’ll need to make sure everything is taken care of (more on this in a bit).
When you have these big rocks in place, you’ll be able to plan ahead and prepare yourself for really busy seasons of ministry, like Christmas and Easter.
#4 – Take one day off per week
A lack of rest is bad.
Like, really bad.
If you don’t plan to take at least one full day off per week (a Sabbath), then you can plan on having health problems, depression, and poor judgment, among other things.
God modeled taking a break during creation (Gen 2:2) and Jesus wasn’t afraid to get some shut-eye too (Mark 4:35–40). If God finds rest important, then you would do well to follow his example and take a break yourself.
By not taking a weekly day of rest—at a minimum—you run the risk of burning yourself out.
Do yourself, your family, and your church a favor and arrange for at least one day off per week.
#5 – Arrange for an extended trip
There’s one thing you need to fight for in your ministry:
This is why I’m trying to get your attention about taking a break by emphasizing a weekly rest and now an extended break.
Now, what I’m arguing for here isn’t necessarily an extended Disney cruise (sorry). If possible, plan on taking an extended break (1–2 weeks) every year to pray through and plan your church’s annual calendar.
During this time, you want to unplug, spend plenty of time in prayer, and think ahead.
What is more, this isn’t something you have to do alone. At Church Fuel, we encourage church leaders to plan an annual retreat for their staff. You canclick here to check out the details.
#6 – Love your spouse
Are you married?
Then don't leave your spouse on the altar of ministry. Working long hours isn’t necessarily a godly thing. If you have a spouse, and you work too much, then you run the risk of neglecting him or her, which is a big no-no.
Instead, fight for your marriage by planning weekly or bi-weekly dates.
These dates don’t have to be fancy. From getting out for a walk or enjoying a cup of coffee together, schedule time for the two of you to get out of your office and away from your home for a few hours.
#7 – Make time for your family
Do you have children?
Well, you can’t leave them hanging either.
There are a variety of ways you can create a weekly rhythm for your family:
Depending on the age of your children, include them in different errands throughout the week. Think about it. You can turn a bland trip to the grocery store into an opportunity to spend time with your children.
Whatever you do, be sure to put something on the calendar every week.
Here’s the deal: Spending time with your family will not happen by accident.
To make sure his schedule reflects his priorities, one Church Fuel member shared, “Set your priorities and make your calendar reflect them. Set a number of evenings you will be home for dinner with your family and don’t allow anything to compromise that.”
By scheduling these non-negotiable times in your calendar, you can create a rhythm around time well-spent with your family.
#8 – Take care of your body
The Apostle Paul shared this with his mentee Timothy:
“For the training of the body has limited benefit …” (1 Tim 4:8).
But let’s be honest:
As a church leader, you need to take care of yourself physically—from eating healthy to regularly exercising
By taking care of yourself, you’ll increase your energy levels, feel happier, and reduce your risk of chronic disease.
When you add these physical benefits together, you’ll place yourself in a better position to provide pastoral care for a very long time.
Can’t remember the last time you exercised or ate a salad?
That’s water under the bridge.
Connect with a personal trainer and/or doctor to get a physical and put together a plan to get started.
#9 – Get a mentor
Having amentor is probably not what you had in mind to create balance. But like everyone else in the world, you—church leader—need a mentor.
Here’s the deal:
A mentor is someone who can give you an unbiased opinion and help you get your life in alignment.
In life and ministry, you’re going to get off course. With the number of hours you have to work and the pastoral care you need to provide, you’re going to get stuck or drift off course. This is why you need a mentor who can help you to maintain balance.
Michael Lukaszewski, the Founder and CEO of Church Fuel, added, “Get help from others. Family and friends need to know and support you during busy seasons.”
Regardless if you talk to a mentor, your spouse, or friend, be open about what you’re feeling and your workload. This will give people who care about you the opportunity to love and support.
#10 – Delegate work
What’s the one thing God didn’t call you to do?
Know the answer?
If you’re the senior pastor, you may be responsible for everything. But this is different than doing everything.
Regardless of your position, as a church leader, you need to identify your primary responsibilities, know your strengths, and delegate any tasks that someone else can do or work that falls outside of your comfort zone.
Depending upon your situation, you may be able to hire someone. If not, you’ll have to bank on finding a volunteer to help. If it’s the latter, it will take time toturn a volunteer into a leader. But your investment into his or her life will help you—and most importantly, help them fulfill their call.
Balancing it all
Don’t fight for balance.
That’ll place you in a position of trying to figure out how to do everything.
Instead, strive to create a healthy rhythm in your life with these 10 tips:
Don’t neglect your first love.
Nail-down your church rhythms.
Take one day off per week.
Arrange for an extended trip.
Love your spouse.
Make time for your family.
Take care of your body.
Get a mentor.
It will take time and energy to make a change, and you’ll have to learn how to say “no” or “later” to different requests. But working toward creating a healthy rhythm in your life will help you have a long and fruitful ministry.