It’s hard to get a group of people moving in the same direction. There are different personalities, different strengths, and different ways to work.
A focused team is an amazing blessing, but more often than not, the entire team isn’t on the same page. And it sure is easy to tell when things aren’t clicking.
In fact, that’s one of the most common behind-the-scenes issues we see when we work with church teams.
And it’s a huge issue.
When your staff isn’t on the same page…
There are competing agendas. Maybe the youth pastor wants to grow through outreach and the women’s ministry wants to grow through community and the worship pastor wants to grow through experience. None of those are wrong, but multiple agendas will result in chaos. These agendas don’t have to be selfish or sinister, but not being on the same page is going to cost you big time.
There is back-room complaining. If people aren’t on the same page, they spend a lot of time and energy complaining when you’re not there. Staff members go home and share their frustrations with their spouse. That’s one big reason spouses lose the joy of serving the Lord at the church!
Micromanaging becomes the management method. I’ve never met a worship leader who likes it when the pastor chooses the songs. Yet that’s one of the most common symptoms of not being on the same page. The pastor becomes a micromanaging leader, and the worship leader ends up resenting it.
There’s tension everywhere. When the team isn’t on the same page, there’s unhealthy tension in the room and behind closed doors.
Getting your team on the same page might not seem like the most pressing issue, but it’s costing you more than you know. Without a focused and aligned group of leaders, you’re never going to accomplish all God wants you to do.
Why isn’t your team on the same page?
Before we talk about what to do about it, it’s important to take a look at WHY your team isn’t on the same page. You’ve got to take a hard look at this, because if you jump straight to temporary solutions, you’ll find yourself in the same situation with the next person.
We see three reasons people aren’t on the same page when it comes to work.
#1 – Unrealistic job description.
It could be a staff member is not the same page, because the actual page used to describe the position is confusing or out of date.
For many pastors, clarity is muddy from the beginning, starting with the job description.
I wrote about this in Streamline:
“The other day I read a job description for a part-time bookkeeper, receptionist, and preschool director. All one part-time job! That seems like a pretty particular skill set. “We need you to be great with kids and a preschool educational background would be best, but we also need you to understand General Accounting Practices and you must have three years of experience with QuickBooks.”
Then, there are the qualifications. I’m not sure the Apostle Paul would be qualified to be the student pastor at a 45-member church based on some of the job postings I’ve seen today.
I’m all for encouraging a “get it done no matter what” mentality among your team, but you can’t ask everyone to do everything and expect anything to be done with excellence.
We bring people onto the team and give them a menu of ministries to lead and a wide range of responsibilities. Is there any wonder people don’t know what’s most important? Is there any question as to why we have trouble providing effective evaluation?
Job descriptions filled with hopes and wishes are silly. Effective job descriptions need to reflect reality.
Everyone on your staff needs a realistic and regularly reviewed job description. More on that in a minute.
#2 – Uncommunicated expectations.
Another reason people aren’t on the same page is because there are expectations that have not been properly communicated.
Let’s say Jimmy is hired to be the student pastor and his main responsibility is to recruit small group leaders and lead the weekly student service. But because he’s the youngest and hippest person on staff, he also picks up the responsibility of editing videos from special events, maintaining the website, and live streaming the service.
Jimmy is doing a great job with his new responsibilities, but there really aren’t any new small group leaders and the weekly student service isn’t that good. People tell Jimmy he’s doing a good job, but the pastor grows increasingly frustrated at the quality of the student ministry.
There’s a breakdown in expectations.
If you’re the leader, it’s up to you to clarify and communicate your expectations. It’s best to write them down and talk about them freely.
People cannot live up to a standard that only exists in your head.
#3 – Unclarified philosophy.
Earlier this year, I had a coaching call with a Breaking 200 client.
The senior pastor just wasn’t on the same page with his worship leader. I assured him it was a super-common struggle and there were lots of ways to work on it.
He was quick to say there was high character and good skill, but something just felt a little off. It’s wasn’t theology, competency, commitment or skill. The problem could be traced back to a slight difference in philosophy.
The pastor was approaching the service one way and the worship leader was approaching it another way. Neither were wrong, but they weren’t instantly compatible. We talked through a few ideas and this pastor scheduled a conversation.
If you’re not on the same page philosophically, there’s likely room for compromise. But if it’s a really big difference, someone is working at the wrong church.
What do you do?
So if you find yourself with a team that’s not on the same page, what do you do? How can you walk everyone through a process that results in focused unity?
Here are five things you can do.
1. Take responsibility.
Fake performance reviews and piling on additional expectations won’t change anything at this point. That will be perceived as micromanaging and heavy handed.
Besides, misalignment is mostly the fault of the leader.
If you're the leader, you're responsible for your team being on the same page. Don’t blame your team…lead them. Make it a priority to lead them well and get them on the same page.
Brad Lomenick, author of H3 Leadership says, “If your organization is a terrible place to work, it is your fault. The sooner you quit blaming others, the sooner you can actually fix the problems.”
At Church Fuel, we talk about the senior pastor as being the Chief Clarity Officer for the organization. You’ve got to clarify everyone’s roles, because they pick up other responsibilities and easily drift off focus. You’ve got to clarify goals because there will be times when everything seems like priority one.
Nobody else will do this. It’s up to you.
2. Make it a goal to get on the same page.
I know you have programs, products, campaigns and a slew of other things going on. But if your team isn't on the same page, it's time to hit the pause button. In Sticky Teams, Larry Osborne says “winning teams make unity a priority while losing teams treat it as an afterthought.” If you want your team to be unified and focused, make it a goal in this next season of ministry.
Instead of just plowing through all the regular work, carve out focused time and energy to get on the same page. It's not going to happen through your regular schedule and with your regular meetings. If you want to get on your same page, you need to clear the calendar and make it a major focus over the next few months.
Your first great decision as a leader is deciding to focus on this. Unity isn’t going to happen by accident; it requires your focus and attention.
3. Commit to more conversations.
Text messages and emails aren't going to work here. You're going to have to schedule meetings – in the office and over coffee – and work hard on this. We can help you, but you’re going to have to put your head down and get going.
You can't lead this process from behind a desk or behind a computer. It's going to take lots of conversations, lots of listening, and a lot of work. Honestly, this is why most leaders don't have a team on the same page….it's easier to just let things go and meagerly manage results.
That starts with conversations, not emails or staff meetings. And these aren’t one time conversations that will put a band-aid on a problem. You need consistent conversations. Shawn Lovejoy from Courage to Lead says, “Aligning your team isn't rocket science. It requires proximity and consistency.”
Get close to people. Have conversations. And have them often.
4. Work together to create an actual page.
Your conversations will open the door to clarity. And just when you feel like you’ve talked about everything, it’s time to make decisions.
Getting your staff on the same page has got to end with creating a few real pages. The first page you need is a real job description.
No more ridiculous bullets or wishful thinking. No more responsibilities that don’t really matter. No more “other duties as required.” It’s time for a real job description.
An effective job description should…
- Contain a one-sentence summary of the role. If you can’t summarize the role in one memorable sentence that makes perfect, keep working on it.
- List real duties and expected outcomes. It’s not overly important to list everything that COULD possibly be done, but it’s critical that you include what MUST be done.
- Contain numbers, goals and metrics. This is the secret sauce to any job profile. It’s where you clarify expectations and set goals. It’s where you say, “Here’s exactly what we want you to do…here’s what we’re going to measure, and here’s how you get a raise.” You can’t measure effectiveness without this.
- Be regularly reviewed. Say goodbye to the job descriptions that go in a file or live in a computer. This new job description is going to be talked about every few months. Because it’s real.
5. Get help.
If you've got a team who isn't on the same page, you probably need outside help. Getting help is not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength.
Bringing in help isn't admitting you don't know what to do; it's about being intentional and focused on something that is extremely important. It says to the team, “Clarity for all of us is important and it's not going to come by just trying harder.”
When I look back at the organizations I led (a church and an INC 5000 company), major breakthroughs always came when we sought outside help to help us go to the next level. Compared to the resulting focus and growth, the investment ended up being minimal.
If you're leading a team that's not on the same page, you're working much harder to get results that are less than spectacular. Get someone to come in and help you align everything and get everyone on the same page.
So What's Next?
You're supposed to lead your staff and develop leaders in your church, but where do you start?
To make it simple we created a FREE resourced called the Senior Pastor's Guide to Leading a Staff. This simple guide will help you with practical ideas and resources on leading a staff intentionally and consistently.
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