Five Things Pastors Can Do to Re-Energize Tired Teams

Five Things Pastors Can Do to Re-Energize Tired Teams

Your team is tired.

Staff, leaders, and volunteers have lived with Covid complexity for a while with effects that will linger for years to come. Much of how they have done ministry has changed dramatically.

People have new roles and responsibilities. Leaders have navigated choppy waters. Your team has balanced ridiculous expectations.

It’s no wonder they are tired.

And if you’re not careful, feeling tired takes the next step to exhaustion. That’s a step beyond “a busy season” like Easter, Christmas, or a big event.  

Feelings of exhaustion can lead to burnout which can have rippling detrimental effects personally and organizationally.

Here are some things pastors can do right now to breathe fresh life into your team.

#1 – Schedule some social time.

One of the biggest signs of job satisfaction in any career is having a friend at work. This is true for church staff, too. Invite people to your home for a cookout. Borrow or rent a lake house for a family day. Go to Top Golf. Find an environment where your team can connect outside of work and have fun. 

#2 – Have pastoral conversations.

In church, it’s surprisingly easy to forget that we need to pastor our team, not just lead them. Your team needs a pastor right now. Are you shepherding their soul and pastoring them like a church member? Don’t let it always be about work and goals.

#3 – Add personal development to your meeting cadence.

Serving in a church takes a lot out of a person. Repurpose some of your meetings and regular rhythms to add back into their life and faith. When people get better, there’s a collective benefit. When you invest in people, they feel valued.

#4 – Reset expectations.

If you’re the leader of a staff or ministry team, you’re the Chief Clarify Officer. In this season, casting clarity is every bit as important as casting vision. It’s okay to scale back if needed. If you’re clear, meeting a lesser goal is still a win. Does your team know what’s expected of them? Are those expectations written down and agreed upon?

#5 – Double down on communication.

In times of stress, average communication feels like bad communication. If successes aren’t shared, challenges aren’t discussed, and ideas aren’t heard, people will feel like they are working alone. No matter what system or tools you use, perfect them. Learn how to use them properly. Commit to communication, knowing it’s nearly impossible to overdo. 

Take the Next Step

If you really want to dive into this topic, we have a resource called The Tired Team: A Toolkit to Improve Staff Morale.

It comes with a video for leaders, a video for team members, and six practical exercises to help you re-energize your team. Learn more here.

Seven Causes of Low Morale on Church Staff

Seven Causes of Low Morale on Church Staff

There's nothing like being on a team that's excited, focused, and winning.

But for too many church teams, low morale is just a way of life.   Though deep down we should be excited, energized, and driven by our calling, we’re just…tired.

We’re tired because we’re doing more than ever.

We’re tired because we’re doing things that are outside our comfort zone.

We’re tired because we’re figuring out new challenges and we don’t know what’s working.

And for many churches, the current situation has just exacerbated the issues.  Morale was trending down for some time and this has just accelerated the decline.

Morale is confidence, enthusiasm, and the discipline of a team at a specific time.  It speaks to a sense of purpose and confidence in the future.

Laura Howe, the founder of Hope Made Strong, an organization that provides biblically-based learning to help leaders care for others, describes it this way: “Low morale is the emotional equivalent of burnout, and burnout is caused by three components: hopelessness, helplessness, and prolonged stress.”

If you’ve got high morale, it’s great.  You’ll probably have to keep fighting to keep it.

If you don’t have it, things might seem dire.  But you can recognize the causes and take practical steps to build it.

Leaders can make things better or worse.

Ignore the signs, and your team will go from tired to burned out to gone.  But jump in with practical solutions and you can build team morale, team momentum, and lead your church into the next season of ministry with a new sense of purpose.

Let’s talk about the seven causes of low morale and what to do about them.


#1 Poor Communication

One of the quickest ways to kill morale on your team is poor communication.

If successes aren’t shared, challenges aren’t discussed, and ideas aren’t heard, people will feel like they are working alone.

During normal times, most team members admit communication is not where it needs to be. In times of rapid change or confusion, this is even more important.

Average communication feels like bad communication during times of confusion.

Because communication is one of the biggest challenges on most teams, it means improving your communication processes is one of the quickest ways to build team morale.

At one of our monthly meetings, our Church Fuel team recently had a conversation about how to improve communication.  We’re a small, remote team and we work really well together.  Communication is honestly pretty good.

But with some new people and new projects in the works, I felt like we needed a tune-up.  I found this document from Basecamp and shared it with our team, We talked through it and re-committed to the idea of communication and implemented a few tactical changes.

Here were some of the principles that stood out:

  • You can't not communicate. Not discussing the elephant in the room is communicating. Few things are as important to study, practice, and perfect as clear communication.
  • Substantial decisions start and end with an exchange of complete thoughts, not one-line-at-a-time jousts. If it's important, critical, or fundamental, write it up, don't chat it down.
  • Poor communication creates more work.
  • Ask if things are clear. Ask what you left out. Ask if there was anything someone was expecting that you didn't cover. Address the gaps before they widen with time.

Since things tend to go from a state of order to disorder when left alone, it’s important to revisit your communication principles and practices, and tools from time to time.  Talk through what needs to be communicated and talk through HOW things need to be communicated.

Honestly, many of the leadership tools we have for members at Church Fuel get right at this issue of communication.

  • The RACI Spreadsheet helps church teams clarify who is responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed on everyday tasks.
  • The Ministry Action Plan helps each ministry clarify how ministry-specific goals, plans, and programs roll up to the broader church mission.


#2 – Unclear Expectations

The second thing that kills team morale is unclear expectations.

Most people on teams want to do a great job and excel at the things that are on their plate.  But problems arise when expectations are not clear.

If you’re a team leader, your people cannot meet expectations that are not communicated to them.  You might be holding to a standard that exists only in your mind.

If you’re on a team, you might feel like the expectations placed on you are not clear.  That means you have the opportunity to go and seek clarity.  While it could have (and probably should have) been communicated clearly, it’s now up to you to dig in and get clear on those expectations.

The solution is actually quite simple:  Write down your expectations.  If you want to get on the same page, create an actual page.

Team leaders, write down your expectations clearly.  Whether it’s for a role, a project, or a task, make sure you don’t have uncommunicated expectations that will turn you into a passive-aggressive leader.

Team members, get used to saying the phrase “just to be clear” and then repeat back what you head.  Push for clarity.


#3 – Changing Goals

Imagine scoring a touchdown in a big game and the referee throws a flag, consults the other refs, and decides the end zone was actually 10 yards away.

Over the last few months, churches were forced to change programming, strategy, budgets, processes, and significant parts of their ministry.

Change is a normal part of ministry.

Thinking there won’t be changes is a recipe for disappointment.

But when things change constantly, that’s a recipe for burnout.

Constant change will drain a team’s energy and remove any sense of morale.  Maybe you’re on a team and feeling this way now.

Maybe your team has a leader that continually comes down from the mountain with a new vision, a new direction, and a new “drop everything and let’s do this” message.

Maybe you’re that kind of leader.

If you’re constantly changing the goals on your team, not only will they lose trust (“did you mishear God the last time?”), they will struggle to give their full energy to the next new idea.

Goals are a good thing, but if they change too often, the ensuing whiplash will demotivate more than the and your fresh vision will never be able to compensate. 

#4 – Team Members Have No Voice

“I don’t really care if we actually do what I’m suggesting here, I just want to be heard.”

That’s what we heard from a team member who was struggling to find her place on the team.  She had ideas, and those ideas weren’t being honored.

Most people on teams want their ideas to be heard.  In fact, the number one reason people don’t speak up is that they have spoken up in the past and nothing happened.

In teams with a few loud voices, morale might be really low.  Usually, the loud voices don’t realize it, because they are too busy talking over everyone.  And sometimes, this is a long-term effect of poor communication culture.

If someone is valuable enough to be on the team, their ideas are valuable enough to be heard.  If someone has a seat at the table, make sure they have a voice in the room.

One thing we hear from pastors is they don’t have people around them that speak up.  They tell us they desire to have great leaders around them with ideas and drive, but they just don’t.

if you don’t’ have people around you with opinions, ideas, and leadership experience, that’s a leadership development issue.  That’s not other people’s fault…that’s on you. Leaders create a culture where voices are valued.

If you’re on a team and don’t feel like you can share your opinion, speak up about the culture that makes you feel that way.


#5 – A Lack of Collective Progress

Even if you have a clear goal, continual work and toil toward an outcome without feeling like you’re making progress can kill morale.

It’s like constant fighting with little advancement.  It’s tiresome work with little visible results.

Caregiver or compassion fatigue comes when supporters face the same situations day in and day out, with very little change and minimal opportunity to refuel,” says Laura Howe of Hope Made Strong. “This is similar to leaders who are faced with constant problems with few solutions, they become worn down and their moral is eroded as they try to navigate what now feels like a hopeless situation.”

There are a lot of churches that have been pushing for change, trying to build the right culture, and working hard to accomplish a mission.  But there’s little progress.  There’s not much to celebrate yet.

And that can really take a toll.

Honestly, it’s the same feeling caregivers can feel when exerting mental and emotional energy taking care of someone who isn’t getting better.  Even though the task is important and there’s a deep sense of love, it can feel draining.  And then the guilt that comes from feeling that way takes a second toll.

Many leaders feel that the key to getting momentum is having a big win.  They want to turn the tide so they swing for the fences.  Maybe it’s a big initiative or a new ministry or a big new plan.

Going big feels right.

But momentum isn’t jumpstarted by big wins.  Instead, it’s created by a series of small, connected wins pointing in the right direction.

Momentum (and team morale) happens with little win followed by little win followed by little win.  String enough of these little positive movements together and you have momentum.

One of my favorite ways to structure goals and see progress comes from book The Four Disciplines of Execution.  We profiled that book in The Pastor’s Book Club.  That’s where you can get the breakdown containing notes, big ideas, key quotes, and a ministry insight video where we specifically call out applications to church.  The Pastor’s Book Club is included for all Church Fuel members or you could purchase it separately here.

The authors say the best format for goals is: “From X to Y by When.”

That’s a brilliant way to structure church goals.  You need to know where you are now.  You need to clearly identify where you’re going.  And you need a deadline.

The only thing I would add is that these goals may not need to feel big, audacious, or eternally significant.  They might need to be small and timely, so you can begin to generate momentum.

For teams to feel a strong sense of morale, they need to experience a simple sense of accomplishment.


#6 – A Lack of Coaching

I know “coaching” sounds ethereal and hard to understand.  It’s not a task like writing a sermon or leading a meeting, so while we know it’s important, we struggle to actually execute.

Coaching our team remains in the important but not urgent box on your Eisenhower Decision Matrix.

There are three specific things team members need from their leaders in this category of coaching.

Development.  Team members need intentional development from you.  Being on your team should help them be a better person.  Your team needs you to teach them what you know and what you’re learning.  They need you to help them grow as leaders not just get better at the tasks of their job.

Most of the time, this doesn’t happen because it’s not scheduled.  That’s why we created a Team Training resource and recommend pastors use one of the lessons once a month at a regularly scheduled team meeting.

If your leader isn’t taking a developmental interest in you, take it upon yourself. Use our free Personal Growth Plan resource to build your own personal growth plan.  Share your plan with your leaders, and even if they don’t support you, execute your plan.  But a more likely outcome is your leader will see your effort and begin to invest more into your growth.

Evaluation.  Team members need to know how they're doing.  They need to know what’s working, what’s not working, and what could be changed.  Teams with healthy cultures build this into their rhythm and it’s never weird to talk about performance.  If this is new to you, just recognize that it’s going to feel weird at first but as it becomes normal, it becomes better.

If you’re a team leader, conduct official evaluations at regular intervals.  If you’re on a team where this doesn’t happen, ask for it.  If you still can’t get it, do it for yourself and send the results up the food chain.

If you’re a Church Fuel member, you’ll find tons of evaluation forms in the Resource Library.  These can help you have honest and fruitful conversations about job performance.

Feedback.  Feedback is similar to evaluation, but it’s less formal.  It’s immediate.  It’s real-time.  When you give feedback, be careful not to say phrases like “I didn’t like…”. Because great leadership isn’t about imparting your preferences.  It’s about helping people be the most effective.

Ed Catmull, President of Pixar, wrote this in Creativity, Inc.: “Candor isn’t cruel. It does not destroy. On the contrary, any successful feedback system is built on empathy, on the idea that we are all in this together, that we understand your pain because we’ve experienced it ourselves.”

At Church Fuel, we often assign people a task to “make it better.”  Whether it’s an article or a webpage or a campaign, someone who is usually not highly involved is asked to provide “make it better” feedback.  It helps us produce collectively good work.


#7 – Micromanagement

Most people don’t like to be closely watched and tightly controlled.  They want to do their job with freedom.

Nearly every business article, book, and podcast warn against the dangers of micromanagement.

  • It’s annoying.
  • It’s not scalable.
  • It damages trust.
  • It leads to burnout.
  • It kills morale.

While some will chalk it to a personality trait or a leadership style (“he’s just a micromanager” or “she’s just a micromanager”), micromanagement is usually a sign of a dysfunctional culture.

It’s what leaders resort to when there’s poor communication, changing goals, poor development, and no clear outcome…all the things we’ve been talking about in this article.

Still, if you’re struggling to overcome this and want to make progress, there are things leaders and team members can do.

If you’re a leader, clarify outcomes and expectations on the front end.  If you’re a team member, push for even more clarity until you have NO questions about what is expected.

If you’re a leader, focus on developing, not managing.  If you can’t do it across the board, do it during certain time periods or with specific projects.

If you’re a team member, it’s time to over-communicate.  Tell your leader what you’re going to do, what you did do, and what happened as a result.  Do this before you’re asked.  It’s hard to micromanage someone who overcommunicates.

All parties should learn to write things down. It’s the old “plan the work then work the plan” principle. Processes, flow charts, checklists, and written project briefs really do make the difference.

Take the Next Step

Church teams are working harder than ever: serving, leading, pivoting, and trying to keep the church going. All this hard work makes people tired, and if you’re not careful and intentional, burnout comes next. You don’t want to come back with a jaded team with low morale.

The Tired Team: A Toolkit to Improve Staff Morale gives you and your team the coaching you need and the resources to make things better.

How to Use a Personal Growth Plan to Be a Better Leader

How to Use a Personal Growth Plan to Be a Better Leader

I’m a huge fan of setting goals. But there’s something more important, more powerful and far more effective than setting goals.

Personal Growth Plans

Plans beat goals every time. You can see this come to life in the health and fitness industry.

People don’t just need a goal to lose weight, they need a plan. They need an eating plan and a workout plan and an overall fitness plan. Without the plan, the goal means nothing.

The plan is where your goal shows up on your calendar. The plan is where your overarching goal interfaces with your daily actions.

John Burroughs said, “The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention.” The goal is your great intention. The plan is your smallest deed.

When it comes to leadership, you should have a goal to get better.

But you also need a simple plan. Preferably written on a sheet of paper. Preferably just one sheet.

Luckily, we’ve got you covered. We’ve developed a simple, one-page personal growth plan template.

There's a free download right here.

You’ll notice the plan does begin with goals because those are still important.

When it comes to leadership development, how do you want to get better? What part of leadership do you want to improve? Do you want to be a better communicator, team builder, manager, or decision-maker? All of those are specific goals, much better than “Be a better leader.”

Write your specific personal growth goals at the top of the page and then focus your plans on HOW you will accomplish them.

Here are a few things that should go on your personal growth plan.

#1 – What books are you going to read?

Great books are an incredible investment.

Think about it. For about $15 with free shipping, you can tap into someone’s life’s work. You get to read what they wrote, but you also get to learn from their research, interviews, experiences, and more.

Choose a book that intentionally speaks to your goal. If you want to be a better communicator, there are excellent books on this topic. If you want to learn how to manage people, search for the best book you can find.

Don’t just read because something is popular…read because it will help you accomplish your specific goal.

Decide what you’re going to read in advance and go ahead and order all the books. Keep them in plain sight.

If you’re looking for recommendations…here are twenty books we highly recommend for pastors and church leaders.

#2 – What events are you going to attend?

Many pastors go to conferences, workshops, and events.

But you shouldn't just put something on the calendar because it’s big or it’s good or other people are going.  Choose events based on your specific leadership goals, recognizing that it might be out of your comfort zone or specific area of expertise.

Don’t sign up for events because you get an email about a price increase. Choose events strategically.

When you do make the decision, go ahead and register and book all your travel. It will not be convenient and something will come up, and that’s exactly why intentional plans are important.

#3 – What networks are you going to join?

As you think about how you are going to grow as a leader in the next year, you might want to be intentional about connecting with specific people. There are formal and informal networks that can help you. And as you tap into those groups, you’ll help others at the same time.

Here are two examples.

I’m a part of a closed Facebook group consisting of Christian Entrepreneurs. As the leader of Church Fuel, this group is a valuable source of information and insight. And I like to think I add something to the others.

Not long ago, a few of us decided to meet in person. We rented a house in San Diego and spent 3 days working on our business strategies and helping each other. We swapped ideas, talked about life, and had a great time.

Deepening the relationships with that group was something I wrote on my own personal growth plan earlier in the year.

Secondly, there’s a pretty amazing community developing at Church Fuel. There are pastors and church leaders from every state in all kinds of situations. Not only do these leaders consume vetted content, but they also are a part of a community.

They ask and answer each other’s questions. They gather online. And there are even in-person meetups.

Church Fuel is more than a program; it’s a network.

You don’t have to limit yourself to these three categories. There are many other things you can write on your personal growth plan. In fact, feel free to change the template to suit your needs.

The point is to connect your leadership goals to your specific plans. The power comes from intentionality. You don’t need a bigger budget, a pipeline, process, or new technology to do this. It’s called a personal growth plan because it starts with you.

There's a second benefit to creating this.

Sharing your personal growth plan with your team will help create conversations about their personal growth as well.

Once you fill out your one-page plan, share it with your team. Not to coach them on how to do it, but to create accountability and ask for help. As you ask for suggestions about books and events, you’ll be able to give the same advice to others.

You’ll probably find others will want to follow and before you know it, you’ll have a few people focused on personal growth.

That’s when the magic happens.

Create a Personal Growth Plan

You can create a personal growth plan without the help of any other person.

But there’s something extra-powerful about being a part of a community that is focused on getting better.

That’s the common denominator among all the members of the Church Fuel community.  We live in different parts of the country and serve in all types of churches, but we share a desire to grow.

We want our churches to grow and we want to grow as leaders.

Yes, there are coaching videos and downloadable resources, but the community is the secret weapon.

And you’re invited to join us.

How to Turn Volunteers into Leaders

How to Turn Volunteers into Leaders

To experience growth in your church, you need both volunteers and leaders. There’s a vast difference between the two and if you fail to grasp it, you might fail to grow as a church.

There is a way to turn volunteers into leaders and I want to give you some practical action steps to make that happen.

Three Principles for turning Volunteers into Leaders

But first, three big principles you must understand:

1. There’s a big difference between a volunteer and a leader.

Volunteers want to do things. They want to play a part, meet a need, and have fairly clear responsibilities.

Leaders want to lead things. They want to be a part of the decision-making process and have more authority.

Some churches think they have a volunteer problem, but in reality, it’s a leadership issue. There are plenty of people to do the work, but not enough people to lead the work.

Other churches have a lot of leaders but nobody to do the real work of the ministry.

2. Many volunteers don't want to be leaders.

Some people are very comfortable staying in the volunteer lane. If you try and give them more leadership and authority, they shrink back or push away.

This has nothing to do with the fact that they don’t care about the mission and vision of the church. And it’s not a commitment issue. It’s just that God has wired some people to be volunteers and not leaders.

You can develop and disciple some people into leadership positions, but trying to force leadership roles on everyone is a big mistake.

3. Leadership development takes time.

You can’t microwave leadership development in your church. It’s more of a slow-cooker kind of thing.

This can be frustrating because there is so much ministry to do and so many opportunities to pursue, but if you want to develop leaders, you’re going to have to be patient.

You can have a class, but a class doesn’t produce leaders. You can create a program, but a program doesn’t yield quick results.

Leadership development in a church, such as the Team Training program that's a part of Church Fuel, requires the right kind of culture and time for relationships to mature.

Five Steps You Can Take to Turn Volunteers Into Leaders

With those three principles as the backdrop, let’s talk about five things you can do this week to begin the process of turning some volunteers into leaders.

1. Identify your potential leaders.

When I was pastoring a young church, we had a staff meeting on Monday nights. It was the only time our part-time and volunteer team could meet during the week.

Even though we were growing really fast, we realized we didn’t have many good systems for developing people. It turns out getting a crowd is way easier than leading a church.

So one night, we pulled out a whiteboard and tried to answer the question “Who are the potential leaders in our church?” We put several names up on the board until we realized we were making a list of hard-working volunteers. Few of these people were natural leaders. They preferred to do the ministry themselves. They worked hard, but they didn’t have followers or build teams.

This couldn’t be our long-term solution. From that meeting, only a few names emerged as true leaders.

You may not have a lot, but you have more than you realize. God has blessed your church with some potential leaders, and thought and prayer can help you identify them.

2. Have “I see in you” conversations.

One of my favorite ways to call out the potential in people is to go up to them and tell them what you see in them. It’s a conversation that might go something like this…

“Hey, Sarah. You are absolutely one of the friendliest people I’ve met. I honestly think it’s a God-given gift. You have this way of making people feel welcome and relaxed. It’s like you’re on the lookout for people who need a smile. I believe God has wired that into your personality somehow. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this before, but that’s something we really need here at River Church. I don’t know how God will use that, but I believe He is going to.”

You don’t have to give the hard sell or hand out the volunteer application. You’re simply saying what you see. You’re looking into someone’s life and speaking a positive truth.

Someone did this for me once, and I’ve never forgotten it. Calling out the potential in people is an amazing thing you can do for someone, and you can do it today.

3. Put them on your calendar.

You can’t effectively equip people to do the work of the ministry by writing sermons, sending emails, and trying to lead from behind your computer screen. You’re going to have to have conversations with people.

Leadership development takes time and intentionality. So once you have a list of a few potential leaders, make sure they are on your calendar. This is not very complicated, but it’s going to require a little bit of focus and planning.

Coffee conversations and lunches with people are really important, so don’t feel like these are diversions from the real work.

Recruiting leaders is also very different from recruiting volunteers. You can’t recruit leaders from the stage or with a sign-up sheet. You can recruit volunteers that way, but inviting leaders to be a part of what God is doing at your church is way more personal.

4. Ask questions.

Barry Banther says “Managers offer answers. Leaders offer questions.”

When you have conversations with potential leaders, you’ll definitely have an opportunity to talk and teach. You should cast vision, model a faith first life, and talk about the Bible.

But one of the most important things you can do is ask questions. Leaders love to share their opinion and you have an incredible opportunity to learn from their insights on the church.

Here are some questions you can ask potential leaders in your church.

  • What do you think we can do better?
  • What do you think are some of our biggest opportunities?
  • How can our church better serve your friends, neighbors and co-workers?
  • How could our church services be better?
  • What are the biggest needs in our community?
  • Who should I get to know in our city? Who would you like to know in our church or city?

A lot of leaders in your church are experts in a particular field. Those insights and skills are crucial to the church, but most people are never asked. I know business leaders who are sitting on the sideline because no pastor has ever asked for their wisdom.

5. Delegate results, not just tasks.

When you have identified a leader, spent time with them, and learned from them, you might find there’s an opportunity for a new leader to get involved in the church.

While you should start small, you must also give away responsibility and not just a to-do list. This is one of the biggest differences between a volunteer and a leader. Volunteers love the to-do list, but leaders often hate it.

If you want to involve a problem-solving leader, get on the same page but then get out of the way. Let them make decisions and take action. Continue to meet and coach, but let go.

Bryan Miles, founder of Miles Advisory Group says, “When you give responsibility to others, you kill the falsehood that says you can do it all and you are in control of it all.”

Don’t decide everything and hand the execution plan to a leader. Let the leader come up with the plan.

3 Things That Keep People from Leading in Your Church

3 Things That Keep People from Leading in Your Church

We need more leaders.

We’ve tried it all, but we can’t get people to step up.

I end up doing everything because we don’t have enough leaders.

A lack of leaders is the visible problem in your church, but we want to address the root cause. After all, if you simply put a Band-Aid on the symptom, you’ll never be able to truly experience a healthy and growing church.


Here are three reasons people might not be leading in your church.

If you’re struggling to recruit or develop leaders in your church, it’s time to look under the hood.

#1 – Mission confusion.

Every church shares the same purpose: Making disciples.

We say it in different ways and express it in different languages, but our root purpose is the same. Every church in every setting is called to make disciples.

Most Christians will fundamentally agree with the purpose of your church.

It’s Biblical.

It’s broad.

And that’s why it may not be enough to inspire leaders to serve.

Some people in your church (and I think it could be as many as half) aren’t motivated by purpose because it doesn’t seem tangible. It’s this eternal thing always out there, always calling us forward. But because it’s an eternal mission, there’s sometimes not a sense of urgency.

Leaders need to know the eternal purpose, but they need to know the one thing you’re doing about it RIGHT NOW.

They need to know the clear and present mission.

Here are some questions to help you drill down on this:

  • What specifically is your church trying to do?
  • Who is your church trying to reach?
  • What is the top priority in this next season of ministry?
  • What is the time-sensitive opportunity before us?
  • What is at stake if we don’t accomplish this?

These are the kinds of questions you must answer for leaders. They don’t have generic answers; they require specificity. They aren’t eternal; they have deadlines.

If you want leaders to serve in your church, you need to cast a clear, compelling, and CURRENT vision.

Want to know more about the difference between purpose and mission and why it matters in your church? Read this article.

#2 – Having an outdated structure. 

The structure of your church can help or hinder your growth. Carey Nieuwhof says, “If you want your church to grow, you need to structure bigger to grow bigger.”

An outdated structure doesn’t just hinder growth in the church, it hinders growth in people.  It prevents leaders from leading.

Leaders don’t want to serve in a stifling environment where there is little freedom. They don’t want to operate in a committee-driven culture where decisions are made at the top and pushed down through the ranks. They don’t want to operate in a bureaucracy where results aren’t visible.

When you look at the structure of your church, particularly your staff, board, or committee involvement, ask yourself if that structure enables leaders to lead or prevents leaders from making decisions.

Leaders make messes. Leaders try things. Leaders don’t always follow the checklist.

So if your structure doesn’t allow for leaders to shine, you’ll probably always struggle to involve leaders.

Brandon Cox says churches with unhealthy structures have too many committees, vote on too many issues, lack simple parameters for decision-making, spread authority out randomly, and move slowly to allow everyone’s turf to remain safe.

Conversely, he says a healthy structure is built on high trust in leaders, gives responsibility away whenever possible, has fewer committees, votes on few issues, and adapts to change more quickly.

Structure is not a quick-fix issue and it won’t be solved with a free eBook or webinar. In order to address your structure issues, you must be willing to get your hands dirty and have courageous conversations.

You must move into the process knowing the structure that allowed your church to flourish in the past may be the very thing holding you back from the next season of growth. You must realize that if your church is structured for your current size, you might need to make preemptive changes. The right time to re-structure is BEFORE you need it.

Structure isn’t just about growth or organization. It’s about freeing up leaders to lead.

#3 – Unclear roles. 

There is a huge difference between a leader and a volunteer. Recognizing that difference might just be the key to getting people in the right spot.

This might be an overly simple distinction, but a volunteer moves stuff around while a leader moves stuff forward. Volunteers and leaders are both important and necessary in your church, but they meet very different needs.

A volunteer wants to serve because they love the church, believe in the mission, and want to play a part. They want to do something.  

Leaders also love the church, believe in the mission, and want to play a part. But they want to use their gift of leadership. They don’t just want to do things…they want to lead things.

If you ask a volunteer to be a leader and they don’t want those extra responsibilities, it could be a disaster. And if you ask a leader to stay in the lane of volunteering, they will not be fulfilled and will never reach their full potential.

Here’s another way to look at it:

Asking a volunteer to be a leader often results in burnout. Asking a leader to be a volunteer often results in boredom.

If you sit down to make a list of leaders in your church, the first people who come to mind will probably be hard-working volunteers who are always present. You’ll naturally gravitate toward people who are present and visible.

But a hard-working volunteer who shows up at every church event is not necessarily a leader.  Because leaders don’t just do tasks, they have followers.

That’s why your job is to create clarity of roles.

What exactly does it mean to be a volunteer at your church? And what exactly does it mean to be a leader? Can you articulate the difference? Is there a path between the two?

This type of clarity comes from a commitment to work on your leadership system. We’ve got resources to help and plans you can implement, but it’s up to you to do the work.

How to get leaders involved in your church 

One thing we’ve noticed about leaders in the church is they typically crave training. Leaders love opportunities to get better and develop their skills. So we created an eBook all about leading a staff.

This resource will help you learn:

  • How to clarify everyone’s role so they remain focused on the right things
  • Manage your team to accomplish their goals
  • Streamline your team meetings so they maximize everyone’s time
  • Ways to develop their leadership skills

The Senior Pastor's Guide to Leading a Staff is one of our most popular resources and it's yours free when you click below. 

7 Habits of Highly Effective Church Staff Members

7 Habits of Highly Effective Church Staff Members

In order to accomplish the vision God’s given you for your church, you will need a highly effective team. Here are essential traits to look for in potential new hires and to develop within your current team:

Habit #1: They manage time and energy well.

Managing your time and energy well requires discipline and developing good habits.

Time management involves planning your days.

One simple trick is to take the last 5-10 minutes of each workday and write down what you need to do tomorrow. This exercise helps you hit the ground running the next day and helps you start to shift out of work mode (thereby making it easier to relax when you get home).

Managing your energy involves recognizing when you’re the most productive and what tasks energize you.

As Carey Nieuwhof states, “Do what you’re best at when you’re at your best.” He recommends identifying your peak working hours and leveraging those to do the work that energizes you the most during that time.

Habit #2: Spending quality time in the Word.

“And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there.” – Matthew 14:23

Jesus got away from the crowds and spent time alone with His Father. We need to follow His example. If we’re continually pouring ourselves out, eventually we won’t have anything left to give.

Periodically ask a team member what he’s learned from Scripture recently. If he doesn’t have an answer, ask how his time in the Word is going. This isn’t about clocking in a certain amount of time in Scripture; it’s about making sure your team members are consistently cultivating their relationship with God.

Habit #3: Taking care of him/herself.

When you ask someone how he’s doing, many times you’ll hear he’s really busy. It’s as if being busy is a badge of honor or a sign of how important we are to the church.

There’s also an interesting dynamic in ministry where, in an effort to serve, we feel it’s necessary to completely neglect our own health (spiritual, physical, or otherwise).

Neither mindset is healthy. In fact, both can quickly lead to burning out.

While a strong work ethic is great, it must include the idea that taking care of oneself enables us to do our best work. This doesn’t mean your team should all be marathon runners – it just means they make their health (physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional) a high priority.

Habit #4: They never raise an issue without also presenting potential solutions.

Leading a church or ministry department is challenging enough in itself. The last thing you need is a staff that only brings you problems. A proactive staff member will either fix the problem, or if he needs your input/approval, will mention the issue and a few options for resolving it.

Quick Tip: The next time a staff member mentions a problem without any solutions, ask what she recommends. Don’t let someone get away with just bringing up problems.

Habit #5: They seek to develop and grow professionally.

Regardless of how many years someone has been in ministry, he still has plenty to learn. Encourage your team to seek out development opportunities.

This may include reading books, listening to podcasts, attending conferences, taking classes part-time, or cross-training with another staff member. As much as possible, allocate money in the budget to pay for at least some training for your team.

Habit #6: Praying for fellow church staff members and volunteers.

Many of the New Testament letters begin with a prayer for the recipients.

“For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” – Colossians 1:9-10

Lead the way on this and pray for your team. Pray for them at the start of staff meetings. Encourage department leaders to pray with and for their teams. As your team develops a habit of praying with and for each other, you’ll likely see them grow closer as a group.

Habit #7: They recruit and appreciate volunteers.

Effective staff members are constantly looking for ways to help people get involved in the church.

They know recruiting volunteers isn’t about getting work done.

Instead, they realize connecting people with opportunities to serve helps them grow in their relationship with Christ, provides an easy way to make new friends within the church, and much more.

When you look at recruiting volunteers from that vantage point, it changes how you invite people to serve.

It’s easy to get so focused on trying to get more volunteers that we neglect those we do have. Wise staff members genuinely appreciate their volunteers and communicate that appreciation. Taking five minutes to write and mail a thank you note is an easy way to encourage, appreciate, and motivate current volunteers.

Before you email this list to your staff and encourage them to develop these habits, here’s an idea for how to present this information to your team:

  • Consider reading Stephen Covey's  “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” with your team. If you don’t want to cover the whole book, at least review the seven habits.
  • Then, open up a discussion and ask what they would consider to be seven highly effective habits as church staff. They’ll come up with items that aren’t on this list (and that’s a good thing!) but they’ll likely also offer up a few similar habits as well.
  • Agree upon a list of seven as a team and then discuss a habit each week for the next seven weeks.
    • How do we practically implement/develop this habit?
    • Who on the team recently demonstrated this habit and how?
  • Get them involved in the process of developing their own list and holding each other accountable for developing the habits.

Look for these habits as you bring new people onto the team and seek to develop them with your current staff. When you develop these habits together, you’ll grow closer as a team and will be even more effective in ministry.

Becoming an Effective Church Staff

Feel like your church should be growing, but it's not?

Ultimately, church growth is up to God. Are we being good stewards of what He's given us? Are we doing everything we can to ensure our church is healthy? How do we overcome the barriers we feel are in front of us?

We know you care deeply about leading a healthy growing church because it means leading more people to Jesus. So we created a free guide to breaking barriers that will bring clarity and help begin to alleviate your frustrations.

Get your FREE copy of the Senior Pastor's Guide to Breaking Barriers today.