The Most Important Thing You Can Do for Your Church Staff Right Now

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You’re tired of navigating the new normal, dealing with the trying times, and acting out an abundance of caution.

You don’t want to hear about the unprecedented times, talk about uncertainty, or read that some retail store is in this together with you.

These phrases are worn out, and you’re tired of the sentiment behind them. You’re more than ready to move on and move ahead.

The people you’re leading feel this way, too.

They feel stuck between this desire to move forward and dealing with the current reality still facing them. 

You don’t have the answers, but people are looking to you for answers.

You’re wondering what path to take, but people are looking to you to lead them.

Even if you don’t fully know what to do, your team needs you to cast vision for the future. They are tired of hearing about the past – they want to know where they are going and they need you to tell them.

Even though you don’t have all the answers, your team is looking to you to cast clarity. They need you to sit behind the desk of the Chief Clarity Officer and help make sense out of all the options.

Even though you may not know the best path forward, your team is looking to you to make decisions. And not just make them…own them.  

But there’s something your team needs even more from you right now. 

Some people might not act like it, but they need this.

Some people on your team may never say the words out loud, but they need you to show up in a big way.  

They need it more than you may even know.

What your team needs most right now is for you to pastor them. 

They don’t just need a leader. 

They need a pastor.

Let me say it more specifically: They need YOU to be their pastor.

To borrow a Biblical metaphor, your people are looking to you to shepherd them.

We don’t encounter a lot of shepherds where I live in Atlanta. But the people living in the time of Christ could certainly relate to the job. It was a metaphor that made sense.

Peter encouraged a young pastor to “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” (I Peter 5:2-4)

Peter’s message to Timothy wasn’t just to preach, lead, and cast vision. It was to pastor like the Chief Shepherd.

Even though we love to lean into vision-casting, courageous decision making, and casting clarity, the people on staff and on teams in churches need you to embrace this part of your job description. 

The people in your care need you to pastor them, not just lead them.

Here’s why…

#1 – Everyone’s job description has changed dramatically over the last few months.

You’re doing things now that you didn’t imagine at the start of 2020. You’ve got all kinds of new skills you didn’t ask for.

In many ways, you’re leading out of your depth.

But so is everyone else. All these new responsibilities and opportunities can feel like obligations. That makes us tired and easily susceptible to burnout.

If you have people treading water, they don’t need an evaluation meeting. They need you to show interest in their soul.  

#2 – People’s faith is being tested right now.

When people go through a crisis of faith, whether it’s a big one or a small one, they need to talk things out with a pastor who loves them and cares for them.

They need someone to talk to and pray with.  They need a guide who will ask questions, not another person to dispense directions.

#3 – Change creates anxiety.

Leaders at the top of the org chart handle change often because we’re used to instigating it.

But just because change doesn’t bother you doesn’t mean it isn’t hurting your team.

Changing goals, changing tactics, changing budgets…all of this tends to stress people out. 

Of course, clear communication and good leadership will help. But don’t forget you’re dealing with the souls of people, not just leading a faceless organization.


Putting This in Place

Practically speaking, how can you pastor and shepherd your team?

Here are three things you can do.

Shepherds know the flock (John 10:27).  

Ask your team how they are doing and listen to the answers behind their answers.  And while emails, text messages, and pings are great tools for quick communication, I suggest a more substantial conversation. 

A phone call still works wonders. A conversation away from the office or conference room will make things feel more personal. 

If you’re wondering what to talk about, consider using the “Personal Conversation” from our free 7 Conversations Guide.  

Shepherds feed the flock. (Acts 20:29).

Too many times in our staff meetings and team discussions, we’re diving deep into solving problems and working on tasks.

Redeem a little of that time and share devotional thoughts with your staff. Before you tackle the work of the ministry, talk about the goodness of God. Before you plan services, unpack a verse of Scripture.

We’ve put together another free resource you can use for this purpose: twelve staff devotionals.

If you’re meeting in person, use them as you begin a team meeting. Or just have the notes in front of you and record some thoughts for your team. Take a few minutes to send a video message that feeds your team spiritually.

Shepherds lead and protect the flock. (Psalm 23).

Pastoring your staff or team means you protect them from what could cause them harm.

Burnout is real. It’s one of the seven causes of low morale on teams. You’ve got to protect your team from doing the wrong kind of work, the constant negativity bombarding them, and all the feelings that come from serving during a global pandemic.

Working at a church is hard in normal times. This is a new level.

This isn’t a free resource, but it’s low-cost. The Tired Team comes with video training for you and video training that you can share with your team. There are several “same page” exercises that will allow you to address the heart of the matter and preemptively protect your people from burnout. 

H.B. London, writing in Christianity Today, says this:

“One of the most important aspects of being a pastor is fulfilling the role of servant-shepherd. Next to being faithful to God and attentive to spouse and family is the pastor's responsibility as shepherd—one who knows the flock, listens to the flock, watches out for the flock, cares for the flock, corrects the flock, and spends a great portion of time with the flock. Shepherds endear themselves to the flock. It's a wonderful style of ministry.”

Embrace your role as a pastor, not just the leader or vision-caster. Start with your staff or your leadership team. Begin with the small group of people closest to you.

They need their pastor.

Take the Next Step

The root of low morale and burnout is often spiritual. Taking the time to regularly pour into your team and encourage their spiritual health is vital.

To help establish a regular rhythm of pouring into and pastoring your staff, download 12 Devotions for Every Leader now.

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