What are You Crying About?

About 8 years ago, a little book created quite a stir among the church-world. Presumably, those outside of the church read it as an inspirational work as it pointed one toward God. Inside the church, however, fireworks ensued. Those adept at theology highlighted its faults and discouraged us from reading it. I fell in that camp. The book was The Shack.

This week, The Shack hit theaters in movie form. I questioned whether I would see it. Negative feelings stirred within me. But, I went. I saw the movie. I liked it. In fact, it moved me. I bawled like a baby. Ugly cried. Friends handed me tissues.

I’d see it again.

What does this have to do with communicating effectively with your team?

The only other thing that brings me to tears like The Shack is when good leaders have poor communication with those around them. Wrong dates. Incorrect times. Inaccurate information. All point toward poor communication.

In the church world, it’s important for church leaders to communicate with the congregation, but we cannot overlook the importance of relaying information between ministry leaders. When ministry leaders are in the dark about what other ministries are doing, we hear complaints stemming from the silo-effect. That is, ministry leaders feel segmented and separated from their peers. Because of this, we recognize that communication takes place on two levels in the church:

(1) Staff to Congregation
(2) Staff to Staff

Good communication at both of these levels is important for effective leadership. It also makes ministry a lot more efficient. Here’s why I think it’s important to hit these two groups with clear communication:

Staff to Church

Staff leadership is effective when there is clear communication with the church/congregation. The staff is responsible for keeping the congregation informed about upcoming events/activities, changes in the staff, financial status, and many other items. The personnel may do this by way of e-mail, announcements, social media, or personal contact. The reason for the staff to keep the congregation informed is that, “What doesn’t get communicated is at the mercy of the rumor mill and the imagination of others. The secret to effective communication is to answer the questions before they are thought of!”[1] When the staff does not communicate, the congregation is left in the dark, guessing what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. Effective leaders answer all of the questions that may be asked before they are asked.

Staff to Staff

Staff leadership is effective when there is clear communication between staff members. Ministry directors must be in regular communication with each other about the plans, programs, and activities of their ministries. As Wimberly writes,

Communication is especially important among larger staffs. Staff meetings are an important time to ensure communication throughout the system. They can also be a time to coordinate the management of various subsystems of the larger congregational system. If such communication and coordination doesn’t happen, parts of the system will quickly start working against one another or will overlap in ways that create significant inefficiencies and irritation.[2]

The student ministry should be in communication with the college ministry. The college ministry should be in communication with the children’s ministry. The children’s ministry should be in communication with the worship ministry. When the various ministries are not communicating beyond their scope, there’s confusion, frustration, and separation. As in marriage, when communication breaks down between ministries, the system begins to fail. Eventually, when there is no communication, if help is not administered, divorce often takes place. When ministries are working against each other within the same church due to a lack of communication, they have divorced each other from their common mission. Sadly, simply because of a lack of communication, the entire system becomes inefficient and, especially, ineffective.

That is something to cry about.

[1] Lotich, Smart Church Management, 46.

[2] Wimberly, The Business of the Church, 34.


Conference Review – Innovate Now!

Located in the “Corner Bakery” headquarters building, I knew this was going to be a good conference. The smell of baked goods filled the air. Fortunately, our conference was located in the basement of the building, rather then anywhere near the bakery.

This was not your typical conference. Developed by the thinkers at Leadership Network, this experience fit more into the category of learning cohort, rather than your typical conference. They didn’t catch our attention with flashy signs and videos. They didn’t usher us into the moment with worship music. They didn’t surprise us with celebrity appearances. Rather, our intimate crowd sat in rows and engaged in conversation, networking, and strategic thinking. It was wonderful!

The genius of this experience was hearing from four presenters, the opportunity to follow up their presentations with dialogue, and space during the day to just think about how the topics would impact your organization. The focus of the day was “Strategic Staffing.”

The speakers included Pastor Steve Stroope who presented key motivators for staff. He was followed by Sam Chand (via video) who outlined seven ways to change your staff culture. Kadi Cole hit the ball out of the park with her talk about different types of teams. The day ended with Dr. Warren Bird walking us through the latest staffing trends based on his research.

The experience challenged me, inspired me, and encouraged me. Kudos to the Leadership Network team on the initiation of the Innovate Now! series. Five more like-minded experiences are slated for this year. My schedule is full, but I’m going to make time to attend these upcoming experiences because, in my opinion, they have much to offer to effective church leadership.

Register online for Innovate Now!

Three Keys to an Effective Job Description

Clearly defined authority, roles, and responsibilities of the staff are marks of effective leadership in the church. While authority, roles, and responsibilities are established by the organizational structure of a church, they are described with the most detail in the job descriptions written for each position. Unfortunately, many churches are not able to provide job descriptions to their staff.[1] Churches are quick to hire people, but slow to tell them how to do their job. The end result is confusion by the workers as to who they answer to, what authority they have, their role in the organization, and the responsibilities they are expected to carry out. That’s why, as Lotich says, “Providing employees with a detailed job description is the best way to prepare them for a successful employment experience.”[2] Each employee that makes up the organizational chart should have a written job description.[3] An effective job description has many elements, but those can be summarized into three main areas: roles, authority and responsibility.

The Employee’s Role

First, an effective job description addresses an employee’s role. That is, the employee needs to know what part she plays in the church/organization. Therefore, Pollock notes, “The content of the job description will depend for the most part on the specific job itself.”[4] As it relates to the employee’s role in the organization, the description states the title of the position, i.e., youth pastor, children’s pastor, or lead pastor. Secondly, the general expectations of the position should be stated in the job description. For example, the youth pastor is expected to lead a gospel-centered student ministry with teaching on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. The third part of the employee’s role that should be defined in the description includes the qualifications for the position. This may be length of experience, type of education, or both.

The Employee’s Authority

The next key to an effective job description is to identify the employee’s authority. Clarifying the employee’s authority is just as important as communicating the employee’s role in the job description. When authority is not defined, confusion results because an employee may, on the one hand, attempt to delegate responsibilities to another staff member, or, on the other hand, refuse to accept responsibilities delegated to them. Therefore, the description needs to clearly define the person/position that provides supervision. For a senior pastor, this may be no one or it may be the board. For the youth pastor, this may be the executive pastor or the senior pastor. Additionally, the job description will define who the employee supervises. A senior pastor may supervise several staff members, while the administrative assistant may supervise only a few contractual staff.

The Employee’s Responsibilities

Lastly, an effective job description outlines the employee’s responsibilities. That is, the employee needs to know what he needs to do in his job. The job description should state the specific responsibilities the individual will be held accountable for accomplishing. The responsibilities defined in the description will be specific for the job. No one else on staff at the church is hired to do these tasks (unless there are multiple people filling the same type of role, obviously). In addition, the responsibilities are described in detail. The employee will not be surprised by more details about responsibilities after he is hired. He will know exactly what is expected of him before he accepts the position. Lotich makes the point that, “Job descriptions should be reflective of expected tasks and responsibilities of the role and should be updated annually to ensure that changing focuses and priorities are reflected in the job description.”[5] In addition to being specific and detailed, descriptions should be flexible. The job descriptions change as the organization grows and changes. However, the specificity and the details of the descriptions do not change. An employee will have a clear understanding of her responsibilities based on the job description presented to her.

An effective administrator in the church gives ample attention to identifying three key components in an employee’s job description: role, authority, and responsibilities. This not only identifies an effective leader, but also sets up the employee to be an effective leader. He/she has clarity to carry out his/her job as expected by the church. The employee, then, is enabled to succeed and everyone in the church benefits from his/her success.

Wimberly, The Business of the Church, 55.

[2] Patricia S. Lotich, Smart Church Management: A Quality Guide to Church Administration (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012), 93.

[3] Welch, Church Administration, 84.

[4] Pollock and Burkett, Business Management in the Local Church, 195.

[5] Lotich, Smart Church Management, 93.

Structuring Your Church Staff

Effective leadership in the church structures staff to be effective. This can be achieved simply through a well-planned organizational chart. The goal of an organizational chart is to define three areas for the personnel: authority, roles, and responsibilities. How the chart does this varies between organizations, but three common structures may be found in most churches. These are also the models found in Scripture. Each chart is organized by style versus church size or personnel functions. [1]

The first basic type of staff organization is a centralized structure. [2] In this model, one person functions as the chief administrator. He is the sole person that all staff persons are responsible to. This is an authoritarian/dictator approach to leading an organization. An example of this is found in Exodus 18. This is the structure Moses was following when Jethro warned him of burnout. Moses was God’s appointed man, so he was trying to do all of the work himself. If Moses continued to operate this way, the fate of the nation of Israel was at stake. A church following this structure has a senior pastor who has all the authority, establishes all of the roles of the staff, and determines all of the responsibilities of each person. While this structure has proven itself effective over the years, it has its faults. For one, it limits authority to one individual, while an effective leader chooses to distribute responsibility to other leaders.

The second type of organizational structure is known as the non-centralized structure. [3] As its name implies, the non-centralized structure has no central line of authority or responsibility. In this model, each staff member relates to each other equally. When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, he reminded them that the Spirit appointed every believer in the church to take on specific responsibilities, (1 Cor. 12). His guidance was that no position was greater than any other, but that all are equally important. For those churches who follow this model today, a lead pastor may be in place, but only as an advisor to the rest of the staff. In this model, authority is disbursed to every staff member, the roles will overlap, and responsibilities will be shared. The health of this structure is the sharing of authority and responsibilities. However, the danger of this model is the possibility of miscommunication, poor relationships, duplication of efforts, and wasting of resources. It may be an effective structure, but it’s definitely low in efficiency.

The third model of organizational structure is known as the line organization. [4] In this model, a leader is defined, but leadership is delegated downward through lines of authority. Portions of responsibility reside at various levels within the organization. This structure defines supervisors and direct reports. When Jethro discovered how Moses was attempting to lead Israel with a centralized structure, he suggested to him this line organization approach. This would prevent Moses from experiencing burnout since responsibility was divided among other leaders. Some groups of people were headed by leaders of thousands and others by leaders of hundreds until the smallest group. For those churches using this model today, there is a sense of ownership by all staff members. The structure identifies needs and eliminates duplication. Authority is shared throughout the structure, while the senior pastor has ultimate authority. Roles are clearly defined, such as, senior pastor, executive pastor, youth pastor, worship pastor. Responsibility is shared throughout the organization. This model is highly effective and highly efficient.

The first two structures for organization do not allow for an effective and efficient use of personnel and resources. However, the third model, the line structure, is best suited for the church organizational structure. The authority and responsibilities are shared, while individual roles are clearly defined. While each model offers some advantages, this third model is ideal. And, even though the structure for organizations may vary, Welch writes,

The church organizational structure should continue to pattern itself after the traditional matrix or line format. People need policies and procedures with a defined workflow. Personnel should be directed through their work by job descriptions not only for accountability but also for responsibility. [5]

When the workflow is defined, as in the line structure, people can work better and are more suited to function as leaders. They are given a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished to move the organization forward. When the personnel are clear at what they are supposed to be doing, they are equipped to guide others under them in their responsibilities.

[1] Welch, Church Administration, 70-72.

[2] Ibid., 70–71.

[3] Ibid., 71.

[4] Ibid., 72.

[5] Ibid., 73.