One of the warning lights that goes on when a church is over-programmed and overscheduled is the condition of the staff and volunteer health. If the staff is worn out, that’s a sign that the ministry is in an unhealthy place.
Ironically, it’s typically the smaller churches we serve that struggle most in this area. Particularly when The Unstuck Group is facilitating one of our Staffing & Structure Reviews, one of the areas we assess is life balance with the staff team. There’s not a magic formula to assess this, but we do try to discern whether or not their pace of life is healthy.
In those instances where the church needs to establish new disciplines to model health in this area, we recommend the church establish written guidelines for four types of time-off:
- Day Off Each Week – Everyone deserves a sabbath every week. It’s a biblical principle. In fact, you may want to consider closing the offices and not allowing any ministry events one day each week. That way both the staff and your volunteers get a day off. Chick-fil-A has modeled this for years by remaining closed on Sundays. Churches may not be able to close on Sunday, but is there any reason why we can’t choose to close and model sabbath on another day during the week?
- Vacation Time – Every staff person should be required to take a minimum of a full week of vacation at least a couple of times during the year. Not only will that offer time for renewal for the staff, but it will require equipping others to carry on ministry when the staff is off. When that happens, you begin to reproduce ministry and leadership in others. That’s a good thing. Don’t let staff carry vacation forward. Make them use it.
- Weekends Off – In addition to vacation time during the week, you need to identify how many weekends the staff should take time off. Not all of these weekends should be vacation. Set aside some weekends for the staff to be at the church but only in observing roles. This fresh perspective will help everyone. Also set aside some weekends for the staff to visit other churches. Again, this will be a great opportunity to glean new ideas and catch a new vision.
- Establish Boundaries for Protecting Evenings – I recommend you set a maximum number of evenings that staff can be engaged in ministry activities. I prefer two evenings each week, and three at the most. And, yes, the staff needs to be making sure volunteers hold to these same standards.
Let me state the obvious. Some churches will have to assess the number of ministries, programs and events they’re doing in order to implement these healthy boundaries to protect staff and volunteers. That needs to happen. Your ministry will grow stronger and healthier in the long run if you do that.
If your team is running at an unhealthy pace, you need to establish these guidelines in writing. Hold each other accountable. Reward healthy pace of life.