Recently I caught up with Sarah Bouma to talk about the trends she is seeing when it comes to church staffing. Sarah is a Ministry Consultant at The Unstuck Group, bringing a wealth of experience from the Kellogg Company and Granger Community Church. She provides Staffing & Structure Reviews for many of our church clients around the country. I’m confident that our conversation will provide a few key takeaways to help you improve the ministry team you lead.
TONY: What are some things you consistently see churches do wrong when it comes to staffing/structure when you’re consulting?
SARAH: A few things come immediately to mind:
1. Not having established roles, responsibilities, and reporting relationships
When these are not clarified, staff members become frustrated, discouraged, and unfocused with their efforts. Each individual should have a clear job description along with a supervisor who checks in regularly to see (1) how they are progressing, (2) what support and resources they need, (3) what challenges they are experiencing, and (4) what ministry wins they are celebrating.
This gives everyone the clarity they need to stay focused everyday along with a clear go-to person when they feel stuck.
2. Lack of meeting structure and follow-up communication
Every team should establish a regular meeting cadence. They also need guidelines that clarify how key information and decisions will be communicated to others after the meeting occurs. Otherwise, those who are not a part of the meeting will end up on different pages.
3. Lack of clearly structured HR practices
Often there is the perception that if you incorporate more structured HR practices (performance evaluations, goal setting, development planning, etc.) that you will damage the staff culture by making your environment cold and “corporate.” Structure and culture can certainly be a both/and situation. If you already have an engaging culture, structured HR practices will further strengthen it, not replace it.
TONY: What are some positive trends you’re seeing?
SARAH: The greatest trend I am seeing is leadership teams working hard to focus on their overall mission and vision to truly eliminate ministry silos.
Many are structuring their staff around the mission, vision, and strategy or the church. They are realizing that once they set a clear direction and put the right people in the right places, they experience a much greater return on their work and investment.
Additionally, many leaders are working hard to diversify their staff and leadership teams to better reflect the communities they are trying to reach.
TONY: What are some things you wished every church would do when it comes to staffing/structure?
SARAH: There a few steps any church can quickly take to improve in this area:
1. Create some staff infrastructure
Infrastructure equips both staff and volunteers to be at their best. This should include job descriptions and clear goals that cascade from the mission and vision. It should also include regular one-on-one meetings, along with team meetings.
2. Think ahead and hire for leadership
Your ideal team will be composed of people who can activate and release volunteers to do ministry. Often churches start paying volunteers to do ministry. Instead, think strategically about how those budget dollars can be best stewarded to pursue the mission and vision. You will likely identify a critical area in which you could use additional leadership.
3. Follow a clear process when hiring
Every church should have an established hiring process that treats each candidate in a similar fashion. This should include the number and types of interviews, similar questions, etc. If you are unsure of the legalities involved, seek help from a search firm or HR professionals in your congregation. They can help you develop a sound process that is both legal and beneficial to your team.
If you are recognizing it might be time to reassess your approach to staffing and structure, our team is glad to help in any way we can. You can learn more about how we serve churches in this area here.
Photo by Dmitrii Vaccinium via Unsplash cc0