Pastor-Staff Relations

This post is long overdue. Most who read this blog may not be interested in this subject, but I think it’s worth addressing for those of my friends who are in ministry or for anyone I don’t know who is in ministry.

I had to think back to figure out how many pastors I have worked for. The total is eleven (2 in my home church, 2 in separate churches in NC, 3 in another church which includes an interim pastor, 1 in GA, 3 in separate churches after I returned to an associate role). I guess you could say I worked for a deacon chairman who did not really understand my biblical role as a pastor but simply tried to be peacemaker when church members didn’t like how I led. Some of you may not agree, but I received my marching orders as a pastor from God. There should be checks and balances, but those checks and balances should have backbone and should support what God is doing rather than try to pacify the crowd (Sounds a lot like Pontius Pilate).

I will list qualities I admired in these pastors (which should exist in all ministry staff), areas in which they struggled, and how the pastor and staff should serve as a team rather than “Boss Hawg” and his subjects.

Admiral Qualities

– Bold preaching – Most were bold preachers. They were unashamed in the pulpit. Not all spoke the truth in love, but they had a firm conviction rooted in Scripture.

– Compassion – I can’t say this for all, but some clearly loved people. They went the extra mile for anyone. They were good listeners, weeping with those who wept. There was no doubt that they cared.

– Great administrators – I could only say this for one beyond the shadow of a doubt. I always said that if a mark was on a wall, he would make sure it was painted by the end of the day. Administrators tend to be weaker in preaching and compassion. If they don’t like you, they’ll fire you because they feel like it. Their strength, however, is making sure the church runs in an orderly fashion.

Weaker areas

– Don’t say “no” – being a pastor doesn’t mean you do what everyone wants. I guess that made me a bad pastor. Too late this time! They burn out and even leave ministry. You can’t go to everyone’s meetings, parties, toe surgeries, etc.

– Quick temper – many pastors I’ve worked with were quick-tempered. When pastors function in anger, the danger can be irreparable (especially when the church won’t forgive your humanity but expect you to forgive theirs).

– Micromanagers – I was most miserable in a church where the pastor practically picked my songs. I have no clue why he hired me. These guys hate the feeling of lack of control, so they will pull the plug on your zeal and enthusiasm if they see that you might outshine them. (I thought Jesus was the one to shine)

– Politicians – I’ve been burned by a few of these guys. They catered to the older people or big givers in the church, so they would deliver petty complaints to me. I resigned one situation because of this. God clearly gave me a release from that ministry, so I parted peaceably. I did realize that politics were behind it. 

Suggestions for good staff relations

1. Value your staff as equals. Each man or woman brings something valuable to the table. Put your pride aside and allow them to make a viable contribution to the cause of Christ.

2. Don’t micromanage them! They will make mistakes, but give them room to grow. 

3. Create an environment where they can’t wait to come to work! One church I served honored my birthday and working anniversary with the church. The pastor and people were complimentary of the work I did. I loved what I did there. Kind words go a long way…use them frequently! Laugh a lot! It will reduce frequent turnover in staff.

Thriving churches understand these principles. They constantly evaluate to see where they are and what they could do better. Be the kind of church where pastor-staff morale is high. When ministers get along, the church will be healthy also.

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4 thoughts on “Pastor-Staff Relations

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  1. I like this post a lot because there are key points that highlight strengths and weaknesses as well as what works. However, I want to highlight a point that resonated with me. That is about others who won’t forgive your humanity but want you to forgive theirs. While the post is about pastors and leaders, I must say that this is pretty much the culture we live in today. Perfection is expected from everyone but yourself. Many of us can seriously point out what others are doing wrong without looking at our own lives and how God brought us out just like He will do for them. Timing is not in our hands, it is in God’s.

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