March 6, 2017

Four Ways to Encourage Your Church Staff

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The following is an excerpt from Faith-Based: A Biblical, Practical Guide to Strategic Planning in the Church, by Michael Gafa:

Ministry is not for the faint of heart! While there are numerous blessings that come from serving the Lord and His people, so too are there numerous challenges – many of which are very, very messy. In the absence of encouragement, the best church workers can hope for is to hang in and survive. But with regular encouragement, church workers are positioned to thrive.

Encouragement comes both from God, who is our strength and shield (Psalm 28:7), and from God’s people, who are to encourage and build one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

We know that God will do His part if only we seek Him (Psalm 121).  But what about us? How are we to encourage and build up our staff? The list that follows represents a good start:

Be Present.
So often in ministry, church workers feel isolated and alone. Being present with staff members – checking in on them, asking how they are doing, praying with and for them – can make all the difference.

Affirm staff members.
In my ministry, I have the privilege of connecting with many pastors and leaders. I am blessed to share in their joys and humbled to share in their sorrows.  What saddens me more than anything is when a pastor or leader does not feel affirmed. How easy it is to forget that all people need affirmation. I’m not suggesting that we flatter staff members to boost their self-confidence, but that we sincerely and honestly let them know they are appreciated. Just as people must hear the Gospel to respond to it (Romans 10:14), so too must people hear words of affirmation to feel affirmed.

Compensate staff members fairly.
Scripture makes clear that those whose vocational work is the spread of the Gospel are to be paid fairly for their work. When Jesus sent the seventy-two out, He told them to eat and drink what was offered to them, “for the worker deserves his wages” (Luke 10:7). Paul made several mentions of the need for church workers to be compensated fairly (Romans 4:4, 1 Cor.9:9-14, 2 Cor. 11:7-9, Phil. 4:16-19, 2 Thes. 3:7-10, 1 Tim. 5:17-18). Churches must consider their size, viability, financial health, and denominational policy when establishing fair standards for staff compensation. External wage surveys are helpful if they include data from comparably sized churches in the same region. As you consider total compensation, be sure to account for health and ancillary insurance premiums, as well as retirement contribution. Additionally, churches should plan for an annual cost of living allowance (COLA).

Establish and commit to an annual employee evaluation process.
There has been considerable debate during the past several years over whether performance evaluations help or hinder employee performance. But in my experience, I have found that most staff members, especially those who are driven to excel, clamor for a formal performance evaluation.  Still, while I have used an evaluation process for several years, I only recommend giving annual performance evaluations if the church’s senior leaders endorse doing so, and if the evaluation process is geared to build up rather than tear down staff members.  I believe that a good evaluation process accentuates strengths, identifies areas for improvement, and creates an opportunity for a supervisor and staff member to collaborate on a development plan.

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