3 Ministries of Every Church Staff Member

by | Jul 20, 2023 | Articles About Church, Articles About Leadership

Some churches view the staff as hired workers while other churches view the staff as interdependent creative thinkers and leaders.

In the first case, the usual mentality is “anything you aren’t doing for the church should be done ‘off the clock’.” An emphasis is often placed on being “in no later than 8 and out no earlier than 5” kind of workday and strict separation of personal assets from church assets (i.e., use your own computer for your stuff and the church’s computer for church stuff).

My biggest problem with this kind of church staff atmosphere is that it mimics the world’s estimation of a person’s worth based on what they can produce rather than on seeing people as having unlimited creative potential and the ability to be self-motivated. Obviously, some accountability is necessary, but this kind of high-control environment almost always squelches creative energy.

As Scot McKnight shared in a recent newsletter issue,

Too many businesses are bottom-line realities; number-based evaluations; productivity-rooted judgments. What we Christians can offer against this money- and greed-shaped reality is a culture in which workers/humans flourish as humans.

In the second case – where staff members are seen as more than mere institutional employees, the mentality is “everything you do as ministry and as mission benefits us as long as your priorities are in order.”

When I was serving on staff as a Pastor at Saddleback Church, I learned some pretty great lessons about systems, structures, and staff leadership. In spite of our blessed chaos and the “fast, fluid, and flexible” environment of the southern California megachurch, I learned a ton about leadership and how a church staff can function in a healthy way.

One of the principles Pastor Rick Warren often shared was that every church staff member is expected to fulfill three different ministries, on or off “the clock.”

1. Every church staff member to the community beyond the church.

That is, our first consideration was always to be for those who needed to hear the good news about Jesus and the hope offered in his death and resurrection. Everybody in the world needs to know they are deeply known, deeply loved, and wholeheartedly invited into God’s forever family.

Sometimes, what a staff member does in taking care of people outside the church is more important than the typical job duties that are concerned with people inside the church.

2. Every church staff member has a ministry to the local church body.

It is this second priority that is made first priority in many churches, probably to the detriment of the creative potential of the staff collectively. We wind up falling into the trap of just doing the work we’re expected to do with little time for independent, creative thinking.

Apple, Google, and thousands of other tech startups could teach us some important lessons here about freeing people up to think beyond what currently exists. Gmail, for example, was a product born out of the personal development time granted to some employees who were free to play around on the clock. Today, it’s a core Google component.

A friend of mine who leads a church in the Boston, Massachusetts area actually communicates to his staff members an expectation that they take up some kind of secondary entrepreneurial interest or work some kind of job outside the church office so that they maintain a continual interface with the community at large.

That said, obviously the work of the ministry within the church family is vital to the ongoing health of the body and to people as individuals.

3. Every church staff member has a ministry to his or her peers in other churches.

That is, we have a responsibility to pour into and invest in our parallels. As Pastor Rick put it, Saddleback’s receptionists were to minister to other church receptionists, children’s ministry leaders to other children’s ministry leaders, etc.

This is the trickiest of all for established churches who see “outside” ministry interests as competing with the productivity of their own staff. But it boils down to a matter of stewardship. If my church is blessed with knowledge or resources, it’s up to our staff to share that blessing with other church leaders so that the church-at-large benefits.

Ministering to our peers keeps us in the company of encouragers, prevents isolation and burnout, keeps me up-to-date and sharp on leadership innovations, and is ultimately good for the kingdom (and heaven knows how we need more kingdom-minded churches!).

It’s a tough shift. If you lead a church to be clock-punching and productivity-obsessed, you’ll get a lot done and perhaps build a larger, more effective church. But if you care about developing people into more influential leaders and growing the kingdom as much as you care about growing your institutional machinery, you’ll at least open yourself to the possibility of releasing your staff to think more about the lost than your church and also spend time investing in their peers.

The Purpose Driven Church: Every Church Is Big in God's Eyes
  • Hardcover Book
  • Rick Warren (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 400 Pages - 11/27/1995 (Publication Date) - Zondervan (Publisher)
Sticky Teams: Keeping Your Leadership Team and Staff on the Same Page
  • Osborne, Larry (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 04/11/2010 (Publication Date) - Zondervan (Publisher)

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