As a pastor, you not only look after the needs of your family and your flock, but you also need to care for your staff.
- Do you pray for them?
- Do you treat them fairly?
- Do you play favorites?
Only you can answer these questions. When you do annual reviews for your staff, do you take your time with them, look them in the eye, and tell them what they need to hear?
Make a Sandwich
When I do a review, I apply what I call the “sandwich approach.”
- I start by genuinely telling them what they’re doing well.
- Then I let them know areas where they could improve.
- Finally, I conclude by reminding them of their value—both to the ministry and to me personally.
By “sandwiching” the review, they can hear anything in the middle. But they must know that your affirmations up front are authentic and not just a primer for the bad news—or for their getting fired! They must know they are important to you. I’ve communicated some of my strongest words to staff people—some very firm words—maybe even stronger than I’ve said to my kids. But not one of them thought I didn’t love them.
Keep the Pool Clean
Your staff needs your loyalty. Church members will come to you to talk about the staff. Watch it.
- Be confident and be careful . . . just as you would want your staff to be careful when church members come to talk about you! Never undercut a staff member because a church member is influential or gives a lot of money. That’s dirty pool.
- If you have a problem with your staff member, you have a mouth and they have ears. Make the time, and get alone with them. Be willing to listen to their problems with you without being defensive. Again, just like you would want them to respond to you.
- Do you pay them a fair salary? Do you compensate them the going rate they could make if they worked in the industry in your city? Take a look at that and do what’s fair.
Stay in the Right Corner
Let me mention one more item in relation to staff. Do you check up and make sure they’re taking their day off? I had a staff member one time in a former church who rarely took his day off. I remember driving by the church on a Monday evening and I saw his light on. When I got there Tuesday morning the light was still on! I marched into his office and asked, “When’s the last time you took a day off?”
He seemed proud of his answer, “It’s been about three weeks.”
So I said, “That’s unacceptable. You keep that up, and I’ll let you go.”
You know what? Amazingly, he started taking his day off! There is no value in not taking a day off.
- My mentor, Howard Hendricks, had one wag tell him, “The devil never takes a holiday, so why should I?” Hendricks didn’t miss a beat and replied: “Oh really, I didn’t know he was your model.” I love it!
- There’s an old line that goes, “I’d rather burn out than rust out.” What kind of choice is that? Either way you’re out!
As a pastor you know more than most how important it is to have an advocate in your corner. Most likely, you are that sole advocate for those who labor alongside you.
Please, take good care of your staff.
My older son has taught me a lesson from his experience as a businessman: Our most important customers are our own team members. I have discovered that is also true in ministry.
Many of you serve in churches where at least one other staff member works alongside you. Listen to me: Some of the people easiest to overlook are fellow staff members. I work hard not to do that.
Let me urge you to do the same. Here’s how.
Tell Them Publicly
Some of the most resourceful and insightful people I have known have been my staff people. One year we did a series of concerts at our church in California. Our music minister, Howie Stevenson, his wife, Marilyn, and their team of music makers put it together. People from around the community came to hear folk songs, pop songs, and fun songs. It was a smashing success! Every time we did it I had Howie stand up the following Sunday, and I told the congregation, “That’s the man who came up with this idea. That’s the man who gets the credit.” The place exploded with applause! Why did I do that? Because it was true.
We pastors often get the credit when we need to be passing it on to the one deserving it. We give enormous encouragement to our gifted staff when we publicly acknowledge them—and that affirmation motivates them to use their gifts in even greater ways.
Tell Them Privately
Sometimes we’ll recognize or reward a church member more frequently or lavishly than we do a fellow staff member. A paycheck is not acknowledgment. It takes words of appreciation. Trust me, they mean most when they come from you, the pastor.
In addition to recognizing them in public, do it also in private. Write them notes of encouragement. I mean handwritten notes. E-mail is quick and cheap; there’s little personalized in email . . . not even a signature! Write personal notes. Even if it’s as simple as saying,
This morning I felt that your presentation was spot on. Remarkable job!
Tell Them Often
I’m telling you, they’ll never forget it. They may even frame it! Once I was in the home of one of our church members. While walking up the stairs, I saw a simple note of thanks I had written framed on their wall. Framed! My first thought was to check, Did I spell everything right?
Do you appreciate your staff? Tell them publicly. Tell them privately. Tell them often. Our most important customers are our own team members.
Let’s let them know that.
As one responsible for communicating biblical truth, I want to share four principles especially for you. Pay close attention; read slowly, thoughtfully and carefully as I apply this to your ministry of proclaiming God’s Word.
First, always stay on the subject—Christ. For Paul it was always about Christ. Paul spoke of the “God who made the world and all things in it” to the followers of the “unknown god” of Athens, and everything for Paul pointed to Christ (Acts 17:10–34).
Preaching that which doesn’t exalt Christ is empty preaching. Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers,
Our calling as pastors includes fighting. I don’t mean we strap on the gloves and go toe-to-toe with our elders and congregational members. I mean, as pastors, we’re called to defend the faith.
As time passes, we will see our orthodox faith in Jesus Christ attacked more and more. We will find that the things of God are increasingly viewed with suspicion . . . addressed with cynicism . . . and, eventually, banned completely.
When we entered ministry, whether we knew it or not at the time, we entered a war zone. The pastorate is a battleground, not a playground.
This is why Paul included in his first letter to Timothy these sober commands:
Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12–13)
I wrote you the last two weeks that the ministry is not our job. It’s our calling. That calling requires that we flee from certain things. However, along with fleeing from those things, we need to follow after other things.
I love the double action stated here. While we are fleeing from certain things, we are at the same time following after other things. The word that appears in my Bible is pursue (1 Timothy 6:11). The tense of the original term indicates that we should keep on pursuing these things.
Paul lists five pursuits for Timothy—and for us.
Our calling as pastors includes running. Lots of it. I’m thinking in particular of Paul’s words in his first letter to Timothy: “You, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from . . .” (1 Timothy 6:11 NLT).
The word run comes from the Greek term pheugo. We get our word fugitive from it. It may sound strange at first, but we who are called to minister are like a fugitive.
We should be constantly fleeing from evil.
As a pastor, it doesn’t take very long before you understand that the ministry is not a job. It’s a calling. I love Paul’s first letter to his younger friend, Timothy. It is full of great reminders for us as pastors.
Over the next few posts, drawing from this essential epistle, I’ll be challenging all of us in three areas related to our calling, specifically:
- What do we flee from?
- What do we follow after?
- What do we fight for?
By the way, I see our calling as pastors as a responsibility that comes from God . . . without any expectations of pastoral perks on our part. Here’s what that means:
When someone says to me, “Chuck . . . I got a lot out of the message,” I usually try to respond in a way that allows him or her to be more specific.
After I say, “Thank you, I’m glad it was helpful,” I’ll usually ask, “Did it make sense?”
“How did it make sense?” I’ll probe. It’s very interesting to hear people say, “Well, in this way . . .” I find that their response often connects just as I had intended. And that’s a good feeling.
But it’s a terrible feeling when they tell you something quite the opposite of what you intended.
If I have one strength in my teaching it would have to be the application of Scripture. For the life of me, I don’t know why that’s true. It might just be a habit of my life that I can’t let the text rest until it’s been applied. But I appreciate others telling me that it’s one of my strengths. I think it can be yours, too.
(Photo: By William Hoiles from Basking Ridge, NJ, USA. Old books Uploaded by guillom. CC-BY-2.0
, via Wikimedia Commons)
I want to get very practical in this post. Let me share with you in three short lists of what I have found to be helpful in the process of drawing application from the Bible.
You can use them this week.
I am a glutton for illustrations. I have boxes of illustrations that I save and keep on file (and occasionally, lose). They are priceless to my preaching.
A good illustration is worth every minute it takes from your sermon. I didn’t always think so. I used to think an illustration was a waste of time. I no longer believe that. The men and women who have deeply ministered to me are people who have been able to take a story and help me see its relevance in light of biblical truth.