Successful church staff members possess the following three qualities: competence, godliness, and loyalty. Competence is the ability to do the job well. Godliness is a righteous life. Loyalty is what enables staff to relate as team members.

Providing Structure

Staff organization is necessary to help ministers and employees within the local church remain competent, godly, and loyal. It should not bind them or burden the organization.

Peter Drucker, the father of modern church management, says that every soldier has one right: the right to competent command. In other words, if the leader expects competence from the staff, the staff has a right to a competent leader. Someone has to be in charge, and that person needs a clear picture of where the church is going and how to enable staff members to help get there.

Almost all church staffs are divided according to program and support people. Program staff includes pastors and others who plan and implement church ministries, such as worship services, Christian education, and pastoral care. Support staff enables the program staff to get their jobs done by providing secretarial, custodial, and other technical help.

An ongoing debate concerning the organization of program staff is whether to organize by age (children, youth, adults) or by function (music, evangelism, pastoral care, discipleship). On paper, it is a stretch to make everyone fit into one category or the other. In real life, it is impossible. The realistic solution is to allow some overlap.

Key Ingredients

Once the basic structure for staff organization is in place, three ingredients go a long way toward making it work:

  • Written job descriptions for every staff member should include qualifications, responsibilities, and relationships. Relationship descriptions answer: "Who do I work with? Who do I work for? Who works for me?" Good job descriptions take time to write, are best if kept short (no more than a page), and should be acceptable to everyone involved.
  • Clear reporting relationships that clarify to whom a person is accountable answer the question: "Who is my boss?" While churches are notorious for insisting that staff members have multiple bosses, the fact is that it works much better if each staff member reports to one person, not a committee. The supervisor should be motivated by the success of the employee ("If you succeed, I succeed!").
  • Regular staff meetings and frequent communication are the life-blood of healthy staffs. Even if your staff consists only of a pastor and a part-time secretary, they should have weekly meetings at scheduled times—and written agendas should be distributed in advance, even if there is nothing pressing to cover. Those at the meeting should be allowed to make agenda requests and to participate in the discussions, though the designated leader should run the meeting.

Leith Anderson; Leadership Handbooks of Practical Theology, Volume 3, Leadership and Administration; Staff Organization; pp 180-181.  Used by permission of Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, copyright © 1994.

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