Have you ever wondered why some church staff teams just seem to have it all together, seem to always get the job done effectively, and yet seem to be composed of this hodgepodge of people who have very little in common? Welcome to a very balanced church staff with its eye on a common goal. Balanced teams don’t just happen by accident — okay, well, sometimes they do — but usually they happen because of intentional planning (identifying the need for particular gifts) and fortunate opportunity (creating the availability of highly skilled professionals). When these two things combine, God does great things!

Forget the Football Analogy

Sure, I live in SEC Country, and football season is upon us. But building a staff team goes well beyond quarterbacks, blockers, star running backs, and speedy receiving divas. Strong church staffs are built around several important principles that, when combined, create highly functioning, highly cooperative, even highly inspiring teams.

PRINCIPLE #1: It’s a lot like a marriage.

Early in my ministry I came across the three following reasons for why people pick the life partners that they do:

  1. They pick someone much like themselves – Married couples in this category tend to see life from the same perspective, make decisions in similar ways, share similar values, and may even start to look more like each other the older they get. The problem is that their vision is limited. Their perspective is narrow, almost like they go through life with blinders on because they only see life from one perspective.
  2. They pick a person who has strengths they wish that had more of in themselves – While this couple may not understand one another quite as well, they bring a broader view to the table as a team, and they also bring together a greater number of gifts as they go through life together.
  3. They pick a person much like the parent with whom they had the most conflict – Ooooh… that may sound a bit scary. Of course, this means that the person is trying to heal old wounds and sort through old issues. It happens in marriage, and it happens in church staffs, too.

Church staffs are walking a fine line between the first two (with a bit of #3 thrown in). And the goal is to manage a team so that they can see their similarities and their differences, laying claim to and celebrating the value of both with great respect for each other.

PRINCIPLE #2: Know what the goal is.

Typically, that means you’re going to know what your church is reaching for, what it’s moving toward, and this ought to be expressed in three-year goals and hopefully in ten-year, more long-term planning. But for the sake of staff development the three-year goal is probably more realistic. Why? It’s simply because staff tenure typically does not hit that ten year mark, especially if a church is creating the kind of movement that calls for new vision and thus changes in staff gifts.

PRINCIPLE #3: Know what your staff needs are.

If you know what you’re reaching for, you’ll be better prepared to identify the kind of staff that you’ll need, better prepared to identify the kind of staff skills that you need to add to your team.

In my 42 years of ministry work I’ve found that staff gifts fall largely into the following categories — vision, process, enthusiasm, knowledge, perspective, precision, and work. I can also say that I’ve never seen one staff member who embodied all of these gifts (though many churches expect that from their staff members). Here’s just a quick phrase to explain what I mean by each:

Vision – the ability to see the picture of what the church feels led or wants to be

Process – the ability to lay out a plan in order to move toward that picture

Enthusiasm – the ability to create excitement about and commitment to the vision/process

Knowledge – the gift of having the needed information to move the process along

Perspective – the ability to see the bigger picture of how all the parts fit together

Precision – the ability to focus on detail so that important specifics don’t get overlooked

Work – the ability and willingness to put in the necessary hours to get the job done

I won’t try to describe what every type of church situation needs in its church staff, but suffice it to say that the downtown traditional church that is stuck in a rut will have different staff needs than an edge-of-town church plant that is just getting off the ground!

PRINCIPLE #4: Know yourself and build upon that.

If you’re the staff leader… you need to know your own gifts. For example, personally I have known for a long time that I was a process person. I often struggled with vision, despite all my prayers and dreaming, and particularly early in my ministry, I struggled with precision. So I learned that I had to ask for help. I had to have that assistant who had an eye for detail, and I gravitated to others who could dream the bigger dream than I could. If you are the staff leader, you are in the position to build upon your own gifts by adding staff that complement what you bring to the table.

If you’re a staff member… you’ll want to get a bigger picture look at the overall gifts of the staff in which you are serving. In doing so you may discover gaps in gifts that you may want to develop, thus making yourself more valuable to your particular team.

If you’re adding volunteer support… you’ll want to fill some of those gaps in your particular area of ministry with volunteers who add to the mix, contributing gifts that a complex ministry cannot live without.

PRINCIPLE #5: You don’t have to be all things to all people.

God didn’t create you that way, and you will probably burn out or become frustrated trying to be that way. Claim your gifts, and give other people the opportunity to use theirs.

You’ll make a great team!

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