Monday Morning Insights

Photo of Todd

    Don’t Keep Your Staff Guessing

    Why don't we make clear to our employees, from day one, what our expectations and idiosyncrasies are?

    This week, we started two new employees at Seneca Creek—and one of the pieces of paper they get is entitled, "Bruce's Idiosyncrasies".  So, from day one, they know all of my little pet peeves as well as my big "rock" items.  The big "rock" issues are easy for most of us to identify, like "I care passionately about us getting our work done, on time, with excellence."  But, it's often the little things that really get under our skin that hinder our relationships with staff that we don't communicate.

    For example, "I really dislike it when people leave a conference room with the chairs all over the room (i.e. not pushed in to the table neatly arranged)"  I know this is obsessive compulsive, but it is me (and, in our case, I am the boss).  Keeping an office environment clean matters to me.  It's one of those excellence things (and, in our case, core value number three).  When someone leaves a conference room a mess (or a production room), it communicates, "I don't care" or "Someone else needs to clean up my mess" or "I'm too important to clean up my
    stuff" or "Excellence doesn't matter to me."  In other words, it doesn't communicate anything positive. And frequently, I end up going in and straightening the chairs and cleaning up someone else's mess. As you can tell, this bugs me.  But, if I never communicate this, and someone doesn't clean up, and I keep this frustration buried inside me, chances are, it'll poison our relationship.

    So, what are your idiosyncrasies?  What are the big "rock" issues and the little "issues" that get under your skin?  In my case, it's a list of a little over twenty things that new employees know from day one.  They don't need to play the guessing game or wait six months until the hammer comes down.  No, from day one, they know what will make me happy and what will tick me off—which, as an employee, is a good thing to know!”

    (You can read all of Bruce’s writings and comments here at his blog…)

    FOR DISCUSSION:  Have you ever had a ‘church boss’ that wasn’t clear on expectations?  What eventually happened?  If you are a ‘church boss’, how to you effectively communicate your expectations and idiosyncrasies?  Let’s talk about this here today!

    Pastor Bruce Johnson, pastor of Seneca Creek Community Church has written a short piece that on staff communication that I think is important for us all to consider this morning… Bruce writes, Have you ever started a job and wondered, “What does my boss care about?"  We all know that every boss has certain expectations and idiosyncrasies, but most of us spend months (and sometimes years) trying to figure out what they are.  None of us like that, so why don’t we turn that around?


    if you want a Globally Recognized Avatar (the images next to your profile) get them here. Once you sign up, your picture will displayed on any website that supports gravitars.

    1. bernie dehler on Tue, April 05, 2005

      Pastor Bruce says:

      “For example, “I really dislike it when people leave a conference room with the chairs all over the room (i.e. not pushed in to the table neatly arranged)”  I know this is obsessive compulsive, but it is me (and, in our case, I am the boss).”

      Sure does seem small-minded to know he has a dumb “obsessive compulsive” behavior, and rather than address it, he feeds it because “he is the boss.”  The “I’m the boss” statement also shows his ego and authoritarian leadership method (church leadership experts don’t recommend the authoritarian leadership method, esp. for larger organizations… they recommend the democratic-participative style).


      Maybe he should develop a “compulsive disorder” for triviality.  He has serious work to do, as a boss, and making sure the chairs are lined-up at a table is not one of them!  He needs to read the other article that was recently posted about focusing on the top 5%!  This guy is focusing on the bottom 5%.


    2. Todd Rhoades on Tue, April 05, 2005

      Ah… but Bernie… that would be like me being on your staff and talking saying something about how God has blessed John Hagee financially. (I know that’s one of your pet peeves!) That’s something that would bother you greatly.  Don’t you think it’s good that he tells them upfront what bothers him (no matter how silly) rather than let his staff do it and then just stew about it behind closed doors?  And this would be something that wouldn’t even have to do with workplace matters, like clearing the conference room would.

      I guess I would rather know things upfront (that my boss hated messy conference rooms or doesn’t like the fact that megachurch pastors make mega bucks) before I go and tick them off unknowingly.

      Just my 2 cents worth (if that!)



    3. Sue Gillespie on Tue, April 05, 2005

      TWENTY things?  Sounds a little…pharasaical to me!  How about the big 5, and he can agree to let the other 15 go?  I thought we learned when we taught kids that fewer rules enforced consistently worked better!  I think if I didn’t need the job REAL bad I’d back out the door.  I’m sorry, I just can’t imagine Jesus nurturing 15 little things that tick him off that he would feel comfortable WRITING DOWN so everyone would know!  I think he ought to consider handing that out at job interviews instead, so the poor applicant would know whether or not this is an organization he could be part of.

    4. Daniel Zepeda on Tue, April 05, 2005

      I have to agree with Sue’s comments and the point Bernie brought out in that Pastor Bruce Johnson “IS THE BOSS”. Whenever leaders take on this attitude of I’m the boss” it is the sin of pride and the love of power. This type of attitude denies growth in Christ and limits the body of Christ from moving under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, because of fear of offending the BOSS. We are all servants of God through Christ and when we assume totalitarian control of any ministry, we then replace the head, which is Christ. This then in turn gives rise to our own little kingdoms on earth that revolve around us instead of Christ.

    5. bernie dehler on Tue, April 05, 2005

      Todd wrote:

      “Ah… but Bernie… that would be like me being on your staff and talking saying something about how God has blessed John Hagee financially. (I know that’s one of your pet peeves!)”

      Todd, if I hired you and was your supervisor, I’d be looking for ways to nurture you and grow you.  As long as you support the mission of the organization, you’re free to have your own opinions.  Far from bothering me, I appreciate input from different people.

      (Also, about Dr. Hagee’s million dollar compensation issue, I’d consider that a “learning moment” and a chance to help you see the problem.  I’m also open if there is another angle I need to see it from.  I learn a lot through discussion and feedback.)


      Keep up the good work; just my 2 cents also…



    6. Lorrie on Tue, April 05, 2005

      I would really like to have a list of what annoyed my boss. Next April Fools I would really have a good time! All joking aside, I would rather know what bothers people and work things out instead of letting things build up until someone blew up.

    7. David on Tue, April 05, 2005

      He said in his article, “This week, we started two new *employees*...” (emphasis mine…)

      Is this a church or a corporation we’re talking about?? You write about idiosyncrasies - but I think the bigger problem is looming in your statement. Church is not a corporation, it’s a MINISTRY. A pastor is not a CEO, he’s a SPIRITUAL LEADER/TEACHER. I’m so sick of the “big church” mentality that permeates all the “how to do church” discussions and books. How about a dose of reality for a change???

      Most of the churches out here have bigger fish to fry than knowing what the pastors, “pet peeves” are. We’ve got hurting, sinful, lost people to minister to and make Christ relevant to. How about discussions that helps us identify Biblical principles for showing people that are oblivious to Christ their need for Him. Let’s get into the REAL issues of ministering to PEOPLE and stop talking about the supposed “Elephant in the Board Room.” If you want to talk about that, go to the board meeting for the local zoo. Let’s start dealing with topics we as pastors truly need - issues that relate to MINISTRY in the trenches.


      As for the “pet peeves…” yes, we all have them, but if we would just kindly mention that something bothers us when it happens, then we wouldn’t need useless discussions like the one posted this week.


    8. Bruce Johnson on Tue, April 05, 2005

      Thanks for linking to my blog.  It’s started quite a few discussions in a lot of churches.  But some of your readers are reading too much into the blog.  I do want to focus on the important things, that’s why I believe it’s critical to get the little things out on the table.  Whether I care about spelling or don’t, that’s a good thing for an employee to know.  Whether I care about how a page looks or not, it’s a good thing for an employee to know. I only used the chairs example because it illustrates how something so little can bother us (but we rarely ever tell anyone).  The bigger issues are concern for others and excellence.  When the little issues are communicated up front, then a leader can focus on the bigger issues.

      And the comment about being THE BOSS is laughable.  By definition, if you are the leader of a church, and you hire employees, you are the boss.  To assume that I’m authoritarian just because I want to make it easy on employees is ridiculous. The point of the blog wasn’t about employees.  The point of the blog was about bosses.  As leaders, we often have conflict with our employees because we’ve failed.  We haven’t communicated to our employees what our expectations and idiosyncrasies are.  I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound authoritarian, that sounds loving (my point is that when you come to work at Seneca Creek you don’t need to spend six months trying to figure out what the boss expects or cares about).  If a boss’s list is two things or twenty, the number isn’t important, making sure that their people know what’s going on in their heads is. 


      Oh, and how Daniel can take this simple blog and then make the comment that I’m guilty of “the sin of pride and the love of power. This type of attitude denies growth in Christ and limits the body of Christ from moving under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, because of fear of offending the BOSS. When we assume totalitarian control of any ministry, we then replace the head, which is Christ. This then in turn gives rise to our own little kingdoms on earth that revolve around us instead of Christ” is really remarkable.  How this simple blog has grown to undermine the Head of the church and limit the body of Christ is beyond me.  My guess is that Daniel may want to go back and read Paul.

      It all comes down to this.  Great bosses let people know what they expect.  And great employees want to know what their bosses expect.  If a boss cares about little things, employees ought to know that.  If a boss doesn’t care about little things, then employees ought to know that.  Either way, I think we could all agree that communication is a good thing.  Hope that helps!

    9. Daniel Zepeda on Tue, April 05, 2005

      I wrote not to offend, but only to shed light on a problem that is affecting the church today as more and more secular culture is being introduced into the church. Many non-denominational ministries are guilty of totalitarian control and as I mentioned in my previous post totalitarian control does hinder the move of God.  I also have to mention David’s post as his heart cries out for real help in dealing with the issues of winning souls and the discipling of new converts. The fact is we have become secular and the church has become a business. Christ’s words still ring true “My house shall be called a house of prayer, But you have made it a den of thieves” 

      We need to return to our first love and seek to please our Savior and Lord first of all by developing our own relationship into an intimate one. The church has become lukewarm and the social statistics in divorce, teen pregnancy, teen suicide, abortion, adultery, murder, theft, etcetera are on the increase and prove that we have lost our way.  Iron sharpens iron and we must begin to speak the truth in love if we are ever going to return to truly accomplishing what Christ has commissioned us to do.

    10. Jade on Wed, April 06, 2005


      I want to agree with what you are saying, but I can’t.  Something about your language in all this does not seem to be right.  Honestly if my senior pastor gave me a list of little pet peeves of his like you have, I might turn around and leave. 

      During my college career they taught us (as best they could) to watch for red flags before serving in a church.  If I was interviewing with you and you showed me that list you made, that would be a red flag, and I would stop the interview and be on my way.

      Sounds like you are to demanding.  I know that is not fair to you, not knowing you and all.  I think the problem is language.  “I’m the boss.” “My employees.” 


      Is communication a good thing.  Yes it is a great thing.  Is letting things go that aren’t important to the call of ministry a good thing?  Yes a very good thing.  Maybe you should think on that.

      Also Jesus called His disciples friends.  “You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, becasue a servant does not know his mater’s business.  Instead I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”  John 15:14,15 I realize that Jesus is talking to the disciples here, but if the Lord of the universe called those under Him friends, I wonder how He would think of you calling the Pastors under your care employees?


      Again I see your point, but the way you stated it makes me cringe. 

      With all respect


    11. Bart on Wed, April 06, 2005

      OK, I don’t like the “boss and employees” language either, but I do agree with Bruce.  Other staff persons, and volunteers must know what is expected of them.  The volunteer musicians must know what the music pastor (or volunteer leader of worship) expects.  If comming late to practice is a big issue with the leader then everyone should know it.  The leader must also know what really bothers the other staff or volunteers about what the leader does.  When you dig deap into conflict within the church it is often little things like these that start the conflict ball rolling.  It is not about being authoritarian or being the boss, but about communication both directions.  There are little things about many people I work with that bother me.  I try to overlook as many as possible, but sometimes I fail.  If they know what bothers me they try to change.  When I know that something I do bothers someone I try to change.  It is when we do not recognise that someof the little things matter, that we open ourselves up to problems.  Yes, if we were all spiritually mature this would not be an issue, but “I” am not, and neither are you.

    12. Todd Rhoades on Wed, April 06, 2005

      Bruce (and all),

      Bruce, I’m with you on this one… having served under a few different pastors, I would much rather know the things that will bother or irritate; because, knowing me, I’ll do every single one of them, albeit unknowingly.  So it would be a great help.

      I think Bruce is dealing with a great deal of character assasination here.  We don’t know his leadership style from just this post.  To assume is just wrong.  And I’m afraid that those of you that accuse Bruce so readily of having a big ego are (or have been) serving under a ‘big ego’ pastor; and speaking a little out of hurt or personal experiences with an abusive pastor.

      Is it me, or do some here think that ministry is all roses; puppy dogs and ice cream?  Some feel we can all just act like buddies all the time and accomplish great things for the Kingdom.  This hasn’t been my expereience personally (or working with literally hundreds of church staff members).  Ministry is tough work.  Ministry requires boundaries.  And there is (like it or not) a flow chart of authority and someone has to be “the boss”.  I think part of this is in the term “the boss”… but it is the case.  We’re not borrowing ‘business terminology’ here and applying it to the church either… we’re just stating the fact that everyone has a superior (even the ‘boss’ senior pastor!)


      Don’t get me wrong… ministry can be a blast (and I’ve been in a couple situations during times of ministry that it was the most fun and prosperous time of my life).  However, I need to know when I ‘leave chairs a mess’ or chew my gum too loudly or step over someone elses pet peeve.  I’d much rather have it dealt with on the spot or even in a list than to have it simmer over time and show up on an annual performance review (which is usually what happens in most churches).


      Great job, Bruce in being open, honest, and upfront about expectations with your staff, no matter how indeosycric they may be!


    13. Jade on Wed, April 06, 2005

      I agree with you that we do need to submit to authorities above us.  I just long for a Senior Pastor who workes with you not over you.  Indeed I have had some bad ones, but my last two have been good.

      Can you not see the language problem though?  It is not what he is saying but how it is said.  When writing we have to realize that people don’t know us and are going to judge us strictly based on what we write. (Because that is all they will know of us).  This is why I think language is so important.  Rather than employees, why not say my staff?  Instead of “I’m the boss,” why not say, “I am their leader.”

      Also do you not think there is some point where we can get to nickpicky?  What do you think?  I have only been a staff member never the Senior.  Give me more of your perspective.  I did say in post to Bruce that it is not fair because I don’t know him.  I am just making a statement based on his post. 

      Give me feedback.


      With all respect


    14. Todd Rhoades on Wed, April 06, 2005

      With all respect though, you are being somewhat the same way (nitpicky) by prefering ‘staff’ over ‘employees’ (they are essentially the same); or ‘leader’ over ‘boss’.  I think they DO have different connotations; but when I was on staff, I always knew who the boss was; or leader.  I also was a part of the staff (but everytime I picked up my paycheck, I realized I was also an employee).

      Let’s put it in a different perspective… let’s say that you your ‘leader’ gave you permission to hire an assistant.  Now think of the thing in this world that really drives you crazy. (maybe you can’t stand unnecessary noise, like the sound of the tapping of a pencil on a desk).  Yet on day one, you find your assistant constant tapping their pencil on their desk and chomping their gum.  What would you do?  How would you handle it?  If you could sit there and do nothing, then you’re better than I am.


      All I’m saying is that it’s better to take Bruce’s take:  tell them upfront; than to sit there and stew about it; get angry; and say nothing (until you go to do an evaluation on that employee).  It’s honest, upfront; and sometimes necessary.

      Any thoughts?


    15. Jade on Wed, April 06, 2005

      Good points Todd.  However I still don’t agree.  I think there is great difference between viewing yourself as leader rather than a boss.  Or viewing the associates as staff rather than employees but I rather not get into all that for all of us have a different view of things. 

      Am I being over critical, maybe I am.  I would not deny that, however I was just trying to think this thing through. 

      How about this:  I agree with this idea when it comes to telling the associates what you expect.  Things such as being on time.  What to wear on Sundays etc.  What is considered work hours, and how to keep track.  I think maybe the example he gave was silly and what I would call nickpicky.


      When I was hired I was given a job description, in which they told me what they expected and what they didn’t.  To me this was enough, maybe others need more info.  Different strokes.

      Rather a personal note:

      Todd most of the time I agree with you in these blogs.  I appreciate what you are doing and I like your ideas.  I hope we can agree to disagree.

      With all respect.

    16. Page 1 of 2 pages  1 2 >

      Post a Comment

    17. (will not be published)

      Remember my personal information

      Notify me of follow-up comments?