Monday Morning Insights

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    Making the Church a Wonderful Place to Work

    Making the Church a Wonderful Place to Work

    What if you could create the perfect work atmostphere at your church?  One that made your staff really happy and really successful?  An atmosphere that promoted teamwork, taking risk, and enabling leadership?  What if...?

    I think much of what your staff thinks about you (personally) and your church (corporately), they'll learn in the first few months.  It's important for the senior leader to set the tone and make a great first impression.  In fact, if you don't get off to a great start in the first few months, the chances of having a well-rounded, long-term staff member are reduced significantly.  They'll simply find another place to serve after a couple of years.  It happens all the time.

    But how do you start off a good relationship with a new employee?  What if you send something like this to your new staff member.  In this case, we'll call him Bob.

    Dear Bob,

    I am so glad to have you here with us on staff.  I know that you and your family will be a great addition to our team here at [your church name].  On your first day, I wanted to share a few things that may help you feel a little more at home with us as a church, and with me, personally:

    1.  My most important priority is your happiness and ministry here at the church. If there’s anything I can do to make you happier and more efficient – tell me right away. This isn’t idealism, it’s good ministry, because happy and fulfilled people are more productive in their Kingdom work.

    2.  I will not burden you with endless rules and regulations. You’re an adult – I trust you to use your best judgment. 

    3.  You have my full permission to screw up, as long as you own up to it, apologize to those affected and learn from it.

    4.  Please tell me when I screw up so I can apologize and learn from it.

    5.  Please make sure to hunt down people who do great work and praise them for it. I will do this as much as humanly possible, but I can’t do it alone.

    6.  If I get it right occasionally, I’d love to hear about it from you, too :o)

    7.  I will always have time for you. My calendar will never be so full that my next free time to talk to you is three weeks from next Friday.

    8.  I want to know about you as an employee AND as a human being. I DO care about your private life, about you and your family’s health and well-being.

    9.  Life is more than work. If you’re regularly working overtime, you’re just making yourself less happy and more stressed. Don’t join the cult of overwork – it’s bad for you and the company.

    10.  I expect you to take responsibility for your own well-being at work. If you can do something today to make yourself, a co-worker or me a little happier at work – do it!

    I'm looking forward to getting to know you and your family, and to you having many fruitful years of ministry here with us.  Welcome!

    [Your name]

    If you sent this letter to a new employee, and actually held to it, would it make a difference?  I think it would.

    I've seen many a church that didn't value their employees.  This letter sets the standard that people on staff are valued.  It gives permission to fail.  It expects that the staff person will lead.  And it perfectly balances work and family as well as employee and team player.

    A few of questions for you today...

    1.  What do you think of the letter?  Could you honestly send this to your new employees?  Does your church practice what this letter preaches?

    2.  Would this letter have made a difference in your employment if you had received it? 

    3.  What would you add or take away from this letter?

    4.  Is this type of thing a great or horrible idea?

    I'd love hear your input...


    This post was inspired by Alexander Kjerulf's Chief Happiness Officer Blog, who revised it from Michael Wade’s post over at ExecuPundit called Note from boss to employees.


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    1. Peter Hamm on Mon, August 09, 2010

      I love it, but one teeny tiny comment (I hope it doesn’t take us on a bunny trail). In the first paragraph you say [ I know that you and your family will be a great addition to our team here] and I think a lot of churches assume when they hire a staff pastor they get free “labor” out of the spouse. It causes, I’ve seen, much strife.

      Our church very much does NOT do that. From the top down, there is not an expectation that your spouse is a de facto ministry pro alongside you. I’ve always been thankful that here at our church, except for the one spouse who’s actually on staff, there is not an expectation. My wife attends no “womens” events and doesn’t pick up my slack. She does volunteer her time generously (does our web site and loads of our communications work), but just like anybody would be asked for, not at some ridiculous level that many churches expect. I’d add some remarks to that effect in this letter.

      But I do, indeed, love the letter. Great idea!

    2. Todd Rhoades on Mon, August 09, 2010

      Yeah, good find, Peter.  Definitely didn’t mean to imply that.  But you’re right!


    3. keith on Mon, August 09, 2010

      I’ve never written such a letter. But I have spoken its message in various settings - public, private, one-on-one and in groups - such that my staff know it and believe it. Letters can be forgotten, especially in a tense situation a few years down the road from date of hire. Letters are nice but living it out is much better.

    4. Eric Joppa on Tue, August 10, 2010

      I’ve heard this from senior leaders before, in various forms, but unfortunately, it never actually seems to be the case.

    5. Leonard on Wed, August 11, 2010

      I think that this is kind of sappy to be honest.  I am for encouragement and in setting a tone for leadership and the environment.  I think leaders need to give their team room to fail, encouragement in life and family, but for crying out loud, I want people who are called and do not expect me to hold their hand and coddle them. 

      We have work to do, lets go do it.

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