3 Indispensable Management Principles for Leading A Church Staff


Every senior leader in a local church is called to lead and manage a staff of other church leaders, pastors, directors, associates, and assistants.  Hundreds of principles, tips, hints and guidelines for overseeing a staff have been offered through the years, but here are three that cannot be overlooked if the church staff you lead is going to be successful and satisfied in their positions.

First, the most important thing to do for your staff is to set clear direction and vision. 

Everyone in your organization deserves to know what you, as the leader, are trying to accomplish.  What is the goal?  This is the single-most critical element in effective management of an organization.  Surveys consistently show that without clear direction in an organization, it is very difficult for a leader to improve his or her effectiveness overall.  Jesus lamented the fact that people in his day were like “sheep without a shepherd.”  They were wandering aimlessly.  Could the same be said for many staff persons in churches across the land?

Do those you lead a huge favor—set clear direction.  Then stay the course. Don’t change the vision every six months.  Small course corrections will always be necessary, but the big picture vision should endure for a long time.  I recall a staff member saying to me once, “I appreciate that your vision has remained constant. My previous senior pastor changed the vision every time he came back from a conference.”

Second, every person on your staff should understand their objectives and how they will be measured. 

How does their individual role fit into the overall vision?  Clearly defined objectives and goals (not necessarily the job description) should outline what will be considered success for this position.  These objectives need to be reviewed and agreed upon at least annually, and probably more often. 

What tools can staff members be given to help them measure themselves against these goals?  Measurable goals are sometimes a little harder to define in churches than in the for-profit arena, but they can be spelled out.  Most people crave clarity in their roles and want to be held accountable.  Few things are more frustrating for a staff person than to not know if their performance is great, average, or poor. Most church staff members would rather get bad news about their performance and have clarity than not know where they stand!

Third, effective managing requires delegation. 

A successful church leader will trust his church staff enough to delegate important pieces to them, which starts with hiring good people, which is Vanderbloemen Search Group’s specialty. Delegation means acknowledging that they may accomplish it differently than you would.  Delegation does not mean to ignore, overlook, or neglect.

Effective managers and leaders will work on the big picture agenda, but also pay attention to the details.  Steve Jobs, the late Chairman of Apple, was notorious for paying attention to smallest details of an Apple product, but he also drove the big picture of the corporation.  Managers and leaders also realize that impromptu 2-3 minute meetings in the hallway can be as effective in communicating clear direction and goals as a more formal meeting time.

Church leaders: the first thing everyone on your staff deserves is competent leadership. And competent leadership starts with setting clear direction and vision for the organization. Second, each church staff member needs to know their measurable goals and objectives that fit the overall vision and how they will be judged as successful in their role. And third, show trust in your church staff by delegating important components of the vision to them. 

What other indispensable management characteristics are there for managing staff in an organization?