4 Ways Senior Pastors Should Relate To Their Staff


The winter storms of 2015 will go down in the record books, having pummeled states across the U.S., particularly in the Northeast. Winter storms Quantum, Remus, Sparta, and Thor (sounds like a battle!) moved through regions creating extreme lows, massive accumulations of snow, and an overall loss of mobility and productivity.

Senior pastors, if the relationship you have with your staff is cold, it can be like one of these winter storms moving through the church creating record lows and large accumulations of bitterness that hinder ministry. But if you’re intentional in building relationships with your staff, it will inspire the team to move forward in growth, productivity, and vitality.

As a Senior Pastor for over 22 years, serving in churches of every shape, setting, and size, I’ve learned some valuable lessons – sometimes the hard way – on how to effectively relate to my staff.

Jesus is the ultimate example of how to relate to people. Lead pastors will do well to follow his example in relating to their staff, particularly noting how he prayed for his disciples in John 17:6-19

As Jesus prayed for those closest to him, it reveals 4 important ways that Senior Pastors should relate to their staff.

1. Let them see your walk with Christ.

Jesus prayed in verse 8, may “they know for certain I came from You.” The disciples witnessed firsthand the deep, personal walk Jesus had with the Father. With all that Jesus was asking them to do, their knowledge of his daily dependence on the Father gave them faith to follow his leadership.

Pastors, it is imperative that your staff witnesses your personal walk with the Father. They will see it in your eyes and hear it in your words when you have spent time with God.  The staff needs to know your heart, and that only happens with proximity. With that assurance, they will more readily follow your leadership, helping you assess and achieve the vision God has given for your church.

2.  Let them hear how much you appreciate them.

Jesus prayed in verse 10, “they have brought me glory”.  This prayerful statement of appreciation recognizes that the disciples, with their faith and actions, brought value to the ministry of Jesus.

Pastors, it is important that you take every opportunity show appreciation to your staff.  This happens one on one, in the hallways in the midst of church members, from the pulpit, and a multitude of other ways.  Their work brings tremendous value to your ministry, and recognition goes a long way.  It’s amazing how far a word of thanks, a note of appreciation, a prayer thanking God for their ministry will go.  If you build them up, they will champion the vision.

3.  Let them know you have their back.

In verses 9 and 12, Jesus says, “I pray for them and protect them.” Disciples found stability and comfort in the fact Jesus prayed for them and sought to protect them. Yes, they were discouraged and even doubted on occasion, but they followed Jesus to the cross and beyond.

Pastors, pray for and protect your staff.  Speak good of them in public. There is a tendency to see the flaws, but always look for the best. The staff will submit to your authority and position when they know you’ve got their back. Work hard to make sure they know your loyalty.

4.  Let them feel your encouragement.

Jesus spent three years equipping and encouraging his disciples to carry on the work of the church after he left the earth. He prayed in verse 13, “I want what’s best for them: Your joy.”  Fireside chats, fishing excursions, lakeside ministry to the multitudes – every moment was an opportunity for Jesus to equip and encourage his disciples, wanting the very best for them.

Pastors, desire the very best for your staff.  Take strategic moments to equip and encourage.  Be intentional during team meetings, staff retreats, and individual time with each member to challenge and inspire them. They will have your back in the big moments and maintain a level of joy that will sustain them in ministry.  When’s the last time you said with your words and actions, “I want the very best for you and for you to have joy”? 

Vesta Kelly once wrote, “Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but just look at what they can do when they stick together.” If enough of them stick they can create a record winter storm that gets a special name.  As you effectively relate to your staff, a culture of joy and excellence will be created.

What other ways should Senior Pastors build relationship with their team?

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