7 Warning Signs Your Church Staff Is In Trouble


The caliber of your church staff is crucial to the long-term health of your church. Honing your ability as a leader and your church staff's ability to operate as a high functioning team takes work, but the payoff will prove beneficial for the development of your church's community.

We sometimes have blinders on when we look at our own church staff. We're there day in and day out, trying to stay above water as we deal with the urgent matters before us each day. It may feel overwhelming to even think about anything but only what has to be done today. However, when you focus on developing the synergy of your church staff, you'll begin to see the power of how a great team can revolutionize your church.

The team rebuilding process begins with the team leader’s awareness of the reality of how the team is functioning. When you drive a car, there are often subtle cues that tell us if the car isn’t functioning as well as it should. If we don’t pay attention to the rattle of the engine or the squeak of the brakes, we’ll see lights on the dashboard. The signals are there to protect us. If we ignore those signals, it’s at our own peril.

In a team, there will be signals that will be subtle at first but will warn you that your team needs attention.

What are some warning signs that your team is heading for a breakdown?

1. One or more members of your team do not contribute ideas or thoughts during meetings. Pay attention and take notes. Who’s speaking up? Who’s being quiet? Who’s acting independently, and who seems to need handholding?  Observe Body language and facial expressions. Was there an opportunity for healthy debate that was missed? The way your team interacts with each other in staff meetings will help you take a temperature check of how they are interacting with other in the office.

2. Blame shifting is toxic. Are your team members not taking responsibility for their actions? Are members of your church staff blaming a lack of productivity on another team member? Be quick to notice and address blame shifting, or your team members will quickly feel beaten down.

3. Absence of healthy conflict. It is a misconception that healthy teams should never experience conflict. In fact, the truth is quite the opposite. Healthy teams engage in healthy conflict because they are striving to do what is best for the church. Thus, leaders should encourage a culture where team members' ideas, opinions, and concerns can be heard. A lack of healthy conflict could mean that team members have lost their passion for their role or the overarching vision of the team.

4. Lack of trust and a fear of speaking the truth. Does your team trust each other? Are staff meetings a safe place? If you sense that certain team members are dominating the decision-making and others seem uncomfortable speaking up, lean into the root of the situation. The most effective teams trust each other.  

5. Offline conversations about one or more individuals on the team. Gossip will destroy a team. As a leader, you must be clear that there will be a zero tolerance for gossip on the team and be the primary example of this no-gossip policy. Consider having your team write and sign a no-gossip covenant with each other to help establish expectations and build trust.

6. Meetings to debrief meetings. If your church staff is constantly in meetings, then when is ministry being accomplished? If your team is overwhelmed with meetings, take a step back and ask your team why these meetings are necessary. There may be unhealthy reasons for too many meetings including micromanaging, a dominating leader, or an understaffed team.

7. People take a back seat to productivity. If your church staff is placing productivity above people and ministry, then your vision needs to be revisited. Is your team giving people a back seat to productivity because they have too much on their plate? You may need to hire more staff. Are people taking the back seat because your church staff is ignoring them? Your staff may be burned out, or you may need to let some people go.

Have you noticed any of these characteristics in your church staff? Rebuilding a team is hard work, but it's crucial to the long-term health of your church.

What other characteristics should church leaders be looking for as red flags to an unhealthy staff?