Leading Staff Reorganization During COVID-19 with Tim Stevens

In today's live session, I interviewed Tim Stevens, Vice President of Consulting at Vanderbloemen about strategies and practical ways for churches to lead their teams through reorganization during COVID-19. There is no easy way to face a reorganization,  however, there are practical steps you can take throughout the process while using wisdom from God to guide you during these challenging times.

2 Staff Reorganization Options for Ministries Facing a Crisis

1. Every church is online right now. Going from a physical gathering space to only working online shifts every staff member’s role.

  • Prioritize what is important by keeping your mission as the center of your focus and begin to restructure what it looks like to be an online church. 

  • Reorganize your staff to effectively get things covered while having church online. Tim gave the example of using staff members to check on your congregation and examine if they have any needs to be met during this crisis. This not only lets your congregation know you care about them, but it involves staff members in new ways where they feel like they’re serving their church.

  • Rethink things you have thought to be necessities in the past. If you can live without them for a short time, it’s okay to drop some things during a change.

2. Address the financial reality of the church. Unfortunately, during a global crisis churches have to face the reality of reducing payroll. It’s very challenging to have those tough conversations with your staff. Although you can’t have those conversations in person due to social distancing, it is possible to communicate with compassion and grace virtually. 

Three Considerations During a Layoff: 

  • Make the decision soon enough that you’re able to provide help for laid off employees during the transition. During this global crisis, it may be difficult to provide a lot for your staff however, Tim also suggests reaching out to donors you may know who would love to fill the gap and meet that need for your church. Remember, you  can always provide them with genuine care and grace.

  • There’s currently  an increase in the benefits and additional support that the government is providing during COVID-19.  If you do have to lay employees off, comfort them by providing them with as many details as you can about accessing these resources. Showing your care in this tangible way will reduce their stress and ensure they feel supported. 

  • Have a third person in the conversation with you. This allows one person to  deliver the facts and another who can provide pastoral care, love, and follow up, and pray for them during this challenging time. 

  • Options other than laying off:

      • Furlough - Your staff will be eligible for unemployment benefits and it also lets them know that you intend to bring them back after this crisis.

      • Pay cuts - You can also consider reducing the pay of everyone on staff by smaller amounts in order get your church enough back to get through the crisis. Let staff know that you intend for the cut to be temporary and hope to implement normal salaries as quickly as you responsibly can.

Timeline of Communication During Staff Reorganization

Communicate with staff about the future. 

  • Having an all-staff meeting is an opportunity for you to communicate what is happening with the church and what your staff can expect. Then, you can give them a timeline of when they will know more information. 

  • When it comes to layoffs, furloughs, and even reorganization of your staff, it’s imperative for leaders to provide pastoral care. Major shifts and transitions like these affect everyone differently, so this is a time for you to be available to them and pray with them and express your leadership skills during this time.

Communicate with the congregation.

  • Leaders should communicate with their executive staff, board members, and key leaders first to ensure that everyone is in alignment with what is happening with the church and the staff. This ensures consistency in messaging and facts when your leaders communicate to the entire staff.

  • Communicate with the community and congregation after you have walked it through with your executive staff. You can never be too honest. Share how hard this is for you and the reasons you feel the need to make hard decisions. People feel respected when you trust them with the truth.

Communicating Now About The  Future

  • Every church is facing a different situation right now. Some church leaders have cash reserves and while they’re  evaluating their projections, they still need to make changes. Leaders can communicate this with their executives and board members by honestly expressing the need to be proactive and stewarding what you have now while considering the future of the church too. 

  • It’s challenging to think positively and plan for the future in the midst of COVID-19 however, begin to consider ways to support you congregation and community when you are able to gather again. While this is a hard blow, it will have an end.

4 Tips to Resuming the Hiring Process of the Church

1. Evaluate your cash reserves and review your financial projections.

2. Pay attention to positions that are critical for the mission of the church. If you’re lacking staff in your creative/online department, you might want to prioritize that during this time.

3. Consider your comfort level of doing all interviews virtually. Need help? Here are some tips.

4. If you know who you’re going to hire, have a real and honest conversation about the process, your financial situation, and the potential timeline. It's important to start a new hire with transparency to ensure retention.

Churches That Don’t Pay Unemployment

If you don’t or can’t pay unemployment as a church, here are your options:

  • Offer severance packages. This helps employees stay on their feet while planning for their lack of income and future plan.

  • Create a benevolence fund within your church in hopes to provide for those who are facing layoffs.

Guidance on Dealing with the pressure on Pastors 

Every leader is facing an overwhelming amount of pressure when it comes to making decisions for the well being of their church and their congregation. Tim explains the need for leaders to over-communicate during COVID-19 and having weekly meetings to provide information on what is happening with your church. This shows that you are staying ahead of things and using wisdom during these challenging times.