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21 Signs Your Church Staff Has Toxic Team Culture

Posted by Nicole Cochran on 7/27/16 8:03 AM

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It’s nearly impossible for any team to remain completely healthy 100% of the time. On any church staff, there will be problems or drama that occasionally arise that will have to be dealt with accordingly. But it is vital for church leaders to proactively safeguard their team against turning toxic.

Watch out for these 21 warning signs that your church staff's team culture is turning toxic.

1. Cliques within the team

Friendships will naturally form on your church staff, and that's a wonderful sign of great staff culture. Certain people will bond more closely, but when groups become exclusive factions, view it as a warning sign.

2. No cross collaboration

Having colleagues to collaborate with can be a huge asset to your church. Failing to seek out others’ opinions and ideas on your church staff will ultimately stunt the growth of your church.

3. Improper onboarding of new staff hires

Bringing on a new team member is an opportunity to make another advocate for your church who can reach people for God’s Kingdom. Properly training your new hire on procedures will help to reduce future problems and stress. It will also allow them to fully grasp the culture and core values of the church.

4. Lacking unification

Ideas and opinions on your team will vary at times, and ultimately that’s a sign of healthy staff culture. However, if team members are commonly on opposite sides of the equation and need someone to step in, there may be a larger problem that needs to be addressed.

5. Leaders aren't present

Does the leadership make a concerted effort to be in the office whenever they can? How often do you see the Senior Pastor, Executive Pastor, or Elders? If the leaders are absent all the time, it's impossible to set the tone of a great staff culture.

Church staff culture webinar

6. Not enough vacation time

Does your team seem tired and in need of rest? When was the last time they took time off? – And I don’t just mean a weekend, but a real vacation. Offering competitive benefits is a great way to maintain great staff morale.

7. Too much vacation time

On the flip side of that, if team members are always out of the office, they are missing out on a lot of valuable culture and collaboration. Is your staff invested, or just punching the clock until their next vacation?

8. Gossip

Gossip can be one of the most toxic aspects of a church staff's culture. The Bible says, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." – Ephesians 4:29. It's imperative that church leaders shut gossip down whenever it occurs.

9. No interaction outside of work

While everyone may not want to spend ALL of their time with their coworkers, a healthy level of time spent outside of work together promotes team bonding and helps people to understand one another better.

10. Not attending other team members' events

It’s simply not possible for everyone on your staff to attend every event your church has. However, is your staff putting forth an effort to support each another’s ministries and activities?

11. Bad attitudes & negative comments

Everyone has bad days, but reoccurring negativity should be a red flag that there is some misalignment between visions. If there are constant negative comments coming from a team or team member, address it.

12. No new ideas

Not everyone is creative, but a sense of agility and problem solving should lead to new ideas and continued improvement. If your team simply does things "the way they've always done them," your staff culture will become stale.

13. Lack of vision

Church staff members should have an alignment in vision with the church leadership, vision for their ministry, as well as vision for bringing people into God’s Kingdom as a whole.

14. Goals are not measurable or are too unachievable

Pushing oneself and the ministry as a whole can drive growth and lead to great achievement in your church. However, it is crucial to check attainability first. Setting goals that cannot be reached or are difficult to measure can lead to weariness and disillusionment. 

15. There are one or two dominating personalities

While it’s an advantage to have varying personalities, having people who are domineering or abrasive can quickly be a pitfall to your church staff culture.

16. Lacking commitment towards church

Are your church staff members strongly committed to your church and its mission?

17. High staff turnover

Consider why so many people have left/are leaving. This is often a glaring sign of a larger problem.

18. No personal effects

Physical space can largely affect people’s quality of work and life. This doesn’t mean you have to have the coolest, hippest space. Simple things like turning on the lights (or opening curtains), keeping office doors open when possible, and encouraging people to decorate their spaces creates a more inviting atmosphere.

19. Not having lunch together

Are people interacting other than when they have to? It is certainly not required for staff members to always eat together, but it is a positive sign when they frequently want to. 

20. No trust within roles

Micromanagement can quickly lead to discontentment, stress, and lack of trust. How does your team lead?

21. Rapid growth in staff

While this may not necessarily mean your culture is toxic, it’s something to pay attention to as large numbers of new staff members can change the culture, vision, etc.

Have you seen any of these warning signs on your church staff team?

Church staff culture webinar

Topics: Church Development, Team Building, Senior Leadership

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