Sometimes when a church staff member comes across as unmotivated and directionless, it’s because no one has taken him/her under the wing to mentor them in how to be sharp and do their work well.
Pastors should encourage anyone on church staff to seek out mentors and veteran pastors who can show them how to sharpen their skills.
For starters, pastors can look to visiting preachers to suggest something about a staff member that the pastor was too busy to notice.
As leaders, pastors should notice areas for improvement and be willing to help.
We were hosting an evangelist friend for a weekend of meetings. That Saturday night, we bought 20 huge pizzas for a hundred young people. After the meal, my friend would address them about their relationship with Christ. As they were eating and fellowshipping, the evangelist took me aside to point something out.
“Joe, look at your student minister.”
I looked around and couldn’t find him. I said, “Where is he?”
“Good question,” said the guest preacher. “But he’s in the kitchen.”
And there he was, leaning against the fridge, talking to no one.
The preacher said, “Joe, this is his big opportunity. We have a lot of kids visiting the church tonight. He ought to be out here greeting them, getting their names, welcoming them, finding ways to connect with them.”
He was right.
That omission brought something to the forefront I’d been noticing: Our student minister was so shy he would run from opportunities to meet new people.
A couple of days after the weekend evangelistic emphasis, we had a long sit-down talk and ended up making some major positive changes.
Invite the perspective of an outsider; it can be a good thing.
In my retirement ministry, I’m in some 30 different churches a year, preaching for various emphases or filling in for the pastor. I enjoy my little glimpse of the congregation, seeing how the pastoral team is leading in worship and service, and meeting the various ministerial staff members.
Most of the times, I’m impressed. These people really care about what they are doing.
All of my acquaintances with the staff are brief, of course. We meet, shake hands, get our heads together on my part in the service. They make sure I’m well taken care of, and then I see them flitting around tending to the rest of their assigned responsibilities.
Without consciously planning to do this, I come to some conclusions about these staffers. I think, “You are sharp and on the ball. Any pastor would be glad to work with you.”
Or something less than that.
By sharp, I mean the minister is energized, focused, loving these people, glad to be there, and trying very hard to do his/her job well.
When you have a guest preacher, you would do well to ask him later for observations on the church and the staff. As it did with me, an outsider’s analysis could provide something you’d been missing.
If you feel any of your staff need mentoring, ask the Father how to initiate this without discouraging him/her. If you cannot personally do the mentoring, encourage the minister to seek out someone who can. If you’re like me, you wish you’d done this when you were young in the work!
Here are five areas I personally look for, with questions that seek “the sharpness factor.”
1. When you get up to participate in the worship service, are you prepared? Have you given the first thought to what you will be saying and the best way to communicate it? Or are you making it up as you go?
There are people who are eloquent when speaking extemporaneously. At the risk of offending you, you’re not one of them. I’m certainly not. In fact, I’ve known only two or three in my lifetime.
Whether you are making an announcement or leading a prayer or something else, a sharp person will give advance thought on how to do it well.
Pray about everything you’re going to do in the worship service, staff minister. Your personal goal is for your contribution to be the best thing in the hour! I’m remembering that a couple started coming to my church because they heard me pray at a community Easter sunrise service. That forever impressed on me the need for planning even something as simple as a prayer.
2. Is there any visible evidence that you love these people whom God has given you to serve? Is there a smile on your face? Joy in your step? Or, are you trudging along as though you’d prefer to be anyplace else on earth?
A smile from a minister can be contagious. Let the joy of the Lord be your strength.
“In thy presence there is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore!” (Psalm 16:11)
3. Are you mixing with the people, walking around...greeting them? Are you listening to what they say?
A faithful minister can often accomplish as much in the ten minutes before and after a worship service as in five hours of counseling during the week.
If you do not love people, you may be in the wrong line of work. And if you love them—the mark of every believer, said our Lord in John 13:34-35—it should be obvious.
Show these people you’d rather be here than any other place on earth! Look people in the eye. Listen when they’re talking to you. Do not be looking around. Send up silent prayers for the Father to lead you in how to respond to this person. Have quick prayers with people right there in the worship center when there is a need. Simply hold their hands, lean toward them, close your eyes and speak a prayer of a three or four sentences. Then, if it’s appropriate, hug them and move on.
4. Are you seeking out new people and welcoming them to church? Are you introducing them to others, and checking to see if you can involve them in the ministries here?
Few things will encourage a pastor more than seeing one of his assistants greeting strangers in the service and making them feel welcome.
When I was a very young minister—this was pre-seminary days—serving as a part-time assistant, I would visit prospects for our church, then type up reports each week for the pastor on whom I’d visited and details for his followup. He had never had this from any staff-member and thought he’d died and gone to heaven! Later, when I became a pastor, I wished for staffers to do the same!
5. Does your appearance reflect well on the church you’re serving?
In most cases, I’d say to take your cue from the pastor. But if he overdoes the casual bit—and many do, sad to say—you don’t have to imitate his mistake. Wear clean, well-pressed clothing that matches, the kind of outfit your grandmother would approve.
Pastor William Strickland of Cantonment, Florida’s Harvest Christian Center tells me that he asks his staff members to dress “one notch above” the typical church member. I think this is so wise.
Two more tips I know to be true...
- A staffer should never insist on being treated with greater respect around the church. He/she should earn it by faithfully serving the Lord’s people with class and effectiveness.
- Always remember, whether you are the lead pastor or any staffer (as I once was, as the new minister of evangelism), “it is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 3:24).
Pray for yourself, for your colleagues, and for the pastor.
None has an easy role. We all need one another.
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