What leaders wished their staff already knew…

Ministry leaders tend to be visionaries who feel the weight and excitement of their vision 24/7. They are driven, passionate, people who won’t stop until their mission is complete.  I respect their dedication and am inspired as I work with them.  If you work for one of these leaders, it’s likely because you were inspired by their vision and wanted to be a part of making that vision a reality.  Here are a few tips for how you can best support the leadership of your church:

1.  Cut them some slack:  Your leaders are people too – they have bad days, get cranky, forget stuff, misread the situation, are insensitive at times, etc.  Be forgiving, pray for them, and encourage them. Do NOT idolize them.

2.  Be solution-minded: When you bring up an issue, always have a couple of potential solutions to propose for how to fix the problem.

3.  Stop guessing: If you’re not sure – ask.  Visionary leaders can be so excited about where they’re headed that they forget to give detailed directions to the team.  Ask for more specifics.  Ask for a deadline.  If you already have five “urgent” tasks, then ask for help in setting priorities.  Don’t guess – they’d rather you ask then guess incorrectly!

4.  Work diligently:  Don’t waste time or put up with inefficient work practices.  If your co-workers are constantly interrupting you, politely set some boundaries to make sure you’re being an excellent steward of your time at work.  Constantly consider whether there’s an easier, faster way to accomplish your tasks.  If you think there should be an easier way, but don’t know what changes to make then ask around.  Maybe someone else on the team knows and could help.  You’ll never know unless you ask.

5.  Stamp out gossip: If you disagree with a decision, ask for more information to help you understand the reasoning behind that choice.  Do not undermine your leaders by gossiping or complaining about the decision.

6.  Communicate: Tell your leader if you’re frustrated and why and offer suggestions for what might help.  Let him know that you’re exhausted and need a break.  He can’t read your mind just as you can’t read his, so don’t expect that from him.

7.  Provide status updates:  If you’re working on an assignment that will take several weeks then provide a status report on a scheduled basis.  This should be a brief summary of the key tasks, who is assigned to each, the due date and if that task is on-track.  Note any potential issues and what you’re doing to handle them and if you need help.  Don’t wait until you’re asked for this information – provide it proactively.

8.  Be honest when you’re in over your head: If there’s a problem that you don’t know how to fix, don’t wait until the last possible moment to bring that issue to your boss.  Bring it up ASAP so you can work together to fix the problem.  If you think that you’re doing him a favor by hiding the problem (or worse, that you’re protecting your backside), you are wrong.  Get it out in the open and deal with it now.  Hiding only makes it worse.

9.  Take care of yourself:  Ideally, leaders will make sure that you take vacation, that you don’t stay late every night, or work lots of weekends.  However, your health and well-being are ultimately your responsibility.  You are the only person who can say “no” when asked to work even more late nights.  You are the only person who knows when you need a vacation. Take ownership of your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. If you try to take time off or not work long hours and are condemned or there’s an attempt to make you feel guilty, then perhaps it is time for you to consider other opportunities.  In most cases, your leaders simply don’t realize when you’re being stretched too thin.  Respectfully raise the issue and work with them to make the needed adjustments.

Working for a church or ministry can be very rewarding but it certainly isn’t easy.  You’ve committed your time, energy and talent to an organization dedicated to changing lives.  You’re also following a leader who’s vision and passion you admire.  In the midst of the chaos, remember that leaders are human.  They’ll make mistakes and may disappoint you at times.  Do not idolize them or expect them to be perfect – you’ll be disappointed if you do.  They need your support, talent and passion to see the vision propelled forward.  As you work together, you’ll reap the rewards in seeing lives changed and people served.

Leaders – Is there anything I missed?  What else would you love for your staff to know?  Staff – What are your thoughts?  I’d love to hear from you!