Leading Them Well (Part 2)

When church staff are being properly shepherded and led, when they know the expectations that the leaders have of them, when they have a clear sense of their purpose and significance within the greater body of the church, when they are appreciated and given adequate feedback, and when they are being equipped to carry out their tasks with greater competency and faith, leading and managing staff can be one of the most exciting aspects of pastoral ministry.

In the first part of this series, we looked at three principles of leading and managing church staff well that will help build up the body of Christ in both maturity and unity: (1) hiring, (2) purpose, significance, and appreciation, and (3) equipping and training. In this post, we’ll round out the list by considering four more.

Principle #4: Inspire Them

Nobody likes to be pushed from behind. This is especially true with church staff who need to follow a leader who is leading from the front—setting the course with clear and actionable vision, calling others to go where they themselves are going, and inspiring them with sincerity of faith.

To be sure, Scripture gives us the example of “sending out” Christ’s disciples—deploying them—for ministry. But if they don’t see you (as their leader) willing to do the things that you are calling them to do, then resentment and bitterness are brought to bear. For example, if you tell others to evangelize, but they never see you evangelizing, then thoughts of hypocrisy seep in and your leadership takes a hit.

Principle #5: Clearly Define Expectations & Goals

If you don’t clearly define expectations and goals for your church staff, you are setting them up for confusion at best, and failure at worst. As someone has said, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” If a staff member doesn’t know what is expected of him or her, there will be a growing divide between you and them. You will no longer be on the same team.

When you set clear expectations and they are met, reward your staff with compliments or other forms of encouragement. If your expectations aren’t met, first reflect on the feasibility of the expectations—they might have been too difficult. If the expectations were reasonable, then gently but firmly coach him/her to better meet the expectations in the future.

The goals that you set for yourself and your staff should be clear, specific, and measurable. For example, your music leader shouldn’t simply set out to simply “introduce new music.” He should set a goal to introduce one new hymn—that the congregation hasn’t sung before—from the Trinity Hymnal (or from whatever other source you prefer) each month for the next six months. That goal is clear, specific, and measurable.

One qualification: As a leader, it is usually preferable to delegate not only specific tasks, but concepts. By doing this you press home the significance of their work. For example, a janitor doesn’t just clean the church; he provides a welcoming environment for gospel community week in and week out. If you tell him to simply clean “that toilet” or dust “that table,” sure, he will (hopefully) do that and do that well. But if you delegate the concept of Christian hospitality—so that he takes ownership that this is his mission and his church—then he will be on the lookout for other needs that are not specified on your list. Don’t get me wrong, he needs a list—clearly outlined expectations! But if you only provide a list without helping him see the bigger picture of why he’s doing what he’s doing, then you will only get what’s on the list and he won’t be truly a part your team.

Principe # 6: Grace vs. Justice

Being gracious toward church staff doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences for moral failings or poor performance. Remember the “5 Cs of hiring” from Part 1? More often than not, character failings and competency issues are the two primary reasons that lead to staff members being let go.

Obviously, if a youth director has had inappropriate relationship with a youth, for example, there should be swift and appropriate steps taken to remove him or her and shepherd the youth involved. If your financial bookkeeper continues to make serious errors in financial reporting and you start getting letters from the IRS saying that they will repossess your church building, he probably needs to find another job.

If it’s an issue of competency, be gracious and implement a plan to help him or her improve. But if the job and the person’s personality are simply incompatible—and he or she doesn’t have the necessary skill set—then you could either provide a better match on your church staff or help him or her find another place of employment.

Principle #7: Pray

God uses your prayers to fulfill His sovereign plans. He also uses prayer as a means of growing us by grace. So pray! Pray for your staff. Pray with your staff. Have your elders pray regularly for your staff. Make prayer a central part of your staff meetings. Pray that God would be glorified through the ministries led by your staff. Pray that He would protect your staff from evil, from division, from pride, and from the influence from this unbelieving world.

And pray for your own heart, that God would free you from jealousy of stellar staff, and that He would keep you from sins of commission and sins of omission. Pray that God would keep you close to Him as you lead others. Pray that God would provide a gospel vision for each member of your ministry team.

May you lead your staff well. May the saints in your church be equipped for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ—for His glory and your joy.


Dr. Brian H. Cosby is senior minister of Wayside Presbyterian Church (PCA) on Signal Mountain, Tennessee, visiting professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, Atlanta, and author of over a dozen books, including Uncensored: Daring to Embrace the Entire Bible.

Brian Cosby