I'm New on the Church Staff

September 24th, 2013

Congratulations to you if this title applies! Just when you wondered if it was all going to work out, it actually did! You. Have. A. Job.

And more than that, you have a new opportunity for ministry. It doesn’t matter if your position is paid or volunteer. It doesn’t matter if you have been attending this church for some time or if it is a brand new place for you. You are “officially” part of the church leadership team and you have been entrusted with upholding the vision and helping make the mission happen! It’s pretty exciting!

Having served on church staff for eighteen years, I once was new, too. I also have seen people come on staff and have actually hired some myself. Over the course of time I could see that some staff entries went well and some didn’t. I want yours to go well. Here are ten things to help make that happen.

1. Be sure you have a clear job description.

Sometimes churches can be lazy about this kind of thing and just assume that everybody is on the same page. It’s easy to think everyone knows what the worship pastor is supposed to do,  right? Never assume this. Be sure you know the expectations and responsibilities of your new position.

2. Learn and live the values and culture of the church.

Since you have already been hired, I assume you are already aligned with the values of the church and the culture you see. However, joining staff and being a leader of the values and culture takes things to a different level. So. Do they have their values in print? Memorize them, start speaking them, and practice them. Now, because culture is a deeper matter, it may take more time to grasp it fully. But, at the least, be a keen observer of “how” people treat each other and “how” the team gets things accomplished. Take note of what is communicated on a regular basis to the congregation. Listen and watch with your ears and your heart and find out what the church is all about!

3. Ask the boss.

Unnecessary conflict will arise if you don’t get the answers to these questions below from your supervisor. They may not seem like a big deal now, but they will take the shape of a headache if you don’t get these things straight with the boss right away.

  • How much time do you expect me to spend in the office and out of the office? What is the ratio?
  • Will we have regularly scheduled meetings? What do you expect our relationship will look like and what do you need from me?
  • Does it matter to you how I communicate with the team? Is mostly email/text OK, or do you feel face-to-face or by phone is better?
  • Will you be looking for me to have notes on meetings and projects? Is it OK if they are on my phone, or would you like to see hard copies of my plans?
  • How should I dress in the office and on the platform?
  • Do you need updates from me on my department? How often? What would that look like? What are you interested in knowing?

4. Be sure your spouse understands what the church is expecting of you.

Once you know the expectations of your new job, be sure to share it with your spouse. It is important that your spouse, too, knows what it is going to take for you to be successful. This way they can help you and encourage you, rather than be surprised when you are asked to do something they don’t understand. You, your boss, and your spouse need to all be on the same team!

5. Be devoted to God’s Word.

Once you get started on the job, you may find that your Bible reading diminishes without you even realizing it. You may find yourself so immersed in church leadership axioms and strategies that you “forget” about God’s Word as guidance in leading the church. So, make sure you read it and continue to apply it. Remember: there is no higher authority than God and His Word.

6. Keep short accounts with others.

Commit to healthy team relationships, both with the staff and with your volunteer teams. Commit to resolving conflict. If you feel a tension between you and another teammate, simply ask, “Are we OK?” and talk as needed. In addition, be an encourager: notice the success of others and verbalize it to them.

7. Solicit feedback from those you trust.

Feedback will come at a rapid pace once you get started. Everyone will have an opinion for you and your ministry. You don’t want to dismiss that feedback, but you can’t carelessly absorb all of it. To balance this out, you can take initiative and ask for feedback from people you select. I don’t mean your best friends who bring you sunny weather all the time; I mean friends who tell you the truth. Find out what they think. You might even find a way to ask new church attenders what they think so that you get their input, too. If you know your enemies, have a sit down talk with the few that you find to be good people who you know want the best for the church. Being intentional with feedback will help you thrive from it rather than be victim to it.

8. Be a talent scout.

First, recognize the contribution of those who have gone before you. Take note of their gift and talents. Learn from them. Second, look around you for those yet to be engaged with God and a ministry. They may be in the church or they may be the barista at the coffee shop. Keep your eyes open for people who are looking for God and their purpose in Him. You can invite and make a way for others!

9. Appreciate the volunteers.

It is easy to take volunteers for granted, and if you don’t have a plan for knowing them and thanking them, it will easily slip off your radar. It is best if, from the beginning, you gather some ideas on how and when you will say “thanks.” Don’t force it; you should find out what naturally flows from your personality and consider the nature of the recipients so that your appreciation is authentic. Words spoken, written notes, gifts, public recognition, coffee conversation, or celebration gatherings—they all work as long as you actually do them!

10. Commit to your own emotional health.

You may already know that church ministry is ranked as one of the most satisfying occupations. After all, for most people it is a calling that is fulfilling and meaningful; but it can also be exhausting and depressing over time. Your self-esteem will be constantly challenged. The joys of church members will be the high points of your week, but then there will be so many stories that hurt your heart and challenge your faith. You can handle the inevitable moments of frustration and discouragement if you prepare from the beginning. There are a few things you can do to strengthen your soul along the way.

  • Plan outings and ultimately a vacation. Be sure you and your family have a plan to get away and have some fun on a regular basis! You have to keep the “joy” tank filled up!
  • Keep an encouragement file. When you receive a kind word or a note, save it! When the hard days come you can reach in that file and get perspective.
  • Live in gratitude. Wake up each morning with a thankful heart. Be glad in the Lord. Take a moment each day to see all the good things that you do have in your life. Don’t let the troubles of the day overwhelm the good stuff!
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