Are you struggling with a challenging employee? Are you looking for a new employee? Most pastors have next to no training in hiring and supervising staff. I know I didn’t. Managing staff is an essential skill for church leaders. Here are 10 things I’ve learned about supervising church staff.
1. Don’t hire someone just because they need a job. Hire because the person is the best for the job.
2. Don’t hire someone with the skills who you suspect has a bad attitude. Their attitude is unlikely to improve. It’s better to hire someone with a good attitude and train them.
3. Don’t hire if you can’t fire. You can hire church members, but you need to be clear about roles and expectations and be willing to let them go if it doesn’t work out. (See the excellent book When Moses Meets Aaron: Staffing and Supervision in Large Congregations, by Gil Rendle and Susan Beaumont on hiring church members and many other matters, not just for large congregations.
4. Don’t over accommodate difficult employees.You can be reasonably flexible with employees who do their work, but if you find yourself tiptoeing around an employee or once again making excuses to yourself or others for them, think twice. It may be time to take a stand with them.
5. Always check references. Enough said.
6. Be clear about roles, including what are the job responsibilities and who supervises. Written job descriptions and clear lines of accountability don’t solve all problems, but they help.
7. Remember you can’t always make church employees happy. Be able to tolerate their disappointment or upset.
8. Don’t complain about one employee to another.If you have a senior colleague, together you may be able to think about how to deal with staff challenges in a larger church. That’s different from complaining.
9. Learn the birth order of your staff, and think about how you mesh. If you are a “youngest son” and your office manager is an “oldest daughter” (especially if she is older than you), you may find it harder to supervise her, and vice versa. It’s still your job. Consider asking one of your older siblings for advice.
10. Work on relationships. Find ways to connect in a light way with all of your staff individually. It will pay off.
Putting these supervising techniques into place, along with clear communication, will go a long way to strengthen your church staff and make you an even better team.
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Margaret Marcuson / Rev. Margaret Marcuson helps clergy make their lives easier. She is the author of Leaders Who Last: Sustaining Yourself and Your Ministry and Money and Your Ministry. She served as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Gardner, Mass. for 13 years.