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Staff Talk: Assume the Best

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the tension that exists on our church staff this week.  This is my last attempt at teaching myself and others how to navigate these sometimes bumpy waters of working on a church staff.  I’ve written about defining what you want out of your church staff relationships, taking action steps to make it happen, and practicing a high level of accountability to seeing it take place in your reality.  Right now I want to address the bow that tops the gift.

When working on a church staff, you always put yourself in a position for success when you decide beforehand that you will assume the best of those you work with.

Put it however you want.  You have to give them a benefit of the doubt, expect the best out of their intentions, and stop assuming the worst in everyone else’s motives.

I’ve sat in many an office with someone that is deeply wounded by the actions of another.  Many times I’m not seeing the offense, but I encourage the wounded person to speak to that person to hurt them.  What’s crazy to me, is how often the offense was never intended; and the person that did the wounding leaves wounded.  Why would they leave feeling hurt?  Because they can’t imagine that someone they trust would think they’d have such a terrible motive behind their actions.

When we choose to assume the best of those we work with, we free ourselves from the comparison game.  We free ourselves from bitterness towards the success of others.  We free ourselves from resentment that only handicaps our own efforts for the Kingdom of God.  When was the last time you were willing to give others the opportunity to have a bad day?  Do you never have bad days?  When have you given people the room to just misspeak?  Have you never misspoken?  When have you offered someone quick forgiveness, seeing that they genuinely made a mistake?  You can live free, and it all starts with giving others the same courtesy you’d want them to give you!

I’m not naive.  I realize there are some mean and angry people working on church staffs.  There is rarely a conference that goes by that I don’t hear stories about how church staffs that turn my stomach.  But even in that world, assuming the best goes a long ways towards giving us the health we need to work with those we lead, those we cooperate with, and those we follow.

Jonathan Cliff is married to his wife Starr and they together live out their days with two sons and a daughter. Jonathan serves as one of the Pastors at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, Tennessee; where he works with leaders throughout the city to help develop Christian community that leads to deep and meaningful spiritual friendships. His journey has been an adventurous one, having served in the local church for 15 years in family ministry developing leaders, building environments for kids and students to belong, and encouraging parents to take big spiritual steps with their families.


  1. Christy O'Connor · September 15, 2011

    Thanks Jonathan for these posts….came in late in the game, but plan to take action on these areas!! Appreciate all you do for those of us in Family Ministry!

  2. Jill Crew · September 15, 2011

    I think one of the biggest ways this happens is when we take things personal that shouldn’t be taken personal… I love Patrick Lencioni’s “Five  Dysfunctions of a Team.”  I think because ministry is so personal we have a hard time really talking honestly about it at times and evaluating.  It is easier to keep on improving when you are free to talk as a team about your ministry without the fear of feelings getting hurt.  When you can evaluate and be honest by keeping it about the event or ministry… meetings are even more fun and productive…    but like you said… it all comes down to giving your team members the benefit of the doubt and having trust.