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Navigating Staff Relationships

I remember my very first day at Trinity Church in Lubbock.  I was taken across campus to fill out some HR and tax paperwork, and after I finished I found myself all alone in someone’s office that was far from my own.  I asked where I needed to go next, and was told that I should go to my office and start the adventure.  However, there was one problem.  I didn’t know where my office was!  I spent the next 30 minutes walking around campus looking for my office.  In fact, it wasn’t until a week later that I discovered that the lady working outside my office door actually worked for me.  Amazing, I had an assistant and it took me a week to figure it out!

Now things have gotten much better at Trinity for new employees, but it’s still proof that being on a church staff can be quite the adventure.  Guess what I hear when I talk to people in church ministry?   Few want to talk about their ministry, but a good deal of people want to lament their pastors, peers, or volunteers.

Why is this so?

Because the most challenging and most unprepared aspect of working in church ministry is how we work within our staff structures.  Let’s be honest, how many of us ever dreamed that working with others would be so hard at a church?!?

This week I want to talk about something that has consumed my life as of late.  Learning to navigate all the different staff relationships we deal with inside of a church-staff setting.  Before we get started, let’s look at defining the three main categories of all staff relationships.

Define the Three Main Categories of Staff Relationships:

  1. Those we Lead
    1. Subordinates = Staff that reports to us directly.
    2. Volunteers = Those that serve in our areas and depend on us for leadership.
  2. Those we Cooperate with in accomplishing the Greater Vision of our churches
    1. Co-Workers = Peers that work on our same level within the organization
    2. If you re the Kid s Pastor, here is your Youth Pastor
  1. Those we Follow
    1. Managers = Direct Reports
    2. Executive Leaders/Pastors = Lead those we report to, or lead us directly.
    3. Senior Pastors = Leader of entire organization
Somewhere in the realm of all three of these we operate.  People we lead, people we cooperate with (or should be cooperating with), and people we follow and serve under.  As we start to identify the 4 principles of navigating through the sometimes treachrous, but always rewarding church staff relationships, I’d like to hear from you.
How many do you lead?  
How many are considered your ‘peers’ on your church staff?  
Who leads you, is it an executive pastor, department pastor, or do you sit directly under a Senior Pastor?  

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.

16 Comments

  1. Aimee Peter · September 6, 2011

    I lead one assistant, and nursery director and a team of approximately 100 volunteers.

    There are 7 staff pastors, 2 of whom are executive pastors.

    I sit directly under my Senior Pastor.

  2. Sbehymer · September 7, 2011

    I have one part time staff member and over 70 volunteers that I lead.   I have 7 peers on staff and we all report to the senior pastor, we are titled  the Senior Leadership Team.

  3. Ghall · September 7, 2011

    I have one part time administrative assistant under me.   I have one staff peer (worship) and one executive pastor (boss).   We have one secretary, but I’m not sure if she falls under me or in line with me within the staff structure…probably depends on the day.   :D Currently looking for Senior Pastor, but I will still report to Executive Pastor.  

    I have approximately 100 volunteers during the year from nursery through college mentors.   And extra 100 or so during our basketball/cheer league.   Not counting VBS since it’s only a week.

  4. Ghall · September 7, 2011

    I have one part time administrative assistant under me.   I have one staff peer (worship) and one executive pastor (boss).   We have one secretary, but I’m not sure if she falls under me or in line with me within the staff structure…probably depends on the day.   :D Currently looking for Senior Pastor, but I will still report to Executive Pastor.  

    I have approximately 100 volunteers during the year from nursery through college mentors.   And extra 100 or so during our basketball/cheer league.   Not counting VBS since it’s only a week.

  5. Ghall · September 7, 2011

    I have one part time administrative assistant under me.   I have one staff peer (worship) and one executive pastor (boss).   We have one secretary, but I’m not sure if she falls under me or in line with me within the staff structure…probably depends on the day.   :D Currently looking for Senior Pastor, but I will still report to Executive Pastor.  

    I have approximately 100 volunteers during the year from nursery through college mentors.   And extra 100 or so during our basketball/cheer league.   Not counting VBS since it’s only a week.

  6. Leena P. · September 7, 2011

    I lead 2 staff (youth ministry intern/associate and a nursery lead-caregiver) and 40 volunteers. During the week of VBS we have an additional 25 volunteers.  
    I am one of six on church paid staff: pastor, director faith formation – me, office secretary, choir director/organist, facilities coordinator/custodian, treasurer/financial secretary .I am led/supervised by the pastor and somewhat supervised by our Christian education committee & church council.

  7. Kim Setzer · September 8, 2011

    I am a part-time children’s director currently leading 2 part-time staff (preschool coordinator & elementary coordinator), 31 adult volunteers, 21 student volunteers.  I serve directly under our senior pastor and alongside 2 other paid part-time staff, worship leader & student pastor.