I have had the privilege of leading staff both in and outside the church. In both scenarios, I spent time investing in the staff through reading personal growth books together and attending conferences and trainings. We met weekly to discuss our results, tweak our processes, celebrate wins, and learn from losses. But beyond the kind of personal development that comes from self-help books, I didn’t offer much more. Too often, the crux of our time together was focused on the results we wanted in the organization rather than the result of the gospel transforming our lives. Looking back, I wish I had spent more time discipling my staff and less time evaluating outcomes.
As a pastor or minister leading a team of paid staff or volunteers, we must never assume discipleship is taking place. We must intentionally invest in those we lead. It will take a shift from organizational growth and maintenance for many of us but the end result is worth it. What good is a thriving ministry if its leaders are stagnant in their pursuit of Jesus? And what ministry wouldn’t be more effective with staff who are being effectively discipled? In order to effectively disciple your staff, consider the following four adjustments to help you rise to the occasion:
Repurpose Your Existing Structure
Most staff teams have a weekly meeting. This meeting typically focuses on evaluating the week’s attendance, decisions, finances, and upcoming ministry initiatives. While each of these elements are critical for any church to work through, they can become the end-all be-all of the weekly meeting. In order to disciple your staff, this meeting can be repurposed to focus on the spiritual growth of the team as well as discussing the key details of the organization. If the meeting is a couple hours long, try spending at least a quarter of the time discussing each team member’s personal walk with the Lord. Discipling your staff doesn’t have to mean more meetings in an already busy work week. Repurpose existing times together.
Intentionally Focus on Personal Spiritual Growth.
Think of all the ways we try to help our staff. We do everything from book discussions to tests intended to evaluate strengths and weaknesses to personality profiles. While none of these things are bad, they should factor in long after investing in the spiritual growth of our team. The key is intentionality. Leaders must make a consistent, constant decision to disciple those they lead. Discipleship does not happen by accident. Identify ways you can invest in your team to grow spiritually and prioritize actions to achieve the goal.
Schedule Discipling Opportunities
Once you’ve repurposed existing times with your staff for discipleship and focused on personal spiritual growth with them, it’s time to schedule discipling opportunities. Read the Word together, pray as a staff, share the gospel, and discuss with one another how sharing is going. While we are great at challenging the people in our church to do these things, we must be doing them as well. Rather than hoping this takes place on your staff, put dates on the calendar to ensure they do. You know the saying: if we fail to plan, we can plan to fail.
Equip vs. Evaluate
In typical church staff culture, leaders spend a lot of time evaluating the success of ministry and the effectiveness of those who serve. Every meeting can feel like a mini-evaluation. While good stewardship certainly requires we effectively assess those we lead, it also means we must effectively equip them. How can we fault a staff member in whom we have not invested? How can we hold those we lead to accountability in work output without helping them pursue Christ more closely? We should never stop evaluating our staff with biblical wisdom and grace, but we should also emphasize how we equip them.
Discipling your staff may be something that has been overlooked in the past, but it is critical to developing a healthy team. Any organization can prioritize personal development but discipling your staff goes beyond discussing the latest book or attending the best conference. Leading your staff team will require more than discipling them but it should never consist of less. Effective leaders disciple those they lead because they understand the priority of spiritual growth in their lives.
Check back next week as we continue our series on how to disciple your staff.