As I am planting a new church, I pray a lot for our future staff. I pray for humble, high-capacity leaders. I pray for the Spirit-led culture that we want to create. I pray for God’s protection and providence. I pray for the men and women who will invest their lives to help Redemption Church honor Jesus and reach many with the gospel.
Last week, I spent four days on a staff retreat with The Village Church. Many are familiar with The Village because of Pastor Matt Chandler (cancer fighter, preacher, author). The Village is one of the partner churches in my church plant residency with Fellowship Associates. We were graciously invited to be a part of their staff retreat with the goal of learning about building a healthy staff culture.
I don’t have a lot of time to fully process this post, but I wanted to throw a few observations down while they were fresh on my mind after being with The Village staff this week. I want to give you a sense of the things we are processing in the residency, and I want to give you a glimpse of my heart for our church. It was good for my soul to see God at work in this group, and it was a good reminder that it’s worth fighting for the gospel to be lived out in authentic community.
Ten Observations on a Healthy Church Staff
- A Staff that Loves Jesus – On the retreat, a real love for Jesus was on display through the worship, conversations, preaching, prayers, testimonies. Forgiven sinners love Jesus.
- A Staff that Worships Passionately – I loved the extended times of singing and worshiping Jesus. The emphasis on extolling the person of Jesus is central and carries throughout the staff. It was great to see staff from a church of 10,000 worshipping passionately in a room with 100.
- A Staff that Laughs – The Village staff laughs. A lot. At jokes. At one another. At old stories from past retreats. They are committed to having fun. It shows up in the way they schedule their time, play games, share meals.
- A Staff that Encourages – I have seen real encouragement, both through one on one conversations and in large group settings. This is a group that wants to spur one another on through words of affirmation and encouragement, which is a practical outworking of “love one another.” The ability to speak the truth into one another’s lives is a powerful tool to edify the church. They give healthy honor to those that God leads them to honor.
- A Staff that Generously Gives – The fact that they are on a four day retreat says a lot, but they also play games every day at lunch and give away gift cards–with real amounts of money on them. I’ve had Christmas “bonuses” that amounted to less than the gift card I got for painfully singing “She’s Lost that Loving Feeling” with a group of guys (and it was as painful for me as for everyone that had to listen). One pattern I see over and over is that a church that is generous with their staff is generous toward others. Churches are either generous or they are not–it’s a heart thing.
- A Staff that is Kingdom-minded – The staff was publicly encouraged to follow God’s leading, even if it means leaving the Village to plant a church or join another work. They made a real investment in our church planting residents, both in terms of finances, wisdom, and time. It doesn’t surprise me that churches whom God seems to be blessing in terms of conversions and growth are also the most generous with their people and resources. These two are linked: a dependence on God’s work among us to save people and build his church, and a freedom with God’s blessing and resources for the sake of the kingdom.
- A Staff that Prays – I appreciate the time spent in praying for one another, praying for those with specific needs, praying for those with sin struggles or faith struggles, praying for families. Gospel dependence produces prayerfulness.
- A Staff that is Not Perfect – There is a willingness to embrace the imperfection and messiness of their lives. Not just in a theoretical way, but in real and honest ways. They let their sins be real (see Martin Luther) so that forgiveness is real. This freedom comes from sincere faith in the gospel. Leaders cannot possibly shepherd an entire church toward repentance if they are not authentically repenting themselves. The path to spiritual growth/renewal is always repent and believe.
- A Staff that Loves One Another – As a staff, relational connection must be fostered. They intentionally invest time together. On the retreat, every person from every department in the church was invited, including both ministers and support staff. They committed an entire work week to being together as a team apart from any “ministry” activity. They also do this for a 1/2 day each month. They work hard, but they also take time to rest and to connect. They are committed to sharing their redemption stories with one another, moving beyond life circumstances to talk about heart shaping events. They don’t hide the rough stuff, and they receive one another in love.
- A Staff that Remembers a Shared History – On the retreat, the staff took time to remember past retreats, recall people and events, reflect on how God had worked in the past. I believe it is important to remember this shared history and to celebrate God’s sovereign hand in the life of the church. God weaves many lives and stories together in a local church, and they make something more beautiful together than they could in isolation. Three benefits I see to remembrance: orienting new people to your culture, stepping back to see the big picture of God’s past work, building hope and expectation of God’s future work among the church.
As I mentioned before, this is not a fully developed summary. These are simply my first thoughts typed up quickly on the day after the retreat. I’ll reflect on these things in the days ahead.
I’m sure I’ll add or tweak things along the way, but if these things come to pass in the life of Redemption Church, I will have a full and grateful heart for God’s work among us.
As you reflect on your church staff, what are they doing really well that you could share with us? If you are not on staff of a church, what is one way you could bless and encourage the staff at your church? If you serve on a church staff, what is one practical thing you could do to become a healthier staff team this year?