How Can You Help Your Staff Through A Tough Time of Ministry?
In this video Matt and Todd sit down to talk about some practical strategies church leaders can use in trying to encourage their staff.
Todd Rhoades: Hey Matt, somebody asked us to answer this question. Are you ready to answer a question?
Matt Steen: Yeah, bring it.
Todd Rhoades: What are some practical ways that a leader can help encourage their staff in a difficult season of ministry. And I was thinking about this. A lot of really tough things that happened in ministry, I mean it could be as bad as having a bad Sunday, but you could have a staff member that you have to fire or somebody that leaves or maybe an untimely death or even a moral failure, any kind of staff departure or any kind of financial problems that you have going on. There are a lot of things that hit us all the time as church leaders. But when you have those things happen, what would you tell this person? How would you encourage your staff in a time when things aren't going all that great?
Matt Steen: Yeah, I think there's a few different ways. As I've kind of been chewing on this a little bit, I have five things. Is that okay? Can I do five?
Todd Rhoades: That's good. I've got three. We'll see if any of ours match up here.
Matt Steen: So I've got five things, right. The first thing that I came to on this was you've got to do the work. Before you say anything, before you talk to anybody, before you give presents or thank you cards or anything like that, if you're going to positively encourage your staff during difficult seasons, you've got to be doing the work yourself. And not in a showy way, but people need to see that you're leaning into the season, that you're showing up, and that you're not skipping out because you don't want to deal with the awkward. So do the work, that's the first thing. And that communicates tons. I think the second thing is you've got to lead from the front. As you're doing the work, you need to make sure that your team is not seen in a showy way, but that your team understands that you are out there, that you are out there before anybody shows up, before anybody leaves. You're leading from the front, you're owning the pieces that you need to own, and you're visibly leading through the process. I think the third thing for me, Todd, is you've got to own that it's a hard season. I think we've all run into people who have this magical thinking where it's like, "Oh, it's not a hard season. It's not tough, we just need to buck up and move on and Jesus will get us through" and all that kind of stuff. Well yeah, Jesus is going to get us through. But at the same time, we can say it's hard. Soldier friends of mine will talk about how they use the phrase, "Embrace the suck." And there's something to that where you say, yes it is hard, yes we're going to power through, yes we can pull this off, but admitting it - but not dwelling. Admitting but not dwelling is huge. I think the fourth thing for me is you've got to say thank you a lot. I don't think church leaders do this enough for volunteers. I don't think church leaders do this enough for their staff. But saying thank you and saying thank you in practical ways. You don't necessarily need to spend a whole lot of money, but a hand written thank you card saying "Hey, I see you. You're doing a good job. Thank you for leaning into this hard season." Buy them a soda, buy them an ice cream, I don't know. But small ways of saying, hey thank you. And Todd, the fifth and final for me is plan for rest on the other side. So a lot of times, ministry is seasonal, right? You go through cycles. You go through sprints, and then you need to go through seasons of recovery. One of the things that I see in a lot of churches is that we forget the recovery cycles. And so it's just press on, press on, press on, full speed ahead all the time, and that just burns people out and that makes hard seasons drag on for eternities. And that's when you really start to beat down your people. If you go through a rhythm of going through hard seasons and then having rest cycles built into the rhythm of your church year, people start to understand it's hard now, but we are going to be able to have a letdown at the end of this season. And they care enough for me that they understand that the letdown needs to happen, otherwise we're just going to burn out. That's my five. What did I miss?
Todd Rhoades: Oh, you missed a whole lot, man. No, I'm just kidding.
Matt Steen: Welcome to my world.
Todd Rhoades: Well, no, I think this is good because I took a little bit different take on it. I think the first one I would say is make sure that you - and I think this goes along with a couple of yours - you've got to lead through it, right? Particularly if you're the senior leader and you've got your head in the sand, everybody around you knows that you have your head in the sand, right? There's no hiding it. You've got to lead through it. I just wrote down, you really need to try - even in the bad times, especially in the bad times - you need to align your staff around your vision and your goals and your mission, right? And if anything, it's during those hard times that you really have to kind of bring yourself back around and say this is why we're here and this is what we're doing. The other thing, and this is just a blatant, horrible, I cannot tell you how disappointed I am that you did not mention this.
Matt Steen: Oh boy.
Todd Rhoades: No, I always say, and it sounds really trite, but there are a lot of promises in scripture that can really bring you, not just some motivation. I was looking at a couple of them, I mean there are some that will kind of kick you in the butt. Here, I love this one. It's Proverbs 24:10, it says, "If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small." Okay. So not maybe the most encouraging verse but kind of a kick in the butt type of a verse. But there's all different kinds of verses. Even "trust in the Lord with all your heart. Don't lean on your own understanding. He'll direct your paths." You know. So many times, I think we think that we try to do it no our own when, really, we need to kind of get back to some promises in scripture that can really be encouraging when you feel like you've just been kicked in the head. Last thing, and we'll maybe leave with this. I think, I wrote down just return to your roots. I find when I talk to church leaders, we're all doing this for a reason, right? None of us are really doing this for the pay check. None of us, very few of us are doing it for the glory or the fame or the fortune. But all of us if you really think back to why you're doing this, it comes back to a very specific time in your life when God really talked to you and called you to do this, this important work of church ministry. And it's in the hard times that we tend to forget that calling and the importance of what we do. So man, that's what I would say just to get us out of here as far as my end of this answer anyways. Just return to your roots, remember why you're doing this, remember that your calling is much bigger than the situation you find yourself in today or tomorrow.
Matt Steen: Well cool. We'd love to hear your thoughts. Where did I miss it? Where did Todd miss it? What would you add to the list? We'd love to hear.
Todd Rhoades: And don't respond and say, "Pray." That's just a given. You should pray.
Matt Steen: Yeah, that's the understanding throughout the whole thing, that your entire ministry should be grounded in that.
Todd Rhoades: Absolutely.
Matt Steen: Okay, now that Todd's been cranky, let us know what you think. We'd love to hear your thoughts, love to hear your push back on it.