Most of my adult life I have been on church staff. But the last 13 months I have not worked at a church and it has provided me with a wealth of insights into what I thought people expected out of me versus what I expected out of myself. I think people working at churches have unrealistic expectations for their churches just like the people in the pews have unrealistic expectations for what their church staff should be doing.
With that in mind, here are some of my realistic expectations of my church staff: (Please note I lump all staff together as equals.)
– Remind me of the churches vision. Let’s face it, it’s hard out there raising a family and earning a living. That makes it very easy to forget what the church is all about. My default vision for the church is always going to be “meet MY needs.” If the churches vision isn’t about my default, I depend and expect the staff to remind me what it is. In our church’s case I need to hear and see tangible manifestations of the church’s vision… bridging cultures, bridging hearts.
– Teach me from where you are in your walk with Jesus. We live in an age where Christians have access to the very best communicators of biblical truth on the planet with a single click of the mouse. Consequently, I think church staff feel compared to these other ministries all the time. But I don’t expect my church staff to be John Piper, Andy Stanley, Francis Chan, or any of the others. Those are all great leaders and I am thankful for them… but I expect my church staff to lead me locally right from the pages of what God is doing in their lives. Jesus didn’t select those people to be here in my neighborhood! But He did select this staff for this time– and I know Jesus is smart enough to place the right people in the right places.
– Be professional. I know church staff feel an all encompassing, mind-swirling, burdening pressure to be all things to all people. The dumbest thing you can do as church staff is to buy into that lie. It’ll cost you joy and sanity! I don’t expect church staff to meet my every whim. I don’t even expect the staff to “be my friend.” Their role in my life is to be a spiritual leader– if the friendship thing happens that is fine– but it’s not an expectation I have. And I never expect their families to be at an event, or even Sunday morning worship. I do expect the staff to be prepared, to lead their ministries effectively, to be on time, to be courteous, and to represent the church to the community.
– Set the pace. I am always leery when I see church staff buy into the now, NOW, NOW!!! mode. I just don’t think that is a sustainable pace. Very few churches in this world can sustain exponential growth. Moreover, I expect that each church has a “right size” when we should stop thinking about growing and start thinking about planting. I mourn the satellite movement. It’s as if they got the idea they should plant but don’t have the nerve to cut the strings from the communicator… as if the lead communicator is the reason 4,000 people show up to church!
– Lead movements, not programs. It’s easy to focus on a tanglible program as a church staff. “This week I am leading VBS” or “This week I am taking students on a short-term ministry project.” While those are great, I don’t give a rip if they happen or not. If my church staff told me they were killing children’s Sunday School because it wasn’t helping them bridge cultures and hearts with City Heights… I’d be cool with that. The reason is that I have an expectation that the church will focus on a Gospel-driven movement in my community. Programs can be the enemy of people movements.
– Remain biblically qualified. When I look at 1 Timothy 3 I don’t see anything unrealistic. I expect those things to be boundaries. Don’t whore around. Don’t be a sloppy drunk. Don’t blow money. Don’t cause trouble. Don’t be a hot head. Be a decent teacher. Be respectable and have an open heart.
With all of that said, I think it becomes clear what our role is as the body. My job is to keep my expectations reasonable. And when my expectations aren’t met, my job is to go back and check my expectations against what is reasonable. As I look over this list I kept saying to myself, “This list needs someone to be the gatekeeper!” Each church needs a person who knows the staff intimately enough to help them establish boundaries. The church needs that same person to be an advocate for the staff to the church at-large, as well. It’s almost as if Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, knew what he was talking about.
What are expectations you have for church staff that are different from my list? If you are on church staff, is my list helpful or harmful to you?