I was reading a draft report recently that explores the reasons that so many people have been exiting Christian ministry – and particularly church ministry. It is no secret that there is currently a growing shortage of people offering themselves for full time service of the Gospel. This is on top of a number of people choosing to leave church ministry roles.
One of the most significant factors identified was the complexity of leading and managing staff teams. It ought not to be a surprise. Over the last decade or two, there has been a shift from more isolated ministry arrangements to staff ministry teams (for good reason). However, this shift was not accompanied by training how to lead and manage staff teams. If a lead pastor (or equivalent) has had some experience or training in this area from a previous life, those skills may be somewhat transferable. However, this is not the norm.
It is no surprise that, given this, the CMD two-day workshop on “Leading Staff” has been so popular.
There are many similarities between Christian workplaces and secular ones. However, one of the important distinctives is both the desire and imperative to love. To put it in the extreme, if there is an issue of underperformance – the secular employer will probably look to move someone on, without too much regard for their future. The priorities of the business far outweigh the opportunity to care for someone. In the Christian workplace, on the other hand, the desire and imperative to love has a much greater part to play – or at least it should.
This is not to say that issues should be “swept under the carpet”. Martin Woodroofe, in his insightful book, “Beyond Nice”, argues that Christians (both employed and volunteer lay people) too often limit the application of love and grace, such that issues and diversity are avoided. The end result is that the effectiveness of Christian ministry, and ultimately reaching the lost, is compromised as everyone desires to be “nice”.
Moreover, the body of Christ working in this kind of way will have even better ministry outcomes as diverse people with diverse gifts struggle together, and in prayer, to work out what is the best application of ministry principles in a particular situation.But a more powerful display of God’s love is possible – perhaps it is even demanded. Rather than avoiding issues, love and grace should mean that there is a desire to have continuous conversations in which issues and opportunities are raised early. This is indeed linked to clarity of expectations, creating opportunities for two-way feedback and building trust.
It is no surprise that secular leadership “gurus”, like Patrick Lencioni and Jim Collins, come up with very similar principles that are also optimum in secular contexts. They call it things like – “fear of conflict” and “confronting the brutal facts”.
But the motive of love, which emanates from Jesus Christ sacrificial death for us, provides an even deeper motivation: Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God (1 John 4:7).
Wouldn’t it be a pleasure to be part of a staff team that operated with such powerful and genuine love?