We’d all love to think of pastoral relationships as A+ or 5-star. The pastors of your church love each other and cannot wait to hang out together, right? Or so you hope. Many times that is the case. But often it isn’t the case and often the senior/lead pastor is the stick in the spokes.
I have been both a staff pastor and a lead/senior pastor; I have both given and received, been the victim and the victimizer. Being honest, I’ve probably been the offender more than the offended.
It is imperative when in the lead role to lead the rest of the staff well. Being human, and sometimes lacking a full palette of leadership skills, results in a staff who is less-than-enthusiastic about coming to work, carrying out the vision, or supporting the lead pastor. They’ve been demotivated. From years of being on staffs, leading pastors, talking with senior pastors, and talking to staff pastors, here are a few ways I’ve seen a lead pastor can demotivate the staff pastors.
Announcing a new plan/strategy/”thing” but quickly losing interest.
Staff pastors (should) respond to the vision and passion of the lead pastor. Few things frustrate a staff pastor more than when a lead/senior pastor announces a new initiative, gets everyone engaged, talks about how important it is, then forgets all about it six weeks later.
This does not inspire confidence. After a few such episodes of vacuous vision, such pronouncements will roll off the staff like water off Turtle Wax.
Demeaning staff in front of their peers.
Let’s just be honest for a second: some lead pastors have terrible problems with anger. Like nitroglycerin on a rocky road you never know when they might blow.
These explosions have been known to take place in staff meetings where one pastor sits anguished under a torrent of abuse while the others sit praying, “God, don’t let me be next!”
Griping about one staff member to another staff member.
Few things demotivate a staff like knowing the lead pastor criticizes him or her to another staff member. I’m not talking about the lead pastor discussing job performance with the executive pastor. I’m talking about the lead pastor talking negatively about the student pastor to the children’s pastor. While the lead pastor may think it’s coalition building, it’s extremely demoralizing. Not only is the children’s pastor likely to tell the student pastor what was said, the children’s pastor shifts to a position of, “I wonder who’s getting the brunt of his gripes about me?”
Expecting staff pastors to serve as go-betweens so confrontation isn’t necessary.
If you as the lead pastor are responsible for the rest of the staff pastors (i.e., you have no executive pastor) you must deal directly with those pastors who need correction, instruction, or help. Do not put another staff member in the middle. Not only is that terrible people management on your part, it puts one of your staff—quite literally—between a rock and a hard place.
If your worship/music pastor is not pulling his weight, do not cajole the student pastor into making a “suggestion” on your behalf. Take the reins of leadership and set a time and place to have the needed discussion.
Being unwilling to compliment and encourage, or unaware of the need to do so.
I’ve been guilty of this one when serving as a lead pastor. I have never been unwilling to compliment or commend a staff pastor. I have, however, often not been aware of the need to do so. My attitude tends to be, “They are called by God and hired by the church for the job they are doing. They should do it.” Of course, this is terrible.
A good rule of thumb is this: take the amount of encouragement you would like to receive from your church and give double that to the staff who serves alongside you.
Not having their backs.
Staff pastors are no different than lead pastors when it comes to fielding criticism, some warranted and some not. In many cases the criticism is both unfair and unending. When a staff member makes a difficult decision that angers a member, that member should not be able to run to the lead pastor and find a ready ear.
Hanging them out to dry.
This colloquialism is the next logical step after “not having their backs,” and refers to the act of allowing someone to shoulder blame for a situation you created. It’s also known as, “leaving them twisting in the wind” or, in recent nomenclature, “throwing them under the bus.” It’s like sending soldiers into combat with malfunctioning weapons but the promise of air support that never quite materializes. They are left to the clutches of the enemy while the pastor/general remains safely ensconced in the comforts of the study. Or golf course.
Years ago a friend of mine served on a multi-staff church. He was part time. The senior pastor once ordered one of the other staff pastors into making a difficult decision, assuring him of full support. So, the staff pastor made the decision and infuriated a member of the congregation. The senior pastor promptly hung him out to dry allowing the staff pastor to take all the blame.
My friend heard about what had happened and made a trip to the senior pastor’s office. He verbally likened the senior pastor to a particularly odious barnyard substance, then threatened to physically extract a similar substance from the senior pastor’s person via pummeling with his fists. (That’s the family-friendly version.)
Pastor, never let it come to that.
Not valuing their family time.
Some lead pastors don’t prioritize their own family and have little regard for the pastors on their staff who want to do so. Paul’s admonition to Timothy regarding treatment of one’s family isn’t meant only for the person at the top. In fact, the person at the top should help their direct reports protect their families. Staff meetings should ensure that no one is carrying more load than they are able, and that recuperation time is given after an especially stressful stretch of ministry.
I once heard the lead pastor of a large church griping about his student pastor who had missed visitation because his wife had recently given birth. The staff pastor was helping his exhausted spouse. He should have been held up as an example not only for the rest of the staff, but for the entire body. Instead, the senior pastor said, “He needs to learn where his priorities are.” I was dumbfounded that a ministry leader could be so out-of-sync with biblical ideals as to arrive at such a conclusion.
Thoughts? Have you as a leader realized you were demotivating your staff (or volunteers)? Have you served on a staff where demotivation was one of the lead pastor’s flaws? Talk about it in the comments (and be as discreet as you need to be).