Three Rhythms Your Church Staff Should Be Practicing

There’s an old adage in business about planning that says, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”  I always shrugged a bit at this truism and responded with another old adage about failure being necessary for success.  So, it follows that the more I fail to plan, the more successful I’ll be.  Am I right?

As an Enneagram 3, I’m a believer in planning, especially as it relates to success.  Break down the big ideas into the specific needs to best accomplish the goals necessary to the plan.  Have a good meeting with a clear agenda.  Delegate responsibly so that everyone knows what they need to do.   Make it measurable so that you know how you’re doing.  Reflect after you’re done so that you know what you should repeat and what you should adjust.  Planning and meetings and goals provide a rhythm that helps teams feel confident in what they’re doing, build trust among their team, and achieve clarity in their performance.  (If you’re a withdrawing Enneagram number, you are now exhausted just from reading this, but hang in there for a little longer!)

Intentionally doing the right things and taking the best actions come naturally to a performance-driven culture.  That culture inevitably finds its way into elders’ meetings, volunteer recruiting, church staff meetings, and performance reviews for staff members.  These are good and necessary parts of a healthy church staff culture, just as they are for any team of professionals who share a workplace.  If you’re a church leader whose staff doesn’t have these things, please add them. 

Humans need rhythms and common purpose to function well.  A business asks its employees to embody the vision of the organization.  Consistent recurring use of that vision in every setting reinforces that vision.  Christ asks his members to embody the Kin-dom of God on earth as in heaven.  He first asked for this through a prayer, not a plan.  Before there was a Kin-dom of God, there was a prayer for its presence. 

Church staffs need specific rhythms if they are to follow Jesus into the Kin-dom even as they ask the churches where they serve to do the same.

I hope that it goes without saying that your staff should get together every week.  In our work with churches we find that when they gather, most staffs spend 80% or more of their time working on things.  The church calendar, the next big event, the financial report, and updates from each ministry take the bulk of the time invested together.

Many times, we find that a church staff is also very good about praying for each other.  Good for them!  We each need to be heard; we need to be more than a cog in a wheel that keeps spinning, Sunday to Sunday.  The church staff is most likely praying for their church.  Again, that’s as it should be.

The weekly rhythm that most church staffs miss is praying with God.  It is in God’s presence that we are renewed and restored.  It is through silence that we make space to ask harder questions about our own spiritual journey.  It is here that we confess our weakness, our vulnerability, and our need for our souls to receive care even as we have been asked to care for others’ souls.

So how and when can we make the space we need for soul care?

  1. Make space outside of the typical staff meeting.  If your staff tries to both BE and DO in the same meeting, the weaker muscles of silence and stillness will give in to the well-trained planning and executing muscles. 
  2. Make space for group care.  Working in the same space means that there will be some soul care that needs to be done together.  Ask a shepherd to come pray over your staff.  Teach your volunteers to ask their staff about the health of their soul.  Have a fellow team member walk alongside you when things are especially hard.
  3. Make space for spiritual direction from someone outside the staff.  Sometimes we can feel lonely even when we’re among our team members.  Each of us needs space where we can retreat from everyone’s expectations, including our team members’ expectations.  An outside ear and voice trained in making space for God to come alongside us is as necessary as a therapist whose outside ear and voice expose our psychological needs and the unhealthy ways we seek to meet those needs.

Failing to make space for God to come alongside us is a key reason church leaders burnout more than the average American employee.  When we create rhythms that make space for God, we make space for the soul to be renewed in the image of the One who created it.

We recommend monthly, seasonal, annual, and Sabbatical rhythms, too.   Download our e-book to learn more.

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