How To Nurture Staff Relationships

Supervisory responsibility is part of the job description of most in ministry leadership roles. This holds true even for those in small churches. The small church or ministry pastor may not supervise many employees, but they do have a team of volunteers who look to them for leadership. There is a cadre of workers in every organization or ministry who comprise the leadership team or staff. The way these people function and get along with each other is highly dependent on the organizational effectiveness of the leader. 

There are some key principles and strategies ministry leaders can implement that can strategically smooth the progress toward stronger staff relationships. Dr. Jeff Iorg, former Executive Director of the Northwest Baptist Convention, offers these insightful suggestions: 

1. Ministry leaders should place their focus on staff members as individual people—not merely employees. Keep in mind that the people who work with a leader share many of the same hopes, dreams, challenges, problems and distractions that all people share. It can be helpful for a leader to communicate their awareness of the personhood concerns their teammates face in both their personal and professional lives. It can be as simple as taking the time to learn each individual’s name along with the names of their spouse and children, or inquiring about their family from time to time. The leader might place family events significant to the staffer (weddings, births, graduations, illnesses, deaths, etc.) on their calendar to help trigger an appropriate acknowledgement. Few in ministry are going to be able to afford large gifts for these occasions, but a personal congratulatory note or a brief personal visit or phone call is usually sufficient. 

2. Ministry leaders should view their staff members as people they can develop and promote.
Developing people so they actually exceed the requirements of their job can be one of the most rewarding blessings of leadership. Although this may mean these individuals will leave the organization because they now qualify for a role that offers them greater responsibility and career opportunity, it is the right thing to do. At other times, it will enable the leader to promote them within their own ministry or organization. In both instances, leaders will find it highly gratifying to help develop people to achieve their full potential. As leaders do this, they engender greater loyalty and passion among all their workers. 

3. Ministry leaders should remember that their team members are flawed people with a sin nature who will make mistakes and sometimes disappoint. Working with competent people sometimes causes a leader to be surprised when these individuals make mistakes, misjudgments, or reveal other shortcomings. It can lead to frustration and anger when leaders carry unrealistic expectations of their team members. Leaders should always try to temper those expectations with a dose of reality. People, being human, do make mistakes. Most mistakes aren’t fatal. Mature leaders understand that how they respond to mistakes when they do happen is critical. Dr. Iorg says, “Forgiveness, coupled with fair accountability, creates loyalty.” 

(Improving Staff Relationships by Jeff Iorg)  
adapted by Gary D. Foster
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Gary D. Foster founded and leads Gary D. Foster Consulting, a marketing and management service specializing in helping religious product companies and ministries discover and optimize new revenue streams and to better leverage existing ones. He served as an executive with Focus on the Family, where he managed their award-winning book publishing operation and $110 million direct-mail fundraising division. He also spent 12 years with the Christian Booksellers Association, where he served as President and CEO of CBA Service Corporation. He also served in executive product development and marketing positions with Cook Communications Ministries, Moody Press and Moody Magazine. Learn more about Gary at