Pastors, do you struggle with supervising staff?

file0001362503108 Are you struggling with a challenging employee? Are you looking for a new employee? Most pastors have next to no training in hiring and supervising staff. I know I didn’t. Managing staff is an essential skill for church leaders. Here are ten things I’ve learned about supervision at church.

1. Don’t hire someone just because they need a job. Here’s a great article on this topic. Hire because the person is the best for the job.
2. Don’t hire someone with the skills who you suspect has a bad attitude. Their attitude is unlikely to improve. It’s better to hire someone with a good attitude and train them.
3. Don’t hire if you can’t fire. You can hire church members, but you need to be clear about roles and expectations and be willing to let them go if it doesn’t work out. (See the excellent book When Moses Meets Aaron by Gil Rendle and Susan Beaumont on hiring church members and many other matters, not just for large congregations.)
4. Don’t overaccomodate difficult employees. You can be reasonably flexible with employees who do their work, but if you find yourself tiptoeing around an employee or once again making excuses to yourself or others for them, think twice. It may be time to take a stand with them.
5. Always check references. Enough said.
6. Be clear about roles, including what are the job responsibilities and who supervises. Written job descriptions and clear lines of accountability don’t solve all problems, but they help.
7. Remember you can’t always make church employees happy. Be able to tolerate their disappointment or upset.
8. Don’t complain about one employee to another. If you have a senior colleague, you may be able to think together on how to deal with staff challenges in a larger church. That’s different from complaining.
9. Learn the birth order of your staff, and think about how you mesh. If you are a younger son and your office manager is an oldest daughter (especially if she is older than you are), you may find it harder to supervise her, and vice versa. It’s still your job. Consider asking one of your odler siblings for advice.
10. Work on relationships. Find ways to connect in a light way with all of your staff individually. It will pay off.

And if being overly nice in supervision and the rest of ministry is an issue for you, here’s another post to read.

4 replies on “Pastors, do you struggle with supervising staff?

  • Pr. Dan Biles

    I found this article rather moralizing, mostly a list of “Don’ts.” I try to cultivate a climate that encourages creativity, responsibility, initiative, and having fun at one’s work, within the mission and values of our congregation. So I have two basic questions people should ask: Is what you want to do consistent with the faith and mission of the Church? And, if it fails, can we survive it?
    Of course, having a program staff that are all first-borns helps; they are all self-starters.

    • Margaret Marcuson

      Dan, thanks for these thoughts! I agree that cultivating a positive climate and being clear about mission helps immensely. Interesting thought on first-born program staff being self-starters.

  • Israel Galindo

    I rarely find cause to disagree with Margaret, but will on this one:

    “5. Always check references. Enough said.”

    My disagreement is that enough can’t be said about this. I find most churches do not check references enough. One must go beyond the names listed as references by an applicant. Get permission to ask those persons who have ACTUALLY worked with or under or as supervisors. That is, those who can provide relevant information about a person’s actual performance, functioning, and behavior.

    ‘Nuff said.


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