Pastors' Forum


Staff Development

I’m looking for insights on how to work with and develop my staff, not so much what to expect from them, but rather, I’d like to know: “What are a pastor’s responsibilities toward his or her staff?”  Read the responses.


Pastor Dave Williams—Lansing, MI
I think a study on how Jesus dealt with His disciples would be a good start. I personally meet with my staff once a week as a group. Then, of course, one on one throughout the week. I take them on trips, get together for outings, and try to develop a love and trust among the team. I also give them books and CD’s from time-to-time and various things so we’re all on the same page, so-to-speak.

Another responsibility is the pastor should make sure his staff is paid adequately. I understand there are, sometimes, sacrifices made in the ministry; nonetheless, it should not be a place where a pastor feels he can get cheap labor.

Pastor Mike Cameneti—Canton, Ohio
We have found that it’s our responsibility to put our main amount of time in our top leadership, so we do that in several different ways, from meeting just with them, to times of just fellowship with them, to teaching times in group settings with them. All of these are ways of us investing our lives into those most valuable to us!!

Pastor Matt Beemer—Manchester, England

I’m sure many will have great advice on this point, but one point that may not be mentioned often is to let your staff spend time with you in your every day life. I like to take the approach like the Old Testament parents did in raising their children their children… they used every opportunity and everything along the way as learning opportunities… I ask allot of questions. Many times when someone asks me, ‘What do you think?’ I respond with, ‘What do YOU think?

Another thing I’ve done from time to time is ask questions about circumstances and even very practical things I see. For example, if we are going to a meeting at a venue and as we walk up to the glass doors I notice the windows are dirty, I’ll ask them staff person to stand still for a moment and look carefully at the entrance then ask, “What do you see?” At first, they simply would see an entry to a building… but after a while, they start seeing the dirty windows!

Pastor Mike Webb—Lake Forest, CA Great question! I’ve had people come on staff expecting me to be a different person toward them than who they saw me to be in church. When they became discouraged because I wasn’t regularly having lunch with them or inviting them to my house, I asked them where they got the idea that I would. Their response was that they heard another pastor talk about his every

Tuesday lunch meeting with his staff in his home and assumed that I would do the same. When I asked why they didn’t go to work for the other pastor, I was told that he didn’t pay enough.

Pastors have different approaches to church and prospective staff members should recognize the individual style of the pastor they consider working for. Some pastors turn over staff regularly striving for better results. Others show patience in developing staff to the point of hindering their church. Some pastors are ministers on a mission and a few are spiritual fathers.

I feel a responsibility to provide my staff with every opportunity to develop themselves. I expect my staff to grow themselves in the specific area that they are responsible for (music, children, youth, etc.). I will allow them the time and money to do so. But the responsibility to grow is theirs.

I also provide them the tools to develop spiritually through the teaching in our services. My style of teaching challenges the hearer to grow in God, no matter their spiritual level. Also, my library is open to my staff for further study. Again, the responsibility to grow is theirs.

Our interview process includes information on my style of pastoring. I want them to know up-front how we operate. If they can’t function effectively without more props than I give, I want to know that before I hire them.

Our church has an easy-going attitude toward serving God, but we are serious about what we do. I want to hire those who know more about their area of ministry than me and give them a wide berth to produce results. I set the direction for their ministry but the best thing to do within the boundaries I establish is for them to determine.

My door is always open to my staff, but it is up to them to initiate contact with me if they need or want it. We have weekly staff meetings to discuss the church schedule and hear reports from each ministry. Questions and discussion are always welcomed. Once or twice a year, we schedule fellowships with staff. Other than that, I am busy with pastoring and expect them to be busy in ministry, too.

Pastor Ray Almaguer—Glendora, CA I am responsible to train and develop staff. They need to be trained and developed regarding my expectations from them. Just because something seems to be “common sense” to me doesn’t mean that it’s common sense to them. I also need to resource them. I do this with books, conferences, CDs, and a monthly leadership meeting. I need to challenge them to continually stretch and grow personally and ministerially. I need to encourage them and reward them for a job well done. The most important responsibility I have is to live a life of integrity and consistency before them. If I don’t do this, the other things will not matter anyway.

Pastor Sam Smucker—Lancaster, PA

  • There needs to be a genuine care coming from the pastor
  • Showing care and concern about their family
  • A pastor needs to provide a positive environment for his staff to work in
  • When a staff member goes through a challenging time, give them extra time and affirmation
  • Provide settings for your staff to learn together by taking them through a book study, etc.

Pastor Jerry Weinzierl—Sterling Heights, MI
In my church, people are not a means to an end; they are the end! I believe that if you are hiring properly and are honest with yourself, then the staff problems that can arise are not so much a people problem, as they are a leadership problem. We teach what we know; we reproduce what we are.

I believe to increase your stability in a staff, or to have proper staff development, it begins in the interview process. Important elements to a good interview will include (a) knowing what they are called to and, (b) who they are called to. You will want to watch for signs of the four negative behaviors:  (1) “It wasn’t my fault”—inability to accept responsibility, (2) “That will never work”—nay saying, (3) Hostility—if they complain to you about someone, they will complain to someone else about you, and (4) Hopelessness—“Why bother, it doesn’t make a difference anyway.”

Provide a Job Description. Be clear concerning your expectations. Remember that accountability happens legitimately only when expectations are clear. Provide access to you. Position your staff according to their gifting. Practice the three stages of ministry: (1) Plan and prepare, (2) Performance, and (3) Party and celebrate!

Finally, minimize frustration by not giving responsibility without authority, and authority without accountability to you. And last but not least, keep your sense of humor.

Pastor Bill McRay—Nashville, TN
These are two very good questions. I think one of the primary responsibilities a pastor has is to be a pro-active developer of people, especially his staff. A church staff is not just a group of employees getting paid to do a job. They are believers, equipped with God given gifts and set into the church as it has pleased the Lord. Both the believer and his gifts must be developed. Our greatest example is Jesus. He spent most of His time during His earthly ministry developing the men he had chosen to become the first leaders of the church. He did not confine this activity to formal staff meetings. It was a lifestyle development process. In other words He developed His staff by living life with them every day. Their lifestyle was obviously lived under a different culture, but the principles of staff development are still the same today. Jesus invested His life into His leaders for their benefit and blessing, but also expecting a return on His investment. He received that return from eleven out of twelve of them. Moral: Not everyone will submit themselves for development. Nevertheless, I believe Jesus poured Himself into Judas every bit as much as He did Peter and the rest. He ate with them, traveled with them, ministered with them, played with them and worked with them. They lived life deeply together. Their development was Jesus’ lifestyle ministry to them. I believe every pastor should follow His example as each is graced to do so.

Pastor Bob Hoover—Decatur, IL
Must have a very clear understanding of job description at the time they are hired. I mean VERY CLEAR. Stops future problems.

Pastor Mark Garver—Madison, AL
As a Pastor, I think developing and caring for your staff is one of the most important parts of a growing church. The more I can train them, both personally and by sending them to at least two seminars a year, the better equipped they are to help the church fulfill its vision. I meet with them all once a week in a staff meeting so everyone can know what is happening. I take time to talk to them individually, not just about church, but what is going on in their lives. My wife and I also take them out to lunch occasionally with the same thing in mind to just see where they are in life and ministry. We also pray together on a regular basis each Wednesday at noon. I require everyone on my staff to come to corporate prayer, no exceptions. The Lord told me that praying together was the quickest way for my staff to get my heart and for us to work as a group. We also take a prayer trip every year. My wife and I and the staff also go away once per year just to pray and dream together. My objective is to keep my staff a long time; in order to do that, I love them, train them, pay them the best I can, give them as many benefits as I can, and I don’t overwork them. They have a call, but they also have families and lives just like I do.

Pastor Loren Hirschy—Dubuque, IA
First, to care about them as a person. They are more than their production. They want your consideration as individuals, fathers, mothers, etc. Secondly, a pastor has a picture within himself/herself of what that staff member’s area of ministry should look like and accomplish. The pastor needs to communicate that picture—however fragmented, partial, limited or expansive—to their staff member. The staff member wants to win, to know they are doing the right thing, and the organization needs to win, so the pastor must pass along to that staff member a clarified vision of the “win” for their area (the pastor may need to work with their staff member(s) to clarify the “win” for each area).

Finally, staff members need affirmation—a lot of it. Brother Hagin once said, “If you don’t hear anything, you know you’re doing all right.” I loved Brother Hagin, but I had to learn in my leadership to deliberately (especially with females) express affirmation. Again, people want to know they are doing the right thing. Affirmation from a pastor to their staff, delivers a power similar to that impartation ministered through a “father’s blessing”—imparted confidence, identity, and raised self-esteem; and for the pastor/supervisor, more and better production from their staff member will be the reward.

Pastor Larry King—Santa Rosa, CA
I try to provide an atmosphere that I feel would be conducive to me if I was in their position.

I feel it is my responsibility to remove or overcome any excuse for failure.

I encourage them to think outside the box or be creative just as if it was their own business.

I try to demonstrate the loyalty and respect that I expect from them.

I insist on communicating until we both understand my interpretation of the vision.

Since it is my vision, I cannot assume anything.

I make it a point to know what is going on in their life as much as possible.

I watch for stress or weakness in their armor continually.

My door is always open to them.

Pastor Dean Hawk—Colorado Springs, CO
I take it very seriously. My first responsibility is to make sure they are thriving in their walk with Christ and in their personal family relationships. If either of those two areas are failing—I’m going to have a limping staff member. Every Tuesday I take my pastoral staff to lunch to discuss those two issues. Not church business. We (myself included) talk about what we have been studying or learning in our devotional time, plus victories and challenges in our personal life and relationships. I use these times as coaching moments by being transparent with my own life as well.

Then concerning the work environment, I believe a pastor needs to provide consistent vision, equipping, motivation, and correction. Vision—sharing my heart as to the direction of the church in general and concerning their area of oversite. “Here is what I would like to see . . . .”  I do not get into the details of what or how they should do it. That’s what I pay them to do. If I’m going to micromanage then I might as well do it myself. Equipping—Giving them the finances, resources, training, and support for them to do their job. Motivation—Encouragement spoken in a love language they value and appreciate.   Positive reinforcement—Too many times pastors believe the motivation is the paycheck. People like to know beyond that if they are doing a good job. Simple rewards of offering an extra day off after a weekend youth retreat or a simple email of appreciation can go a long way. Correction—If I don’t communicate when there is an error or foul ball, my staff will never know they have done something I’m not pleased with. Therefore they will continue in the behavior and it will continue to drive a wedge in our staff relationship and break unity on the team.

Pastor Rich Huston—Arvada, CO
I’ve seen pastors handle staff a lot of different ways, but something I heard years ago has stuck with me. The comment made was,”If you want to really find out what a pastor is like, ask his staff, especially the clerical staff.” There is something that rang true to me about that, having seen some pastors that did treat their staff poorly. I personally feel my responsibility is to treat my staff like I would like to be treated, or in other words, to be Christ-like toward them. Years ago as I served under several pastors, I needed mentoring and felt like I was simply being asked to do a job, rather than developed as a person and staff member. I think in our American culture we are more interested in organizational success than growing people. It seems to be a rare pastor and church culture that fosters relationships that encourages growth, mentoring and spiritual fathering. It’s my aim to provide this to those I work closest with in ministry. I’ve found that some respond to it and some don’t. Regardless, I feel it is my responsibility to try my best to provide the opportunity to have a warm and growing relationship with my staff.

I watch for stress or weakness in their armor continually.

My door is always open to them.

Pastor David Harbison—Belleville, IL
One of the first things, and maybe one of the most important, is to not overwhelm them. We want staff members to succeed and not to fail. We want them to develop and grow into a greater capacity for leadership. So we want them to continue on and not give up because they feel inferior. We as leaders should remember how difficult it was for us in the learning process and the times we felt like quitting because we felt like we were so inadequate. With those memories we want to continue to encourage our staff and affirm our confidence in their ability to perform the task that we have assigned them. Consistent affirmation helps them to feel our support for them and provokes them to give it their best shot. And once they have successfully performed their task, lets let them know how much we appreciate a job well done.

Secondly, we must understand the need to provide the proper level of authority to go with the amount of responsibility we give to our staff. You see, if we are going to expect them to be responsible for an area of our ministry than we must also allocate the proper level of authority to perform the task at hand. Otherwise they will not be able to make decisions necessary to achieve the goals that we have set for them. Obviously we will have to go in to great detail what we expect and what level of authority we are willing to relinquish to them to perform adequately. Then they won’t have to keep running back to us and ask “can I do this?” or “can I do that?” They will have the confidence to make necessary decisions. Remember, this can only work properly if you have set proper parameters. I would recommend doing so on paper and having them sign it so they know what boundaries not to cross, and if they were to do so you can take them back to a point of reference and remind them where they went too far. This helps to remove gray areas that may cause problems. One might think that this could be extreme, but I have realized that it really helps to provide an area of protection for the staff much in the same way proper boundaries helps your children to feel safe because they know what you expect from them and they are not just trying to figure it out along the way. I have done these things in our ministry and they have worked very well for us. Unfortunately, we had to discover these concepts the hard way, but they have proven to be invaluable in the development of our staff that, at present, have become a tremendous blessing and an asset to our ministry.

Pastor Jerry Piker—Laurie, MO
Your staff personnel are your eyes and ears for the people. You should always be aware of this so you can see what is going on with your congregation. I believe you should impart leadership skills into your staff and cause them to do the “work of the ministry.” If your staff personnel know and show your heart, the rest of the congregation will know and show your heart.

Pastor John White—Decatur, AL
We should be responsible for training our employees to perform their jobs in the manner we require. That means continuing education, seminars, training material, etc. All of which means spending money and time on them. I believe that if we properly train our employees by investing into their lives by educating them, our ministries will be stronger. I have experienced that after we have invested greatly in an employee, they end up leaving us or not able to perform their duties. However; that is just a fact of life, and every corporation in the world has experience the same thing. That is just a risk we take, and it should encourage us to prayerfully and wisely choose our new employees.

We should also be very sensitive to our employee’s spiritual needs and personal problems. Not only will they affect our ministries, but we as men and women of God owe it to them. We are first of all ministers of the Lord Jesus Christ and then we are employers.

In conclusion, walk in love, treat our employees with dignity and respect, and pay them well for their services. Honor them as a valuable asset to the ministry by investing in their lives and the returns will be great.

Pastor Tim Gilligan—Ocala, FL
First of all, people will go where you let them or where you lead them. John Maxwell maintains, and unfortunately he is right, that everything rises and falls on leadership. I believe that through regular interaction, communication and meetings (both formal & informal), you as the leader need to set the course and parameters of where you as an organization are going and what is expected of each one. When a staff member is not performing to the standard you desire, you find yourself disappointed in them. Disappointment is not in what you find, but in what you expected to find. And so often the problem we have with a staff member goes beyond the gap of what they did versus what you wanted. Perhaps the real problem is that you did not make it clear what you wanted, the standard.

Also more than just giving all the details and tasks that are expected, give them the values and priorities you hold important. These core values will govern and propel the performance of your staff. Also, by having clear guidelines and core values, in many cases, it will be easier to see and understand why some staff members are or are not performing at the level you need and desire.

Also, never forget that what is rewarded is repeated. Positive reinforcement is incredibly motivating and valuable.