Shepherd your staff

By Josh King

Pastoring can be overwhelming at times. Many of the pastors I know, especially revitalization pastors, are focused on resolving the big problems that lay before them. They see an issue with the church budget and through preaching, example and stewardship they resolve that issue.

At times, they see a problem with the congregation’s evangelism or missions efforts, so they creatively and effectively draw the people out of the building and into the community. Most pastors are thankful for the season in which they can hire additional staff to aid in the mission and ministry of Christ in their local context. The challenge comes when they see the hiring of a staff person as the completion of the task and they move on to the next big venture.

The truth is – the hiring of a staff position is the beginning of a long-term discipleship between the lead pastor and that staff person.

Everything you do as lead pastor will affect that person to a great degree. Be reminded that you are not only their pastor but also their boss. You influence their spiritual growth as well as their financial stability and their ability to provide for their family. In this position, you shoulder a heavy weight that should be carried responsibly.

While all of that may sound tremendous it is a beautiful opportunity to encourage not only that staff person but those whom he or she influences toward Christ likeness. Here are some ways to Shepherd your staff team:

Model Christ to that person. Be forgiving and long-suffering with them. Do not look over sins in their walk simply to be liked by them.

Support and defend them. I have often told my church that they ought not think they will get very far by coming to me and attacking a staff member. In every setting, I will defend the staff person until I have had an opportunity to speak with the staff member. When there is a leadership mistake, you should own in publicly even if you did not have a direct association with it. By taking the heat for your staff you will grow closer and stronger.

Do Life together. I often give our staff a hard time for how regularly they like to eat together and celebrate every little thing. It feels like we have a meal for every anniversary or birthday. The truth is, times like these are great for the staff. As you play together you will grow closer and you will have more opportunity to show them Christ.

Speak to the person, not the employee. We all know you’re the boss but don’t lord that over them. Seems like Jesus had some very strong words to say about dominating those in subordination to you. Little things like walking into their office to speak to them or always taking their call or not calling them with work during the evening speak to the fact that you see them as a human and not just a work force.

Praise them publicly. As often as possible find positive things to say about the people who serve with you. This is powerful for volunteers but for staff as well. As your church sees you praising the work for the staff they will find it easier to follow their lead in the areas they are responsible for.

Let them go. There often comes a time when your staff will move on. They will find another position to serve in or their life will change in a way that requires they move churches. It is a sad commentary that most people would advise a church staff member NOT to tell their pastor when they are considering a move. We as pastors ought to celebrate those opportunities. Most of us did not begin ministry in the seat we now occupy. We have the power in that moment to be so gracious and helpful. Write a recommendation letter to the church they are considering. I have made calls to prospective churches on behalf of staff members before. When there is an environment of you working for their best you will retain more of your staff and if they do leave they will be gracious and give you the time needed to find a replacement.

I know pastors feel busy and the drain of the congregation is often very taxing but don’t overlook the immense impact you have by impacting leaders. As you intentionally invest in the paid and volunteer leadership they will be able to invest in others. Your efforts are multiplied as you shepherd the few that God has given to you to co shepherd.

Published April 20, 2017

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Josh King

Josh King is Lead Pastor at Second Baptist Church in Conway, Arkansas. He also co-hosts the podcast. He and his wife are both graduates of Criswell College and have three young sons. Follow Josh at