5 Issues That Became Clear Over the Last 12 Months of Consulting
Are the staffing issues you’re dealing with unique to your church?
Chances are they are not. Not too long ago, I asked our client experience team at The Unstuck Group to look back at the staffing assessments we did with churches in 2018.
That exercise showed us most churches are struggling with the same things when it comes to staffing and structure. Fixable things. Things that get churches stuck, even with a clear mission, vision and strategy.
Amy and I unpacked the top two pain points in Episode 81.
In the second episode of the two-part series, Amy and I share the rest of the core pain points church teams are commonly experiencing.
In Part 2 of this conversation, we discussed:
- How poor INTERNAL communication can cripple a church’s overall ministry effectiveness, indicators you have a problem and next steps to fix them
- The “Rule of Eight,” what it means, why it should be followed, and how it can instantly make your meetings more successful
- How to implement Patrick Lencioni’s idea of “cascading communications” on your team and why you should
- The two issues that came in neck and neck as the fourth most common problem on church staff teams
Leader Conversation Guide
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We use #unstuckchurch on Twitter, and we start a real-time conversation each Wednesday morning when the episode drops. You can follow me @tonymorganlive and The Unstuck Group @unstuckgroup. If Facebook is where you spend your time, I’m there, too.
Links & Resources from the Episode
- Bad Meetings: Why They’re Bad and How to Make Them Better – Episode 22 | The Unstuck Church Podcast
- “Cascading Communications” by Patrick Lencioni
- The “Rule of Eight” for better meetings
- Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development by Eric Geiger
- 6×6 Tool – Amy explained this how to use this tool in Episode 77 of The Unstuck Church Podcast – 4 Ways Ministry Embrace Mediocrity
- Leading an Unstuck Church Course – my online course has several lessons that will help you address the staffing issues mentioned in this episode. Check it out.
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Sean: Welcome to The Unstuck Church podcast, where each week our team is having a conversation about getting churches Unstuck. I’m your host, Sean Bublitz and this week on the podcast Tony and Amy conclude their two-part conversation on the most common areas churches get stuck when it comes to staffing. If you haven’t listened to part one be sure to download episode 81 and take a listen. A lot of leaders are finding it helpful to use the show notes and download our leader guide to work through this content with their team. You can find both of those at theunstuckgroup.com/episode 82. Also, because so many of you are busy leaders you can now subscribe to get the show notes in your inbox each week. You’ll get links to all the resources mentioned during the show. You’ll get bonus resources not mentioned during the show to help you go a little deeper on the topic. And you’ll also get the leader conversation guide to help you take this conversation back to your next team meeting. Just go to the unstuckgroup.com/podcast. And now here’s part two of this conversation with Tony and Amy.
Tony : So that brings us then to third core staffing issue, and this again, as I’m sure Amy, not a surprise to you, and probably not a surprise to our listeners today as well, but the third core issue is not communicating effectively and to be clear, this is communication within the staff team. That’s what we’re talking about. Here’s what we see when this is a core issue in the churches that we’re serving. First, there’s an overuse of email for conversations that should really be handled face to face. A second indicator is the staff are frequently surprised by new information and communication often feels like it’s being rolled out in the wrong sequence. A third indicator is that decision making becomes a challenge. People don’t have the information they need and all the decisions then because of that, seemed to float to the top of the organization and because of that, then it always feels like there’s a delay waiting for the bosses to figure out what they’re going to do so that the rest of us can get our ministry accomplished. And then all of this gets even compounded further in a multi-site church. This issue is always, one of the headline issues that we see in multi-site churches. Amy, do you agree?
Amy: Oh yeah. In fact, I just finished working with a multi-site church and I think they have three locations and the reason the church was stuck, it had nothing to do with their strategy per se. It was everything to do with their structure. They had team members who had dual roles, maybe even triple roles, just as they kind of divided to execute church on the weekend at three locations. But they had to get their lanes cleared up and I just remember we do pre-work with our churches. Tony, you know, that, to get some feedback before we get on-site. And they’re big headline was, who makes what decision does a campus pastor make that decision? Do I make that decision? I’m not clear. I have two bosses. Who Decides, so anyways, once we figured out how they needed to be structured, the lanes cleared up and decided how to meet and intersect. And again, that’s all about communication, right? Who needs to be together to make decisions or to have conversations. I mean, the renewal energy momentum was almost instant. Once those, communication issues were worked out,
Tony : That’s right. So those are some indicators that churches may have a challenge in this area around communication. Let’s talk about some of the principles to turn this area around. If that’s an issue for your team. The first principal here around effective communication is to recognize it just doesn’t happen. Now, like everything we talk about hope is not a strategy. We need to bring some intentionality to the next steps we want to take if we want to see improvement in these areas. So because of that, leadership must proactively create systems and culture that evoke the right conversations and get the right information to the right people at the right time. In other words, if communication is a challenge in your church, you need to take some key first steps, one of them being making sure you’re having the right meetings. And by the way, this doesn’t mean adding more meetings. Actually, I’ve seen there’s an inverse relationship between healthy communications in the organizations and the number of meetings that they’re having, the number of people that are in those meetings. But you have to have the right meetings because this helps you get the right people getting the right information at the right time. And Amy, I think you’ve actually talked about some of the principles that are key when it comes to the right meetings in the context of the church world.
Amy: Yeah. I think one of my biggest principles is just that you have to start a high level first. I think sometimes we end up adding all these additional meetings when there’s communication problems, when really the whole meeting structure needs to be relooked at. And so I always recommend that you’ve got to pay attention to your senior pastor and his or her rhythms and so their primary meetings are going to be when they meet with the senior leadership team and when they work with their weekend kind of programming team. So those get set first, the senior leadership team meeting is a part of that, that gets set and we recommend once a week that senior leadership teams get together to meet and then from there, when is all staff going to meet because that’s where we share a lot of information. And then after those big chunks are set, then departments can go and start working and setting their meeting schedules. But if those groups that I just mentioned don’t have their regular intersection planned and guarded, we’re going to have to have, you know, 10 times the amount of meetings to have the right conversations.
Tony : Yeah. And just to circle back, I know we’ve talked about this in previous podcasts, remember the rule of eight, if you have more than eight people in the room, you can meet with everybody but they should not be decision making meetings at that point and one of the common mistakes that we see in meeting flows in churches is they have too many people in the room trying to make decisions and in smaller churches or mid-sized churches they have their entire staff team in the room trying to make decisions and larger churches the mistake is they have all of their pastors and directors in the room trying to make decisions and in larger churches that can be a dozen or more people. And so remember the rule of eight as you’re designing your meeting flow. The second thing to focus on here if you want to improve internal communications is to have the right conclusion to the meetings that you have.
Tony : And I have two things here to keep in mind. First, you have to summarize what decisions were made at the meeting. I’ve been in meetings where we have had to go back and ask ourselves now, last week or last month when we met, what was the decision that we made so make sure that there’s clarity around what was agreed upon at the conclusion of the meeting and what action needs to be taken and I would suggest who needs to be responsible by when to accomplish whatever you decided. The second part though here is pretty critical as well. You have to design a communication plan for what should or shouldn’t be communicated coming out of the meeting. And here I’ve always leaned on some of the principles from Patrick Lencioni. He calls this concept cascading communications and the basic premise here is that you should take the last 10 minutes of every meeting to agree on a common set of messages that will be communicated by the members of the team to their respective staff leaders or in some cases volunteer leaders.
Tony : This is especially true for the senior leadership team in a church. The rest of your staff team knows you’re meeting and they’re wondering what you’re talking about behind closed doors and because of that you need to have a communications plan coming out of that conversation to get everybody in the loop on the key things that they need to know about and I would say typically that needs to happen within 24 to 48, hours of your meeting. Then the members of your team need to communicate the same message to their teams and this needs to happen, also then it needs to cascade, right? Not only to the staff but to the volunteer leaders as well. So again, making sure the right people have the right information at the right time and the big win here is that we communicate the same message throughout the organization and that’s why it’s so important to take that last 10 minutes of our meeting to make sure we know what the message is and we’re making sure that that message is getting communicated consistently.
Amy: And you alluded to this, but the timing. When you have those expectations of one another, all the employees will hear the same messaging at the same time and then second, it’s just delivered in a much more personal way. I think sometimes as leaders when we’re in meetings, because we’re kind of action oriented, right? All of a sudden we’re up to speed on everything and we forget all the people who are not up to speed on anything. And we start acting as if everyone knows things that they don’t. And that’s where those surprises come in tact when, when we don’t cascade effectively. That’s right. All right, well those were the top three staffing issues. Tony, I have three more if you want to keep going. Otherwise we,
Tony : I was going to hide. So today again, we looked at all the data and identified in churches the top three staff challenges are around developing leaders, not having clarity about responsibilities, what the wins are for their role, and then internal communications challenges. But in case you’re curious at number four, there was a tie. One was the staffing structure doesn’t align with the ministry strategy. That was a challenge commonly found in the churches we work with. And then the next one, filling leadership roles with equippers, not doers and in other words churches tend to hire in staff leadership roles people that can get jobs done, they can do ministry, but they are challenged by equipping others to accomplish ministry. So those were the other two kind of top line issues we found around staffing. Here’s what’s encouraging though, for me, though we didn’t have time to hit all five of those topics today, we hit every one of them in the Leading an Unstuck Church online course that we offer through The Unstuck Group.
Tony : And so if you’re sensing your staff team is struggling in one of these five areas, I would highly recommend you consider taking that online course and actually maybe going through that course with one or more of the leaders on your team. And the reason why I suggest that my good friend Mark Beesin at Granger Community Church, he used to remind us that education can be alienation. In other words, if one person on the team is learning, it can alienate that person from the others on the team because they have information now that the rest of the team doesn’t have, and by the way, side note that same principle also applies for spouses in a marriage. You really need to be learning together as a couple. Otherwise, education can be alienation, but in our context and team leadership in the church, going through the online course with others on your leadership team will create both encouragement and accountability to follow through on the appropriate next steps around some of these staffing challenges that we discussed today. So if you’re interested in that online course, you can learn more about the Leading an Unstuck Church course online at theunstuckgroup.com, and then just click on online course.
Sean: Well thanks for joining us today for part two of this conversation. Don’t forget to subscribe to get all of the podcast content right in your inbox at theunstuckgroup.com/podcast. If you have questions about this topic or any of our episodes, use the Hashtag #unstuckchurch and post them on your favorite social media channel. And as always, if you’d like to learn more about how we’re helping churches get unstuck, you can visit us at theunstuckgroup.com. Have a great week everyone.