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How To Avoid Staff Infection

My ministry began as an assistant pastor. Very few churches in the late 50s had more than two ministers on staff. There was very little direction for the second man. I remember sitting at a small desk trying to figure out what my next move should be.

Years later I found myself the only pastor of a growing body of believers. We hired one staff member, then another, and another, and another. In a comparatively short time there were seven of us. How would we keep from getting staff infection? I earnestly wanted to see God use this group of gifted persons to touch a community for Christ.

After that 11-year pastorate, God placed me in Sacramento, California in a church with 17 on the pastoral staff. How I earnestly want to see God use this group of gifted persons to touch a community for Christ. How can we keep from getting staff infection?

Through the years seven “As” have become for me the secret of avoiding infection. Carefully work your way through them on a regular basis, and you will discover the unique joy of being part of a church staff.

1. Administration

As a senior pastor, have you ever said, “God called me to preach, not to administrate”? God did call us to preach, but He also ordained us as overseers of His work. We should never willfully surrender this important role in the local church. In my role as senior pastor I saw myself as the quarterback of a very important team, calling the signals, making adjustments when necessary, positioning the players for the best use of the play. I must never surrender that role, although I may have others carrying out much of the daily routine of administration.

2. Affordability

Staffing can be expensive. Do not wait until you can afford to fill a staff position. Always look at the need first. If a staff member is doing his job, he will create income by the mere function of his position. He will be touching another segment of the population that someone else would not touch.

Under the heading of affordability, endeavor to pay the staff person a fair and equitable wage. God honors generosity when used with wisdom. Much staff infection is brought about by just plain stinginess.

3. Accountability

It is vital for a staff of any number to meet regularly for prayer, discussion, planning, and fellowship. At our weekly staff meeting each member was required to turn in to the senior pastor a worksheet of his schedule, contacts, family time, as well as a projection of his departmental plans. This time of accountability is necessary to give the staff member a means of reporting and to provide the senior pastor with needed information to evaluate the overall work of the church. One corner of our worksheet is reserved for any gripes or concerns that need to be brought to the attention of the leader.

4. Accessibility

As I move around the country in conferences with our ministers, one of the oft-shared complaints by staff members is, “The pastor is not accessible.” An open door policy is a must. An enormous amount of infection can be warded off by this simple technique. Not only should a pastor be approachable by his people, but he should also be approachable by his staff. One of the great characteristics of Jesus was His availability. You cannot lead when you are out of sight.

5. Acknowledgment

Staff members should be referred to as pastors. They need and deserve public acknowledgment.

Because of our large staff we could not give a special day, annually to each member on his anniversary with us. However, on every fifth anniversary we received a special offering, gave acknowledgment to the entire family, and sent the staff member away for a much-deserved vacation.

One other area of acknowledgment needs to be mentioned. When a staff member is called to another ministry, a farewell reception is in order; a love offering is in order. Let the church say thank you to these servants who have shared the ministry for any number of years.

6. Adjustment

I always asked staff to remain open to the possibility of change in their portfolios. As a church grows, ministry needs change. We have found great success in adjusting job descriptions within the staff as the growth takes place. This is good stewardship.

7. Appraisal

The last “A” deals with evaluation. An annual meeting with each staff member is essential to judge the effectiveness of the ministry, I cannot say this is the most-looked-forward-to meeting of the year, but it is necessary for the ongoing challenge of personal and corporate growth.

We developed a sheet where the three executive pastors can evaluate the work of each staff person. They are given a copy of that evaluation as they come in for the annual session. Word of praise as well as possible words of criticism are part of that meeting. How can a team function to its maximum capacity if this is not a regular part of staff function? It is a must.

Be excited about the gifts God has given to others. They can augment your gifts. As you recognize where the individual staff members fit, how their abilities can be utilized to the fullest, how they are leaders in their own right — your church can continue to grow in numbers and spiritual power. Best of all, you will not suffer that painful and costly affliction known as staff infection.

Glen D. Cole, Sacramento, California, is former superintendent of the Northern California District of the Assemblies of God.

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