Many pastors do a great job of shepherding their church members but often fail to shepherd their church staff. The pastor should give great care to co-laborers in ministry. How can a pastor do this well? Here are nine practical ways you can start today.
1. Pray for Your Staff
This should be a given, but, sadly, it is easy to let prayer fall on the back-burner, particularly for our staff. In your daily prayer time, pray specifically for your staff and your leadership team.
Pray for them, but also pray with them. When they are stressed and overwhelmed, grieved and saddened, take them by the hand and pray for them. Your prayer should not only lead them to the chief shepherd, Jesus, but also demonstrate that you genuinely care for them.
2. Welcome Interruptions
Interruptions happen in ministry. Often a planned schedule and to-do list are thrown out the window by lunch time. For task-oriented people (like myself), we can find ourselves irritated with constant interruptions that throw off our day. Yet, we are called to love our sheep even though they interrupt us at inconvenient times. The same goes for your staff. It is not uncommon for a staff member to wander into my office unexpectedly just to talk. As a shepherd who cares for my staff's souls, I want to love them enough to stop what I'm doing and listen. Yes, there should be boundaries, and if the interruptions are excessive they should be dealt with, but if you seek to shepherd your staff, you must warmly welcome them even when it is inconvenient.
3. Take Them to Lunch
Everyone eats lunch. A great opportunity to relationally invest in your staff is to just take them out to lunch. Over a meal, intentionally ask questions to get to know them and their struggles. Ask them about their relationship with the Lord, what they are reading in the Scriptures, or what God has taught them this past week. Fellowship over a meal provides wonderful opportunities and for discipleship and shepherding your staff.
4. Say Thank You
Serving at a church can be a thankless job. People criticize and wound staff members, and many feel underappreciated. A simple thank you can go a long way. When you see a staff member advance the mission or serve well, thank them. Send them a note or stop by their office.
5. Praise Them Publicly
Another way you can encourage staff is to praise them publicly. Did the recent children's outreach event go well? Praise the children's pastor at the start of your sermon on Sunday. Thank them publicly and praise them publicly for a job well done.
6. Share Your Life with Them
Do not cloister yourself in your office and isolate yourself from your staff. Share your life with them. Share your struggles and invite your staff into your life. An ounce of vulnerability can go a long way to encouraging your staff. This sort of humility and honesty from you is something they long for.
7. Read Scripture or Another Edifying Book Together
Study the Scriptures with your staff. Train them and invest in them spiritually. A great way to do that is to read Scripture or another book together. You can do this each week before your staff meeting together. Read through a book as a staff and discuss it. Look for opportunities to grow together.
8. Love Their Families
Church ministry demands a great deal of time. For those who serve in the church, there is often no such thing as a personal life. Often families get caught up into the hectic demands of staff members. If you hope to shepherd your staff well, care for their families. Get to know them. Invite them into your home. Play with their kids. Give a staff member the afternoon off so she can catch her son's baseball game. Shepherd your staff by helping your staff prioritize their families.
9. Be Quick to Forgive Reasonable Failures
Staff members make mistakes. When they do, will you respond as a domineering tyrant or a gracious, forgiving shepherd? When a staff member simply drops the ball, do not punish them. Show compassion and mercy in their failure, reminding them of the love Christ shows to us in our sin. If there are chronic performance failures, you may need to directly address them. But if they make one mistake every now and then, don't berate them, but forgive them.
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