Dealing with Tough Financial Times: Money, Morale & Momentum, Part 4

money-churchDriscoll continues the series with 9 suggestions for keeping staff morale up and church momentum going in lean times. Here are the first four —

1. Morale

The big dissatisfiers of staff are pay (including benefits) and policy, so the goal is to keep pay high and policy low, as is reasonable.

2. Conflict

Email should only be for positive things and neutral information. For something negative, pick up the phone or meet face to face.

3. Momentum

People do not support a world that they did not create, so momentum is maintained as people are called forward to building new initiatives, new campuses, new church plants, and new ministries. Momentum is either forward or backward but never stagnant, which means even when money is down vision must stay up.

4. Freedom

For most senior leaders, freedom is a high-value item. While they do not use their full freedom, stress and anxiety are inevitable if they do not have it. Too much policy can remove freedom, and in so doing hurt the morale of senior leaders and subsequently slow or stall momentum.

It’s interesting to see these issues presented from the staff’s perspective. I mean, I already knew that salary and benefits are important to the staff. But policy and freedom? It’s a little surprising that giving discretion to the staff is a motivator, but I have no trouble believing it.

Now, how do the elders remain faithful overseers, while minimizing policy and maximizing freedom? There are different approaches, but ultimately, I think the best approach is to step away from our usual hierarchical model and instead work with the staff as a team — treating them as peers in as many ways as possible, particularly when it comes to setting the church’s vision.

Second, the elders need to get out of the details — getting out of the way. But the elders can only comfortably do that when they know that they and the staff share the same heart and vision for the church — and the staff has the good sense to know when to include the elders.

We have one hard and fast rule: no surprises. We give the staff considerable leeway, but we don’t want to be having to defend something we didn’t know about. So if the staff wants to do something a little controversial, we want to know in advance. Of course, this means the staff risks our saying no, and so we try to rarely say no.

I’ve been in situations where the staff’s attitude was: it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission. Therefore, the elders were routinely blindsided, as the staff tried to push the envelope — which made the elders want to assert their authority all the more, which made the staff want to go around them all the more.

Have a frank conversation about teamwork and respecting each other, insist on no surprises, and force yourself to say yes as often as possible. If the staff won’t work as members of a team with the elders, hire a better staff.

Finally, regarding conflict, yes, face to face is the best solution. And never, ever let conflict simmer unresolved. Elders should make it a top priority to seek out unresolved conflict and deal with it, and yet many elderships deal with conflict by avoiding it. It’s a bad idea — so bad that many churches have split because the elders didn’t deal with the problem until feelings were too strong to resolve any other way.

Do not ordain men who hide from conflict. Confrontation is unpleasant and risky, but elders who won’t deal with problems early are not good at their jobs.

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