10 Conversations That Senior Leaders Need To Have With Church Staff This Year

I love the new year. There is a natural excitement that comes with the turning of the calendar. Everyone is reflecting on the previous year and setting goals for the new year. As a goal oriented person, I get excited reading about everyone’s goals.

As I wrote in a post about self reflection at the end of 2018, I think that in order for us to effectively move forward we have to be able to reflect on our past. If you haven’t already answered the questions in that post, I highly recommend that you work through them before having the conversations below with your staff.

Most senior leaders that I know are great at casting vision. They will read a book, listen to a podcast, or attend a conference and come away with 378 ideas for their church staff to implement. While I believe that most of the time this can be an effective way to cast vision, I do believe that there is much more power in involving your entire staff in the vision casting process.

As a senior leader, your staff members are your most valuable asset in creating meaningful change within your church. Your staff members likely see things a little differently than you do as they are closer to the action and each have a unique perspective based on the ministry area that they lead. One of your primary tasks as a senior leader is to have conversations with the staff so that you can identify the ways in which you can lead the team to achieve meaningful change.

The conversations below are meant to be springboards to help you identify ways to encourage your team towards change. They are divided between conversations to have with the entire staff and conversations to have with each individual staff member. In both cases, it is recommended that you do share the questions with your team ahead of time. It is likely that your team members process information differently. Some of them will be able to answer on the spot, while others (like me) may need time to think through the questions so that they can make a meaningful contribution.

Conversations For The Whole Staff

  1. What did we do well in 2018? How do we continue to do that at the same level or better in 2019?

    This conversation is first for good reason. It is easy to gloss over what is working well and only focus on the things that needs to improve. Not only is the unhealthy, but by not acknowledging areas that you are doing well in and creating a conscious plan of how to continue doing them well, you will naturally see execution in those areas decline over time.

  2. What are the top two to three things that we could have done better in 2018? How do we execute on those in 2019?

    A lot of times when thinking through areas to work on for the next year, we don’t stop to adequately reflect on the things that need the most work. This conversation will help you and your team to identify areas that you may not have otherwise thought about. If you’re not getting a lot of variety in answers, shift the conversation to asking each ministry leader about their specific areas.

  3. What is the one big thing that we can collectively focus on that will yield the biggest impact in 2019? How do we achieve it?

    I love incremental change and improvement. In fact, it is something that I recommend more often than focusing on large changes. However, those small changes are usually best thought of and implemented by the individuals who are responsible for those areas instead of the entire staff. This conversation is designed to get the entire team working towards a common goal. This could be related to reaching new families, making guests feel more welcome, or improving the overall spiritual health of everyone who calls your church home. Make sure to steer the conversation away from small items and things that do not affect more than half of your team members.

  4. How does our mission and vision align with our goals and strategy for 2019? Does anything need to change?

    This is one of the most important conversations that you can have with your team. Your mission and vision should be something that every staff member knows by heart. Not only that, but every decision, goal, and change should be done through the lens of your mission and vision. Make sure not to ask this as a yes or question. Instead, have your team talk about how specifically your goals and strategy align with your mission and vision.

  5. What are some things that we’re currently doing as a church that we need to stop doing in 2019?

    This one is a little vague and you will likely have people ask you to clarify what you mean. Don’t narrow down the focus too much here. Instead, let your team share the things that they deem to be things that should be stopped. These could be staff only tasks, a specific program or initiative, or a major element of your weekly gathering. Remember this is a conversation so don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions in order to understand why someone thinks that something should be stopped.

Conversations For Individuals

  1. How have I helped you grow as a follower of Christ and as a leader in this church? What could I do better?

    This conversation is less for the staff member and more for you as the senior leader. By asking it this way, your team members will have to give real examples. This is one that I definitely recommend sharing with the team member ahead of time. If they are not able to think of anything after having some time to prepare, shift the conversation to learning more about how you can help them.

  2. How can I help you and your ministry in 2019?

    This is a conversation where ‘I don’t know’ or ‘nothing’ are not acceptable answers. This is an opportunity for you to reassure each person on your team that you want to help them succeed. Chances are each person on your team is a little different and will want help in different ways. Some people may need a sounding board, while others may need you to recommend some practical resources for them.

  3. What are you doing to grow in your walk with the Lord this year?

    This is perhaps the most important conversation in this list. As ministry leaders it can be so easy for us to be so focused on doing ministry that we fail to grow in our own walk with the Lord. This conversation should lead to a few accountability check-ins throughout the year to ask each staff member how they’re doing with the things that they told you they were working on. This provides you with an easy way to continually check-in on how your team is doing so that you can help them mature in their walk with the Lord.

  4. What are your goals for your ministry area in 2019? How do you plan on achieving them?

    This one is going to be a lengthy conversation. Chances are you will have some people who are adverse to setting goals, but it is important to share with them why goals are important and how they can help their ministry. This is a chance to get strategic and help each team member think through how to execute on their specific goals. If a goal doesn’t seem ambitious enough or doesn’t quite align with the overall mission and vision of your church, gently redirect the team member to focus on something else. Knowing each person’s goals allows you to easily check-in throughout the year to see progress and offer helpful advice.

  5. Is there anything that you feel like I should know about our church, staff, volunteers, or members?

    Admittedly, this is a wildcard conversation. You could get nothing from this conversation or you could walk away with information that you otherwise never would have known. Most staff members likely aren’t going to bother you about every small thing that they observe. However, there are likely a couple of things that you should know about that you haven’t been told.

Don’t Put This Off

I know it sounds straightforward, but don’t leave this page without putting a time to have these conversations on your schedule. Chances are you will leave this page and someone will walk through your door with 38 problems that only you can solve and you will forget about these conversations. Take a couple of seconds now to get them on the calendar so that you can take a step towards leading meaningful change in your church!

Kevin Fontenot

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