Building a staff team: Going from ‘good to great,’ Part 2


We pick up where we left off in the last article on building a staff team. Here are the remaining 10 adjectives for excellence.

4. Motivating, challenging and visionary. The children’s ministry never will exceed the visions and challenges of the children’s minister. While the staff member must be realistic, he always should be urging the volunteers to seek more efficient ways of serving.

A staff member of excellence always is looking at better and more effective—not easier—ways of doing ministry. By conversing with her peers, a staff member can discover what is working in other communities of faith and tailor these methods to fit her own setting.

5. Flexible, but consistent. Any staff member who is so rigid as to appear inflexible will be perceived by the congregation as being insensitive. At the same time, however, the staff member’s instructions, expectations and behavioral patterns must be viewed as consistent. Inconsistency breeds uncertainty, and uncertainty breeds a lack of trust.

6. Confident, and yet humble. A staff member must not be easily intimidated by church members. Being confident means she is not easily threatened by others.

In every congregation, there are a few lay leaders who perceive themselves as the sole decision maker of the community of faith. Perhaps he or she is the CEO in the workplace and fails to realize his or her realm of expertise does not extend to the church.

A staff member who lacks confidence always is changing her mind depending upon the ideas and values of the last church member with whom she has had a conversation.

While confidence is extremely important, an even more valuable attribute is humility. A congregation desires a pastor and staff who do not perceive themselves above others.

Don Shula, the late, legendary coach of the Miami Dolphins, told a humorous story about himself. Coach Shula was a humble man, but he remembered a day when he let his humility slip.

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Shula and his wife had retreated to a small town in Maine to avoid being noticed on their vacation. While there, they went to see a movie on a messy, rainy night. When Shula and his wife walked into the theater the people began to applaud. The famous coach whispered to his wife, “I guess there’s no place we can go where people won’t recognize me.”

When they sat down, Shula shook hands with a man on their row and said, “I’m surprised that you know who I am.”

The man looked at him and replied, “Am I supposed to know who you are? We’re just glad you came in because the manager said he wasn’t going to start the movie unless there were at least 10 people here.” (“Attitudes,” John Ortberg, Seeds Tape Ministry #M9733)

Just about the time we think we’re something, somebody reminds us we’re not.

7. Compassionate, empathetic and caring. Throughout the New Testament, we learn the demeanor of Christ is one of compassion. He has compassion for the multitude when they have no supper, and he responds by feeding the 5,000. He has compassion for the leper, reaching out his hand to the untouchable. Staff must emulate the compassion of Christ.

8. Friendly, outgoing and fun. While staff members do not have to appear as though they have just graduated from a Dale Carnegie seminar, they must be able to warmly meet, greet and interact with people.

Ministers who take themselves too seriously do not seem genuine to the congregation. A genuine smile and a firm handshake are effective tools for building relationships both at church and in the community. I once heard church members complain their pastor was friendly at church but ignored them in the grocery store.

9. Appropriate. This attribute is difficult to define. It entails all the measures necessary to make sure the pastor and staff respond in a logical and reasonable fashion. Telling jokes at the graveside of a dear saint is probably not appropriate. Asking the chairman of the deacon fellowship if you can borrow his new jeep for a weekend excursion is most likely not appropriate.

Some people instinctively seem to know what is appropriate, while others, seemingly, are clueless. Train staff members how to be appropriate.

10. Admirable, professional, respectable and confidential. Each staff member should be a professional in his field. He must know the importance of being confidential in regard to the conversations he has with church members. People are anxious to volunteer to help those whom they admire and respect.

11. Honest and fair. Some time ago, an article in National Racquetball Magazine told the story of Reuben Gonzales who was in the final match of a professional racquetball tournament. It was Gonzales’s first shot at a victory on the pro circuit, and he was playing the perennial champion.

In the fourth and final game, at match point, Gonzales made a super “kill” shot into the front wall to win it all. The referee called it good. One of the two linesmen affirmed the shot was in. But Gonzales, after a moment’s hesitation, turned around, shook his opponent’s hand, and declared his shot had “skipped” into the wall, hitting the court floor first. As a result, he lost the match. He walked off the court. Everybody was stunned.

The next issue of National Racquetball Magazine displayed Reuben Gonzales on its front cover. The story searched for an explanation of this first-ever occurrence on the professional racquetball circuit. Who could ever imagine it in any sport or endeavor? A player, with everything officially in his favor, with victory in his hand, disqualified himself at match point and lost. When asked why he did it, Reuben said, “It was the only thing I could do to maintain my integrity.” (Denis Waitley, “Being the Best,” Bits and Pieces, October 12, 1995)

Once a staff member has been caught being dishonest, it is very difficult for the congregation to respect and trust that minister again. Likewise, if a group within the congregation perceives a staff member is “playing favorites” with other church members, his ministry will be derailed. Staff must strive to treat everyone fairly.

12. Peaceful, authentic and forgiving. While extroverted staff members often are effective, church members also desire genuine authenticity and peacefulness in their ministers. A sincere and forgiving leader models the love of Christ to church members in a tangible fashion.

13. Approachable. The congregation must feel comfortable communicating its concerns. When church members feel as though they will not be heard by a staff member, they cease to share their thoughts and feelings. Ministers who shun or ignore the members never will prove effective in ministry.


The congregation will respond to the leadership of an outstanding staff team. Investing energy and effort developing the very best ministers is one of the wisest uses of a pastor’s time.

Every church staff member must be a model of commitment, integrity and hard work. She must be loyal, timely, dependable, encouraging, visionary, flexible, humble, confident, friendly, honest and confidential. Along with the pastor, the church staff will determine the future of the congregation.

One final note: Instead of going to the same conferences every year and regurgitating and rehashing the same outdated ideas with the same folks, I have encouraged our staff to find someone doing creative and effective ministry in their field and spend two days, side-by-side, with that mentor. I call it “create your own conference” and truly believe this fresh approach will yield fruit for ministry.

Howie Batson has been the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Amarillo more than 25 years.

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