My family hosts a community group for our church. This is a gathering in our home, once a week, where people come for food and fellowship. Ours just so happens to fall on a Monday.
Mondays are crazy for our family. It’s one of only two days during the week where I have to get my kids up and out of the house, my husband likes to get to work early to get a jump start on the week, and we’ve usually stayed up too late the night before because, well, Sunday naps are our jam.
As we hurry to pick up our kids, get home, pick up the house, and prepare some food before our friends arrive, my husband and I realize we’ve hardly spoken all day. As we sprint from one thing to the next, meeting the needs of our kids, and then preparing for our guests, there has been little check-in with each other. Honestly, there’s no time, and I know we can later. But then later comes, some of our friends stay late to talk through something they’re going through at work, our kids are up past their bedtimes (again!) so we divide and conquer, and, without fail, I fall asleep with our oldest.
Now, what does this chaotic look into my personal life have to do with staff communication at your church?
Well, I’m guessing it’s a reflection of it.
Stay with me here. You’re me. Your staff is my husband. My kids and friends are your church’s members and guests.
Do you see it? Do you ever feel like you and your staff are pulled in so many directions, meeting so many needs, connecting and serving and giving, that all of a sudden you realize you haven’t connected all day? Maybe all week?
And if we can carry the metaphor a bit further, I’m wondering if maybe when you do finally connect, you’re not always bringing the best version of yourself? Maybe you’re exhausted, or you’re stressed, or you’re anxious. And that is felt in your communication.
So, what can we do about it? The workload of a church leader doesn’t look to be lightening up anytime soon (God willing). So, how do we communicate well and often with our staff without adding hours to our day? I have 3 ways you can lay the groundwork: 1. Know Your Staff, 2. Diversify the Communication Options, and 3. Customize Plans.
Know Your Staff
Knowledge is power. If you don’t know the personality types you are dealing with, the rest of these tips aren’t going to get you very far. There are all kinds of personality assessments that you can distribute to your staff that can make for a fun and insightful meeting. Some of your staff may not even know their own communication preferences and tendencies.
They may be struggling with feeling unheard or resentful. Or maybe they’ve been more withdrawn since you’ve added a new project to their plate. Are they upset and stressed? Are they focused and motivated? These are things you need to have a pulse on without constantly having to ask.
Doing some personality awareness activities can help you and all the people you work with to gain a better understanding of self and others. Here are a few good ones:
Diversify Communication Options
Don’t rely on staff meetings as your only way of connecting. Be in touch with your staff. And this doesn’t have to equate to taking each of your staff out for coffee or lunch every week. Maybe it’s a scheduled email that goes out on Wednesdays simply asking, “how are you doing?” and then a monthly text going out that says you appreciate them. You can even put a specific thing they accomplished or worked on that month that you appreciate.
These aren’t disingenuous. There’s nothing wrong with setting reminders and scheduling out messages. That’s taking the human error out of being intentional. Now, life can’t get too busy. You can’t get pulled away from your office all day and not able to touch base at all. It’s done. Remember that technology is a TOOL; tools can be used to make beautiful things.
Automating your text messages and emails to your staff is NOT meant to replace human interaction… but to facilitate it!
Here are some ideas...
To your staff the day after your service (SMS): “Hey Tyler, great work yesterday! So thankful for you and the way you serve Hebrews Church!”
Quarterly Email: “Hey Tyler. I just want you to know how much I appreciate all that you do for Hebrews Church. I am so grateful to be doing this work alongside you. -Pastor Jenna”
Anniversary Text: “Tyler! Happy 5 year anniversary with Hebrews Church!!! I am so thankful for your dedication to this community! Thanks for all you do!!”
It’s okay to tailor some things to different personality types. For example, in preparing for a staff meeting, if you are hoping to have a robust discussion about the direction of the Children’s Ministry, email out the discussion questions ahead of time. Ask your staff to come prepared with 3 ideas, but give them the option of writing them down and submitting them to be read anonymously at the meeting. This gives all personality types time to think through their ideas, avoiding emotional or unformulated ideas and silence. This is one example of how you can work to engage everyone in a non-threatening way.
Also, it’s important to tell your staff what you need from them. It may be outside of their comfort zone, but, in continuing with the previous example, if you need feedback from everyone on your team, you need to make that clear. If you present an idea to staff and say, “I would love your thoughts if you’re comfortable sharing,” you have to be okay with people not sharing their thoughts because they aren’t comfortable. It isn’t fair to communicate in a passive way and then be frustrated when the response isn’t what you expected.
It is good for people to be stretched and to grow, but they have to know when that’s expected and when they can stay within their comfort zone. As a leader, it is your responsibility to facilitate that without burning out your staff. If you’re wondering where that line is, some have found it helpful to open it up for feedback from staff. Again, have the feedback available in multiple forms for peoples’ comfort level, but this can give them some voice in the conversation.
In terms of how this works in general communication, this piggybacks on our first point. Some of your staff really desire regular communication. They want to process with you, get feedback and hear they’re doing a good job. Others might be on the opposite end of the spectrum, only wanting communication when it’s needed. They prefer to work independently and check-ins feel like micromanagement. So, be okay with it looking different for different people. Flexibility and adaptability are some of the greatest skills we can develop as leaders.
So, when Monday hits, and you and your staff are running around like chickens with your heads cut off… or maybe that’s just me and my crew… work to implement these 3 strategies. Make sure you know your staff well. Diversify your use of communication tools to provide better options for your staff and alleviate the burden on yourself. And be okay with customizing communication for each individual.