A church’s most valuable asset is its leadership; so you must be careful not to burn out your team.
In our collective decades of ministry and consulting experience, we have seen again and again how churches that lack healthy leadership eventually struggle. To be certain, many other factors contribute to the healthy growth of a church, but having healthy leadership is a make-or-break issue. This is why you must not burn out your team.
In the wake of recent megachurch resignations, pastors would be wise to take a step back and evaluate how they “do” church. Are the leadership systems that you have in place—for staff and volunteers—helping or hurting? Are you unintentionally creating an environment that will burn out your team?
Below are ten easy ways to burn out your team. Don’t just read the headlines and assume you aren’t guilty of these. The truth is that most of us commit these mistakes regularly, even when we don’t mean to.
These ten things will burn out your team every time:
1) Have expectations that you don’t communicate.
If the last time you wrote a job description for your staff member was before you hired him or her, that was too long ago–unless you hired the person within the last twelve months. Job descriptions should be evaluated and updated based on current expectations, annually. What about your volunteers? Volunteers thrive when they understand what is expected of them. Here are some quick tips on how to write job descriptions for volunteer positions.
2) Focus on general, non-specific goals.
Goals are important. But they have to be specific and performance-based. Many of us have heard of “S.M.A.R.T.” goals, but rarely put the principle into practice. Goal setting is a lost art within the church, and is unfairly assumed to be an unspiritual practice. Biblical leaders are strategic leaders, and goal-setting is a centerpiece of strategy. Be specific in your goals by connecting them to a deadline and by centering them on a performance metric.
3) Communicate important things informally.
If you want to burn out your team, relegate important information to informal modes of communication. Far too often, staff and volunteers get frustrated because they hear important details “through the grapevine.” By the time the information comes through an “official” channel, there is already a lot of misinformation spread broadly. If you want to build-up your team and not burn out your team, communicate effectively through established, healthy communication.
4) Waste time in meetings.
Teams waste time in meetings by spending too much time “fellowshipping” or by taking too long on inconsequential decisions. Both will burn out your team. Though having fun in meetings is valuable and decision-making is critical, meetings need to have a point. When your team does not feel like a meeting is a good time investment, they will get frustrated about attending them. Be deliberate about improving your meetings by creating value.
5) Don’t plan together.
Far too many churches have ministries and teams that are marching to their own beats. Certain ministries outperform others, the collective work does not amount to anything in particular, and it is not being leveraged toward any specific vision. Don’t burn out your team by choosing not to plan together. Invest the time each year to create church-wide performance goals, coordinate schedules, and align budgets unselfishly to leverage the collective ministry work towards a shared vision.
6) Invest little or nothing in training.
Healthy leaders are growing leaders. Very often, the only leader (if any) who is the beneficiary of funds for personal development is the senior pastor. This is a travesty. Our churches expect more and more out of staff and volunteers but are willing to spend less and less in training them to get better. A quick way to burn out your team is to avoid spending money on their development.
7) Give people jobs they aren’t wired for.
There is perhaps no shorter route to burn out your team than to put the wrong people in the wrong positions. When a person is out of their element, every day is a struggle. If you give them a task they are not mature enough to handle or give them a position in an area outside of their skill set, people get frustrated and quickly burn out. Unfortunately, many people are not self-aware enough on the front end to say, “No,” to a job that is bad for them. It is on us as leaders to assess staff and volunteers, and help to place them in an area that aligns with their strengths.
8) Perform unhelpful evaluations.
No one likes a performance review. They’re uncomfortable, and people feel like they’re getting in trouble. But the truth is that without healthy evaluations, people will burn out because they do not know how to improve. A good evaluation is never a “gotcha” moment because they’re ideally in the context of regular mentorship and encouragement. Instead, they are an opportunity to speak more intentionally about the areas of growth the team member is already aware of, and a chance to renew their job description and upcoming performance goals.
9) Care more about capacity than character.
Most church boards and congregations want results. Higher attendance. More giving. More ministries. More church plants, campuses, and sent missionaries. Churches want more. And as a result, churches celebrate high-capacity leaders who can get “more” done. However, it is this high-expectation culture that creates toxic leaders whose character lags behind their capacity. This is not a way to burn out your team as much as it is a way to see that they flunk out of ministry. Please, place a higher value on character than capacity.
10) Place work above family.
In a similar vein, the American Church celebrates pastors who have the appearance of a perfect family life but maintain the schedule of a workaholic. You will burn out your team if you follow this common model. Demand that staff and volunteers invest in their first ministry: family. Allow “important” ministry things to fail so that a marriage does not. Be intentional about modeling the value of family in how you schedule and build ministries. Family matters to God, and so it must matter to us.
How healthy is your church? How healthy is your staff? How healthy are your volunteers?
Be wise and intentional about avoiding these ten ways to burn out your team.
Scott Ball is the Vice President and a Lead Guide with The Malphurs Group. He lives in East Tennessee with his wife and two children. (Email Scott).