As we talk with churches and organizations about the qualities they are looking for in the new staff members, somewhere near the top of every list is “loyalty.” They want someone who is bought into the vision, who is not looking for a stepping-stone to another job, who wants to stay for a long time, and who will value and respect the leadership of the church.
While the call to honor our leaders is important, the call itself is meaningless if it’s not backed up with leaders who inspire people to want to follow them. Great leaders are relentless in their efforts to become the leader that others want to follow, not someone they “should” or “have to” follow.
Church leaders, if you want a loyal church staff team, make a commitment to inspiring that loyalty in the following ways:
1. Always seek to improve yourself.
As a church leader, be relentless in finding ways to be a better leader, parent, spouse, friend, etc. Your team is watching you and if they see that you own your weaknesses and make an effort to get better, they will follow you. Humility is a very positive quality in a leader, and the best leaders understand that no matter how much they’ve accomplished, they can always get better.
If you want a loyal team, be relentless and transparent in your efforts to improve as a person and as a leader. Get coaching, read leadership books, attend conferences, find a mentor, and actively apply what you are learning in your daily life and work.
2. Always seek ways to improve how you do things.
This is a step beyond personal growth: a leader who inspires loyalty is willing to adapt to changing circumstances. They will encourage their team to find new and better ways to accomplish their common vision. On our team, we call it “constant improvement” – one of our staff’s core values.
Never settle, because the world is always changing. Great leaders anticipate that change and learn to adapt to it. Would the systems and structures you have in place be adequate if you suddenly doubled in size? Invite your team to dream about ways to get better, prepare forgrowth, and implement new ideas. What worked 5 years ago – or even last year – may not work today or tomorrow.
3. Follow through on your vision.
One the quickest ways to lose your team’s loyalty is to constantly change direction. It’s great to try new things, and it’s healthy to pull the plug on ministry ventures that just aren’t working. However, if you constantly point to a new hill to charge but change directions before you get there, your team will stop following you.
I once sat down with a ministry team as they talked about their frustrations with a leader who had recently left them for a new venture.They said: “We all were working hard, but we didn’t know what we working toward. It felt like we were all pulling our oars but always changing directions, so we ended up going nowhere. Eventually, it was just easier to do our own thing.”
Once you’ve established your church’s mission and vision, pursue it aggressively, evaluate it regularly as a team, and stick to it unless you discover it’s not working or God is calling you elsewhere.
4. Develop the people you lead.
The easiest way to inspire loyalty on your church staff is to make a commitment to helping them grow – and not just in their professional skills (though that is important), but also in their spiritual and relational worlds.
Set aside time to meet with your team members individually. Talk through their goals, not just for the role they are currently in but also for where they want to be ten years down the road. Connect them with mentors who can impart practical wisdom. Send them to conferences,coaching groups, or provide opportunities for continuing education. If they have a specific sense of call to move into a new role down the line (Senior Pastor, Connections Pastor, Teaching Pastor, etc), give them opportunities to do the kinds of things they will be doing full-time one day, even if it’s outside their current “lane.” Give them feedback on their performance in these new tasks.
If your team knows you don’t care solely about what they can do for you now, but also for what they will be doing in the future, they will follow you.
5. Have your team’s back.
Loyalty is a two-way street. If you want your team to be loyal to you, they need to know that you will be loyal to them. One of the quickest ways to lose the loyalty and respect of your team members is to throw them to the wolves when they make a mistake or when someone complains about something they said or did. Failures, mistakes, and misunderstandings will happen, and those need to be addressed, but always stand up for your church staff to others.
If you want your team to be loyal, express your support publicly and privately. Take the public “hit” if you need to, and then privately address the issue with your team member to help them solve the problem and grow in their own capacity as a leader who takes responsibility for their actions.
6. Keep your word.
When I talk with ministry candidates about their previous experiences, the smart ones never talk negatively about a former manager or boss. But it’s not hard to read between the lines to find out when they lost respect for their leader. Nine times out of ten, it was when their leader made a promise or a commitment and didn’t follow through, or when they would act one way in public and very differently in private.
Church leaders who inspire loyalty do what they say they will do. They keep their promises to their team, or, if circumstances change and they can’t keep a promise they made, they are completely transparent about the reason and the plan to address it.
How can you begin to inspire loyalty on your church staff team?
By: Jay Mitchell, Vanderbloemen Search Group