Nothing could be more significant than the way we get along with and treat pastoral staff and other staff members. If you are in a church that grows and you add staff, you’re going to have other pastoral staff. You’re going to have office staff, and perhaps you’re going to have people who work at the church, everyone from an associate pastor or worship leader to a janitor or a building manager. If you’re going to serve the Lord well, you need to know how to treat them, get along with them, and respect them. There are a few things that I’ve learned through the years that have helped me manage, befriend, encourage, and serve the Lord with my staff.

Be Convictional

One thing I would tell you is to be convictional. You don’t want anybody who works for you wondering what you believe about key issues of the day, and specifically about your ecclesiology and the way things should be in the church. I think great leadership always arises out of conviction. You really can’t lead if you’re not convictional. Your leadership is based on your core beliefs and your core convictions. In an era, for instance, where we’re facing so many issues about sex and gender, you can’t allow staff to guess what you think about these things or wonder how you would teach these things. You’ve got to be very, very convictional.

Be Predictable

Furthermore, you need to be predictable. Sometimes, I think people think that predictability is a bad thing. I argue exactly the opposite. I think predictability is one of the greatest marks of good leadership because when you are clear in your convictions and very predictable in your reactions and in your demeanor, this means that people know how to make decisions even when you’re not there. I believe that if people who work with me and for me are sitting in a room wondering what I would think on an issue, that means I’ve failed because I’ve not been clear in my convictions. For instance, I want my associate pastors to know that something would not bother me at all, so they don’t need to worry about me being uptight. I want them to know that I want to be consistent, not just in my convictions but in my reactions and responses. I think pastors need to take volatility out of their ministry. You don’t need to be volatile. You don’t need to pop off. You don’t need to explode. You don’t want to be that guy. You want to be calm and cool. My mantra is to never let them smell fear or anger on you because it makes people around you nervous. But when you’re clear, convictional, and predictable, they are empowered to make decisions even when you’re not there.

Be Clear

You also need to be clear about expectations. Talk to them about the way you want church members treated. Talk to them about the way you want them to have their own walk with the Lord. I mean, you can’t assume these things. Talk to them about how you want them to treat women with respect, how you want them to practice godly relationships, handle money,  and be free from blame. You need to make that a priority and something you talk about. When you’re clear about expectations, then you can hold them accountable. But frankly, when you have good people on staff, and you’re clear in expectations, people usually live up or down to your expectations. Set the bar high. Live to it yourself. Don’t ask them to do what you’re not doing. Model what you expect from them, be clear, and empower them to act. Don’t always look over somebody’s shoulder when you give somebody a job. I like to give someone a job but then entrust that to them, and we don’t really need to talk about everything unless they’re not following through on their job.

Be Encouraging

God has blessed me with wonderful people. The men and women who work around me at Southern Seminary and Buck Run Baptist Church are amazing. I think I’m clear in my expectations, and boy, they’re clear in the way they do them because they’re empowered, and I trust them. I think trust is an important part of any relationship. They need to be able to trust you. You need to be able to trust them. If you don’t, there’s a problem and you need to figure that out because you simply can’t work alongside someone very long if you don’t trust them.

Encourage them. Thank them. It’s just a part of a pastor’s vocabulary to say, “Thank you for doing that.” That is food for their souls to hear you say thank you. And I noticed when you catch people doing things right, they do more right things. You always reproduce whatever you honor. So, honor them for doing their job well. And this makes them want to continue to do the right thing.

Another key principle is to put their needs before your own. I tell all the people working with me that I am glad they work here and hope they stay here a long time. But if they ever say this isn’t working out, this isn’t really what they want to do, or they would like to look for another place or job, they don’t have to hide that from me. I will help them find the place of service they want. I’m their guy. Unless they’ve done something disreputable or dishonorable. I’m going to help them find a place of service. Even if I don’t want them to go, and even if they’ve been a blessing to me. I’ll have that conversation. I’ll say I don’t want them to go anywhere, but if that’s what they want to do, I’m going to let them do it.

I also never penalize somebody for doing a good job. If someone has done a great job in their position and some other position, even in our church, opens and they really would like to do that, I don’t say they need to stay because they are doing such a good job. If you look at the history of the pastors who’ve served with me at Buck Run, many of them came in as interns, got a permanent position, and then went from a permanent position to a pastoral one. They showed a propensity for that, and I wanted to empower them to do that. If they come to you and say, there’s this position open in another state that I’d like to be considered for, don’t be hurt. Don’t be wounded. Be their defender. Be their advocate and say, if that’s what they want to do, then you’re going to help them do that.

In the future, people who come to work for you will talk to the people who used to work for you. I want them to universally say I treated them well with honor and respect. That helps you do your job. And when you treat people that way, you’re working together. You’re pastoring together. You’re shepherding together, and it helps you pastor well.