By Melissa Sandel
My role is to serve as the chief architect of staff culture. I find high-capacity leaders who are determined to grow, and equip them to hit the ball out of the park in their respective roles. Crafting the environment in which this process unfolds is one of my most vital assignments.
Several principles define our staff culture and have shaped the way I lead.
Require development. We don’t believe anyone is so sharp or devoted that he or she can play a productive role on our team without growing. To model this, I invite our lead pastor to tell me how I can improve, no matter how minor the improvement may seem. I also offer a regular opportunity for the staff I lead to share how they think I can lead better. Welcoming feedback does not obligate a leader to act on each suggestion, but it often introduces valuable insight and appropriate challenge. Leaders who are determined to grow attract leaders who hunger for growth.
Invite conversation. Emerging leaders need exposure to high-level leadership conversation. Hearing a leader think aloud as he processes a decision refines the leadership instincts of those listening in. When possible, I invite staff members to collaborate and problem-solve alongside me. Not only do they contribute helpful ideas that influence my decision making, but they’re also given a front-row seat to the leadership mentality we want at West Side.
Demonstrate loyalty. We unapologetically challenge our team to support our leaders, both publicly and privately. Expressing disagreement or disappointment is welcomed, but concerns must always be discussed in constructive ways, in the right setting, and with the appropriate people. Staff members must also commit to supporting leadership decisions, even those for which they lack personal enthusiasm. Where these values are upheld, relationships and leadership flourish. Consequently, we address these topics at least annually in an all-staff setting, and we swiftly confront violations of these principles. The result is a team where unity prevails, peer accountability is embraced, and trust levels run high.
Create fun. God has called our staff team to a serious business, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We attempt to create an atmosphere where people laugh often and are frequently discovered having a blast among those with whom they serve. When every staff member takes responsibility for being a sincere and enjoyable teammate, an attractive team is formed.
Since the dynamics of a church staff are a predictor of church health, staff development is a worthy leadership investment.
Melissa Sandel serves as director of ministries with West Side Christian Church, Springfield, Illinois.