Staff Care

The Spirit of Your Staff 

Published in INSIGHT - Winter 2017
By Jayne Hugo Davis

Jesus used questions to shape his disciples into the leaders he needed them to be. Those same questions can be a powerful means for shaping your staff team as well. 

One of the most important elements of a healthy church is the staff culture. Whether yours is a large church with multiple full-time ministers, or a smaller congregation with a pastor and some part-time assistants, the unity and strength of your staff culture is a major factor in the health of your church. From the infrastructure of your ministry, to the articulation of your vision, to the depth of your spirit, your congregation will take its cues from your staff team.

There are many ways to cultivate a healthy staff culture, from the establishment of a covenant to intentionality in ongoing C.A.R.E, but one of the most significant ways to help your staff team to row in the same direction is through time that you spend together in prayer.

Many staff teams begin their staff meetings with a time of devotion. This is a small but critical element in distinguishing what we do as a church from any other organization; we seek God’s direction in all of our work and we ask for God’s presence in the midst of our gathering. In the midst of busy schedules and full agendas, it is important to create a pro forma or a quick add-on before the “real” work begins.

When a staff team looks to God together, it not only keeps the ministry aligned with where God is headed, but it also deepens the spirit of the group and each member of it. We know that the spirit of a congregation will only grow as deep as the spirit of its leadership – its  collective leadership.

When Jesus set out to develop his leaders, his disciples, those who would be tasked with the establishment of his Church long after he was gone, he used questions. As they followed him from place to place, as they witnessed his actions and heard his words, as they tried to understand the kingdom of God and what it required of them, as they got it wrong again and again… Jesus continued to ask questions. 

Jesus asked questions that challenged their assumptions about the world. He asked questions that cut right to the heart of who they were – their hopes, their dreams, their motives. He asked questions that got them to look beneath the surface and see the kingdom of God breaking into their world.

Jesus used questions to shape his disciples into the leaders he needed them to be and those same questions can be a powerful means for shaping the heart of your staff team as well.

Try this for your time of devotion together: 

Each week, select a question that Jesus asked. There are hundreds, so you will not lack for options. Select a question and give it to your staff in advance of your meeting. Days ahead, if possible. Invite them to sit with the question throughout the week and notice where it intersects with their lives and their ministry.

The first question Jesus asks in the Gospels is in MATTHEW 5:13: You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet. If we give the Spirit room, we will surely bump into occasions throughout our week where, if we are paying attention, we recognize that this question is directed at us.

When you come together as a staff for your time of devotion, sit with the question together as a staff. Do not rush to provide good and right Sunday school answers. Speak the question. Hear Jesus’ words directed to you collectively and individually. Allow time for silence to let the question speak loudly to your spirit.

Break the silence with an invitation to share where they felt the nudge of Jesus’s question. Such a practice invites us to be vulnerable before Jesus’s questions and one another. To see ourselves as we really are so that we can see God as he really is. That is the work of faith. It is a transparency that will need to be modeled by the one who leads the time of devotion and will need to be cultivated over time by a commitment of the group to be authentic and trustworthy.

It is amazing what the Spirit will bubble up, both from our life and from our ministry, that we might otherwise hold back from one another. Just imagine where our conversations might take us if we honestly hear Jesus’s questions directed to us:

Why are you afraid, you people of weak faith? (MATT. 8:26)
Don’t you understand yet? Don’t you remember the five loaves that fed the five thousand and how many baskets of leftovers you gathered? (MATT. 16:9)
What do you want me to do for you? (MATT. 20:32)

Jesus did  not answer most of the questions that he asked the disciples. He let them hang there and work on them over time. Do not try to put a nice bow on what is heard and what is shared. Do not try to fix one another, but encourage and affirm one another in the challenges of life and faith and ministry. Be on a journey together as you follow Jesus together.