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Respect: What staff members need from their lead pastor – Part 1

Today I begin a 5-part series of daily posts called “What staff members need from their lead pastor.” Each day this week I will share one of those needs. Today’s need: Respect. 

Dear Lead Pastor,

I am writing on behalf of your ministry staff members – those who serve as Associate Pastors, Youth Leaders, Christian Education Directors, Visitation Pastors, Worship Leaders, Spiritual Growth Directors, and all others who share in ministry with you. There are some things that each of us needs from you, but sometimes find hard to express.

First and foremost, your staff longs for your RESPECT. There is no complaint I hear more from fellow associates and other staff members than their lead pastor does not respect them and/or their ministry. Sometimes this perception comes from feeling micromanaged. Other times it stems from feeling their ministry is ignored. Some sense it in “jokes” that are made at their expense. Others feel it when they are tasked with things to do that they don’t feel fit their job description, gifts, or talents. Nothing will more quickly demoralize us, you staff members, than a lack of respect for us or our ministries.

Respect for your staff members is mutually beneficial. Not only will we respond with a high level of effectiveness, we will also reciprocate. It is far easier to respect those who respect you.

Here are several ways you can show your respect:

  • Converse with us about our ministry area, and the people who are connected to it. When something is happening in the family of a youth, talk to the youth leader. Ask what he/she knows about the situation. Share your thoughts and concerns. Give the leader a heads-up so that they can help minister to the family. That kind of communication shows a level of respect and sharing in the ministry of the church.
  • Talk to us about rumors you hear about our ministry. Don’t assume that what you are hearing through the church grapevine is the truth. Come and talk to us. When Mrs. Jones, who has been a big supporter of the church for decades, is irritated with the choir director, telling you that she/he is incompetent, go to the choir director. That is information he/she needs. Respect us enough to give us the opportunity to share our side of the story, set the record straight, improve an area of weakness, or apologize to Mrs. Jones for hurting her.
  • If you have an issue with the quality of our work, please respect us enough to deal directly with us. While critiques are never easy to hear, it will be far easier hearing it from you than it will be hearing there is a complaint about us floating throughout the congregation.
  • Don’t assume you know more about our ministry than we do. Ask our opinions about things that will impact our ministry, or areas where our specialized knowledge may assist you in making a decision. Many of us have training in a specific area of ministry. Pick our brains for our expertise. Our job is to help make this church/organization the most effective it can be to the glory of God. Let us help you.
  • Talk us up. There is no greater sign of respect than when a member of the congregation comes up to one of us and tells us how you were bragging about us or our ministry.
  • Get to know us, our calling, and our giftedness. We are more than our job descriptions. Ask us about our families, our passions, our dreams for our ministry, and the like.

A church staff should appear to be a mutual admiration society. Our congregations should be hearing time and again how blessed they are to have people working from their strengths for the good of the entire congregation. They will feel well cared for, and know their church has a great future. A culture of respect will cultivate that kind of pride.


  1. Nancylee Cater
    Nancylee Cater March 8, 2012

    Thank you, Joe, for voicing what every staff member wishes she/he had said. Your career has been that which I had aimed for, but have not been able to attain. Serving as a pastor on staff, not the lead pastor, was always my preference for a number of reasons. I did have 3 yrs. in my probationary time as an associate, and loved every minute of it. I did not receive much of what you are describing, and that was difficult, but I loved the position of associate. How wonderful it would be if all staff could be affirmed in these positive ways. When course corrections in ministry are needed, it would be so good to have the conversation with the lead pastor ahead of a crisis point so the wrinkles could be ironed out. I especially support the point of the staff being a cheering section for each other, especially the senior pastor speaking up for them. It just has to be that way for the church to get the benefit of the best efforts of all. Before I entered ordained ministry, I served as executive director of a non-profit, with an 8-person staff. I tried diligently to practice what you have described, and give thanks to God that we had absolutely minimal staff turnover and a well integrated team approach to our work. I look forward to your follow-up articles.

  2. Joe
    Joe March 9, 2012

    Comment received on LinkedIn about this series:
    “Wow! Finally amidst all the blather I’ve been seeing, here is a very thoughtful and insightful item. It’s very helpful for me as a lead pastor to see this perspective. Congratulations and thanks!”

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