Many churches often kill their team’s productivity and creativity because they’ve created policies that might work for other organizations but doesn’t fit theirs.
The last church I served had a pretty relaxed office structure. As we grew we had to add more rules, but they were all pretty informal and never really written down.
We didn’t have set vacation days, and we didn’t really have set office hours. This drove some people on the outside nuts.
A few things I noticed about our team:
- We were all really good friends and spent time together outside the office as well as in the office.
- We were a rather productive team and took a lot of ownership in our areas of ministry as well as the overall church.
- We loved one another well (and still do).
- Our full-time staff had a very low turnover rate despite being on the lower end of the pay scale.
- Rarely did anyone abuse vacation time.
Don’t misunderstand me, there’s a lot we didn’t do well. But I think staff culture is one we executed well from the beginning, almost unintentionally.
I speak to a lot of staff members of other organizations that would have loved to come work with us and envied the camaraderie we had on our staff.
Toward the end of my tenure there I had been working on creating some office policies because our staff had grown, we had two campuses, and we needed some consistency.
As I began to write down policies, a few lay leaders emailed me the policies from their companies, I googled a lot of policies, and used a few “Church Ministry Handbook Development Tools” from the local Christian bookstore.
The more I wrote, the more I began to think, “This doesn’t fit us. This is totally going to mess up the culture we have.”
So I stopped.
Define Your Culture First
Instead of defining our policies, I first needed to define our culture. What inspired creativity, productivity, community, love, and passion for our jobs?
Defining what your culture is, or what you want it to be, is vital in crafting your policies, handbooks, and rules.
Too often we create policies that work for other companies and organizations, never taking in to account how it might actually affect our own organization.
Most companies create policies with the idea that it would improve productivity, but often, it does the opposite.
Studies have shown that a happy workplace is a productive workplace. When you treat people like adults, with respect and trust, they just may surprise you.
Don’t let your policies dictate your culture. Be sure your culture dictates your policies.
Start by defining the aspects of your culture that are important and vital to the productivity of your office. Get input from your team and employees.
Write them down.
Do your policies promote the outcomes important to your organization?
Ministry often requires creativity. Does your staff culture promote creativity? Do your staff members have the freedom to leave the office and find a more creative space to work for a few hours?
Does your staff have time to be present with their families, to model the things we (you) preach? Do they have time to serve their spouses, go home at a decent hour, and have the freedom to work more flexible hours during those times when things might be stressful around the house?
Does your team spend time together, having fun, and enjoying one another?
A few ideas to increase the health of your staff culture and improve productivity:
1. Communicate expectations.
Make sure everyone on your team knows what’s expected, what the job is, and what it should look like when it’s executed well. When people know what’s expected, they don’t have to guess if they’re doing their job well or not.
2. Give people freedom to find creative space.
Again, there’s a lot of creativity needed in ministry. Make sure your team as the freedom to find those spaces that inspire creativity.
3. Give people freedom to work when their brain works.
We are all wired differently. Some of us are more do our best work in the morning, some in the middle of the afternoon. Not only should you figure out when your brain performs certain tasks best, you should encourage your team to do the same (For more info on this subject, I recommend the book When by Daniel Pink).
4. Play together.
Have at least one day per month where your staff gets away from the office together and enjoys “play time”. Go bowling, to the beach, Dave & Busters, play a “prison break” game. Find something your team can do together that promotes fun, builds community, and encourages conversations. If you have the resources, invest money in this.
5. Have an honest conversation with your team.
When you have too many policies, people tend to enjoy their job less and productivity suffers. If you have too little, sometimes people may try and take advantage. Be honest with your team. Let them know we don’t have a lot of constraining policies for a reason, but don’t make us have to start creating them either. In fact, I would consider changing your team member before changing the culture of your team.
6. Pray together often.
Spend time praying together. Pray for one another and the families represented on your team.
7. Love one another well.
Don’t tolerate gossip and backbiting. Put that to death fast! There is nothing that kills a team faster than gossip. Let people know that your team should be able to trust one another. The conversations that happen in the conference room, stay in the conference room. Promote love for one another and eliminate gossip and competition.
For a great book on creating a healthy and productive staff culture, read Culture Wins by William Vanderbloemen.