Principles for a thriving staff
Senior Pastors carry the responsibility to guide their church toward healthy growth. It’s a big red flag if their staff is failing to thrive. 

Written By Gary Reinecke

ICF Master Certified Coach, Resource Designer, Mission Strategist : InFocus
At face value, the ministry may look pretty good. Ministries and events may take place as if they are on autopilot. People come and are blessed. But… something is off with the staff. They get their job done but they tend to gather in the back of the sanctuary or in the green room, maybe they isolate, or don’t show up to events unless it is specifically a part of their job responsibility. There is a lack of joy—a failure to thrive. 

It’s very possible your pastor clients didn’t learn how to manage a staff in seminary. As a coach, you can help them discover the following principles and help them apply these principles effectively in their context. 

Consider the Leader

Before jumping into the principles, take a few minutes to reflect on the leader you are coaching. Doing so will provide insight as to the root of the issue and offer a starting place for the solution. 

  1. What strengths does this leader bring to his team?
  2. What are the blind spots?
  3. What areas need more development?
  4. What data can you access to support your answers above?
  5. What assessments might be helpful to further assess this leader?

3 Principles for a Team that Thrives

principles for a thriving staff

Principle #1 – CLARITY

The #1 reason why staff suffer unnecessarily – lack clarity about their job.  

When meeting with a prospective ministry team leader it is important to be clear on what you are asking them to do. The more clarity, the easier the conversation. If you are not clear about what you want them to do in your own head, then it will be difficult to communicate what is needed. 

Before engaging with a prospective ministry team leader, have the job written out so you understand what you are asking the person to do and what you will be providing them. This is both respectful to the person AND forces you to think this through carefully ahead of time. 

Start with the job description

Most job descriptions read more like “suggestions for employee consideration”, lacking precision and “teeth”.  =

After reviewing close to 100 job descriptions over the last 5 years, I found very few had a job description with the precision necessary to have a productive conversation between employer and employee.

A job description should be so clear that you could, if necessary, record the actual behaviors and outcomes you envision to successfully fulfill the role. Once you have that out of your brain and in writing, meet with your staff member and unpack your expectations until they are crystal clear on what you want from them.

5 Keys to Clarity

  1. Clarify expectations in a job description.
  2. Include Key Result Areas (KRAs)
  3. Make the outcomes measurable
  4. Provide regular coaching
  5. Make course corrections

Principle #2 – SUITABILITY

The #2 reason why staff suffer unnecessarily – poor hiring practices.  

It is estimated that it could cost you up to five times a bad hire’s annual salary” (SHRM Study).

This is on you, the employer. There are best practices to vet prospective employees to determine suitability, and there is a difference between eligibility (what most interviewing processes vet) and suitability. If you want to read about the differences between those two – CLICK HERE.

There are numerous tools in the ministry marketplace to determine team fit, personality, temperament. spiritual gifting, and behavioral style. But one that assesses suitability, called the Harrison, includes a Reliability Score that determines if the person being assessed is being truthful, self-aware, and paying attention as they take the assessment. You can read more about the Harrison assessment – CLICK HERE.

Principle #3 – SUPPORT

The #3 reason why staff suffer unnecessarily – lack of support.  

At some point most staff will hit a wall in their work due to personal or professional reasons. They may be going through strife in their marriage or lack skills affecting their job performance. Realistically, most staff will benefit from a regular rhythm of 1-1 coaching. The rhythm will vary from staff member to staff member, but in my experience, 28 days should not pass before you have a 1-1 scheduled with your team member. Why 28 days?

I borrowed this from Rick Warren, who said that about every 28 days he needed to remind the church community gathered at Saddleback Community Church of the vision. I extracted from that a principle in coaching: about every 28 days, staff members need to be reminded of their vision and have a clarifying conversation about how they are progressing towards the ministry outcomes they were chasing. Your rhythm, given the needs of the staff member, will vary.

Chances are the busyness of work trumps team meetings and 1-1s.  “Meetings” get a bad reputation: “meeting for the sake of meeting”, “waste of time”, “lack focus and purpose” – are just some of the criticisms shared by many employees. Many are justified!  

What can you do to break the cycle of poorly executed team meetings and one-to-ones?

  • Commit
  • Communicate expectations including:
    • Purpose
    • Frequency
    • Agenda
  • Do it!

There are platforms that support effective team meetings and 1-1s. Some clients use the LEADR platform with impressive results. Whatever you choose, use it consistently and help your staff engage in the process. Persistence is the key.

Coach Questions

  1. What is getting in the way of the team from performing to their potential?
  2. How can you encourage your team?
  3. What are the biggest team accomplishments or “wins” in the last 30 days?
  4. Who is thriving?
  5. Who is not thriving?
  6. What needs to change?
  7. What one thing can you do that will have the biggest impact on team effectiveness?


Goals & Objectives Skill Builder – This ministry-specific PDF booklet found on explores the process involved in setting overall strategy or targets to be achieved and then focuses on the specific steps needed to set meaningful objectives and work towards your goals.

Goal Setting Storyboard – Storyboards provide a visual “line of sight” through a development topic. This ministry-specific storyboard on Goal Setting found on addresses the Development Outcomes and Learning Objectives surrounding goal setting.

Goal Setting Effectiveness Profile – The Goal/Objective Setting Effectiveness Profile found on provides a highly structured process through which to look at the whole task of goal setting. The instrument, therefore, seeks to measure goal setting effectiveness in seven separate categories.

Cover Photo by Vitaly Gariev on Unsplash

Photo by Jud Mackrill on Unsplash

Should you market your coaching business?

You want to grow your coaching business. But turning prospective clients into paying clients is easier said than done. Here is a way to be proactive.

How is your follow-up question game?

You know that good coaching requires good questions—and you may already be good at asking those. But what about follow-up questions? Even those with strong coaching skills can sometimes fall short when it comes to a skill commonly called piggy-backing. 

Building and Supporting a Network of Excellent Coaches

It is incredible to see coaching championed as a vital component to church planting, church revitalization, and leadership networks. But for coaches—and those they coach—to thrive they need more than initial coach training…

How to Make Change Stick

As a coach, you know change is hard. That’s why people need the help of a coach when making real change stick.

Working with Clients to Declutter Time

Spring is here… and so is spring cleaning! But have you ever thought of spring cleaning applied not just to your house and garage but to your time? Your calendar? Your list of responsibilities? 

Your coaching business depends on THIS

You want to be the one people look to when they need help or when they are ready to do what it takes to make their dreams come true. To be that person, there is one area that you absolutely cannot let falter…

4 Keys to Effective Fundraising

When coaching people in the nonprofit sector the topic of fundraising is bound to come up. Here are some tips to help.

Simple Ministry Assessment

Your clients have plans and systems in place. The big question: Are they working? Help the ministry leaders you coach take a clear-eyed snapshot of where their ministry current is while creating action items with this simple ministry assessment.

What is your vision to cultivate leaders?

Every church should have a leadership development system. Even if that system is currently working, it needs to be assessed regularly to meet changing needs. Here are the basics that every leadership development system should have…

How to connect with high-level leaders

You want to build your coaching business but you don’t want to feel like a salesperson working on commission. The good news is: you don’t need to work up a semi-uncomfortable sales pitch and practice delivering it. Here’s what to do instead…