Church staff communication may not be the most glamorous or interesting facet of building your congregation, but without it, you are already setting off in the wrong direction. It is one of the most essential pieces of building a thriving community of believers.
I spent several years of my young adult life building a foundation for church staff communication within the kids department I worked in at Angelus Temple in Los Angeles, California. Without much to go on, our team stumbled our way through much of this area and made a lot of mistakes along the way.
I hope to give you some tips that I learned the hard way over the years, so that you do not have to. After all, church staff communication is at the very heart of creating a cohesive and unified team. If you can guide your staff members on the same path with the exact same goals, it will make it all the more easier to bring in new believers and integrate them into your congregation.
- How To Improve Communication Between Church Staff Members
- 5 Church Staff Communication Best Practices
- Church Staff Communication Tools
How To Improve Communication Between Church Staff Members
I don’t mind being transparent about my previous experiences. I’ve seen people, including several major leaders in past churches I worked with, walk away from a team and, depressingly in some cases, Christianity as a whole due to the lack of proper communication. And they were some of the guiding voices in their churches, too.
For several of these situations, it was, sadly, very avoidable and due to the lack of proper communication between staff members. We are only human, so conflict is bound to arise, beliefs are going to, unfortunately, differ at times, and feelings are going to get hurt on all sides.
Like you, I wish that this wasn’t the case but it happens nonetheless and we need to create procedures to improve communication and prevent these situations from destroying relationships permanently. The first part of this involves transparency of the highest level.
This is the one key element that I suggest in all facets of communication and it is always essential. If you have a group of staff members, even if they number in the hundreds, transparency is key. For example, if one group is chosen to lead an outreach program and giveaway in the city, make that clear to everyone and why those selected people were chosen.
Try to prevent jealousy and other resentful feelings from springing up among staff members. Actively try to keep everyone involved, even if, as in my outreach program example above, it may not be their preferable position in the activity. Having a communications director can help with this, too.
In the same example as above: if someone complains about not being involved in an activity they would like to, carefully explain why you made your decision and perhaps offer the person a chance to help in a different way or with a separate program uniquely made for them to lead.
How Does Staff Communication Factor Into Your Communication Strategy?
A complete and dedicated plan for your church’s communication can prevent key leaders and Christians from walking away from your congregation. We have talked in the past about communication in general and how crucial it is to sharing the Gospel.
After all, if we can’t share the Good News using today’s communication methods, it will never be shared with the world who desperately needs it. When determining your overall communication strategy, though, your staff and departments also need to be part of the initiatives.
It is imperative that you do not forget your co-leaders, co-pastors, and staff members in the process of making a communications plan. It all starts at the top with the leaders in your ministry. If you do not make sure that they are on the right page with one another, it will be near impossible to implement and keep a successful communication strategy.
That is why I recommend diving a little deeper into what Ben Sampson has to say about creating a church communications plan. There are five main steps to the communication process that involve figuring out your target audience, what to communicate, when to do so, and more. This also involves differentiating between external and internal communications, and integrating them with one another seamlessly.
5 Church Staff Communication Tips & Best Practices
Here are five of the best church staff communication practices I’ve learned in my time as part of a ministry leadership team.
1. Create Boundaries And Communication Rules
Knowing when and how to say something to your staff is a delicate balancing act. I recommend establishing some rules regarding how communication works in your church. It is okay and beneficial, in my opinion, to have boundaries.
Without them, anything and everything can and will happen. You may need an entire communications team dedicated to setting boundaries and rules for communication.
In practice, this means setting staff meeting times and days for communication about what’s happening in the church. If your church is off on Mondays after a long weekend of church services and events, take that day off. Don’t send out work emails and text messages on that day, and don’t allow your staff members to do the same.
If you’re on vacation, unless it is an absolute emergency, use that time to relax and refresh. It goes beyond just emails and events, though. Create clear cut boundaries between members of the staff team as well.
I was a young church staff member at one point and I saw firsthand the romance that commonly blooms among workers of a similar mindset, even if I, thankfully, refrained from participating myself. Do not be afraid to wholly discourage dating and the like among staff, or, at the very least, create some guidelines for those situations.
If these rules are broken, unfortunately, punishments need to be involved. I encourage you to ensure that those consequences accurately reflect the deed done. If a couple of staff members date when they are not allowed to, this does not mean someone needs to be fired, for example.
Placement in different departments or a temporary suspension may be enough on its own. Ultimately, though, you will need to discuss together with your staff what works best for your church members.
What worked for my church, which was the church leadership having no restrictions whatsoever on dating or communicating even on days off, may not work for your staff. This is especially true if you do not discuss the best path forward with everyone in your staff.
For me, our church already established its style before I ever arrived. Having little to no boundaries meant that I could be contacted or asked to do something even on vacation.
I know that being contacted on my day off to open up the church didn’t work for me, and I had no say-so in establishing the communication boundaries.
Funnily enough, even after I left that particular church for another opportunity, I was still contacted regularly for help on how to do certain things. I highly recommend avoiding the same mistakes by allowing everyone to give their input and ideas.
2. Foster Godly Bonds Evenly
Of course, all work and no play is a problem as well. Rules and guidelines are necessary, but so is having fun. Avoid making church and working in ministry entirely a chore or job, since it is meant to be fun too. Fellowship and bonding with one another is something that dates all the way back to the days of Jesus and his followers (see Mark 2:15).
There are many ways that you can build bonds between the staff at your church. A few of the ones that I like are outings, game nights, parties, and the like. The Christmas and summer parties at our pastor’s house were always two of the biggest highlights of the year for me when I worked at Angelus Temple.
Do goofy things like playing charades, sharing favorite foods and desserts, or even giving out awards for hilarious things. I suggest not keeping these events to once or twice a year, either, as it is effective to have monthly staff outings to foster those relationships.
Having fun and enjoying the victories and defeats together will build your group of staff into the one mind and body that Jesus calls us to be as a church. It will also help with conflicts and problems later down the road, since having close relationships with other staff members can help resolve issues.
3. Be An Open Book
A major issue that I see often is churches acting as closed books. Don’t keep secrets and allow for rumors to run rampant among your staff. I get it, sometimes there may be something that happened that is embarrassing and you don’t want it spreading around. But, I promise you, it will get out someday and the results will be tremendously worse that way.
When there are issues, mistakes, or events going on behind the scenes, share it with your staff members as a whole. Make it clear what happened, why it happened, and what the church is doing with the people involved moving forward. Make sure that everyone is on the same page and in agreement with the consequences.
If you make secrets a tendency in your church, it will lead to distrust, division, and the ultimate failure of your mission as a church. I have seen this first hand. One example that I feel willing to share has to do with a certain minister leaving a church that I attended and served at.
The circumstances behind their departure were a mystery and their leaving was not even announced. They were just there at church one week, leading the youth group I was once part of, and gone the next. Even as a staff member myself at that church at the time, I had to ask around to get answers.
Others had to do the same, and they began to distrust the church leaders that would keep information from them. It led to dozens of people, including students in the ministry and other youth group leaders, leaving the church. It took about five years for the youth group to recover to its previous numbers after this one incident.
People move on and things happen, but it certainly did not have to go down that way. Being open about a situation with your staff can ensure that, while the situation may be rough, you can get through it in the end.
4. Be Ready For Conflict
It’s worth noting that part of effective communication practice is knowing that conflict is inevitable. We are not perfect people; we’re only humans. People will disagree with one another, someone will make a mistake, and troublesome situations will happen.
I even find that these issues are more common in church, as the enemy, specifically, goes after thriving congregations who are centered on Jesus (see 1 Peter 5:8).
The key is not standing around with surprise when something happens, but to always have a plan for conflict. But on the subject of communication problems, specifically, people will often fight and argue, even in ministry.
Plan ahead for these moments and know what you will do when it happens. If there is a disagreement between two staff members, immediately address it and find the root cause of the problem. If it is a lack of communication on your or another staff member’s part, tackle that and ensure that it does not happen again.
5. Always Aim For Peace
Always aim for peace in your ministry. Peace should be the goal, with love and unity guiding every action that your team makes. When conflict happens, the utmost goal should be to regain peace in the best way possible.
To do this, the first step should be to inquire and find out all sides of the matter. Many times, it will be a matter of “he said, she said” with multiple takes on a situation. Understand as much as you can about the miscommunication or dispute and seek Godly counsel before making a decision.
A lot of times people take sides and are biased, so I recommend reaching out to outside leaders from other churches or to mentors that you might have. They can give you unbiased advice about what to do. When you are ready to make peace, bring the parties together and attempt to resolve it as a group with a transparent and loving conversation.
An example to give you an idea is of two young staff members who were dating one another (hence my previous point about having boundaries). The relationship ended in a fight and it affected everyone in our ministry. Each of them was taken aside separately and spoken with.
Both sides were listened to by the other staff members about how and why the relationship ended. They each had a chance to reconcile and decide the next course of action. Since they both had input in the matter, a peaceful agreement was made and one moved into a different department.
Neither person left the church and they were still able to serve in a field they enjoyed without having resentment or being held back. If you establish that peace is at the core of your staff, then it will be easier to resolve these conflicts in an amicable manner.
Church Staff Communication Tools
Today, there are so many tools that are at our disposal for communicating with church staff besides just social media and your church website. With the above practices and goals in mind, there are software and programs that can help them happen.
We have a dedicated guide to the 10 best communication software tools for churches. These include software like Elexio for mass email communications, which is great for connecting with large groups of team members at once, and Breeze that is fantastic for planning outreach events or with nonprofits.
There are a few more that I would throw out there, such as a dedicated messaging app for your team members. Slack is the go-to chat app that I use in most of my work, as it is far more flexible and fast than an email or even text message in some cases.
Slack includes instant chat and the ability to create specific channels within a single Slack group for different departments, such as one for the youth ministry, a food bank department, young adults, and more.
I also recommend software like Zoom, which is great when chat messages simply do not cut it, but you’re not all together and need to video call. Lastly, having a shared folder and calendar is a must. Google and its suite of Docs, Sheets, and Calendar is a one-stop shop for planning out events, contributing to project sheets, and being on the same page.
Your Next Steps
With these tools and practices, I hope that you are able to nail down positive and impactful church staff communication. This is one of the first steps towards a unified church body that is ready to go out there and spread the Gospel of Jesus.
At the same time, though, knowing what to do and implementing it is easier said than done. I suggest checking out my thoughts on church communication as a whole. Communicating with your staff is one piece of the very large and sometimes intimidating puzzle. Navigating other areas like reaching out to prospective members and the community can be tough, but we are here to help.