Building Church Staff and Volunteer Morale

Posted by Aaron Buer on July 2, 2020

For the past few months, our churches have experienced significant challenges.

Our staff and volunteers have carried the weight of change, stress, and uncertainty.

We’ve asked them to pivot and pivot and then pivot again. (I’m starting to think of the word “pivot” as a curse word.) 

While I’m proud of how my church has adapted and grown, it has been stressful for our whole team.

It’s been an exhausting season filled with uncertainty, and social distancing and remote work has put a strain on staff culture and morale.

For many churches, I believe staff morale is likely low right now. 

So, let’s talk about a few ways to rebuild our church staff and volunteer morale.

Communication

One of the easiest ways to communicate value and let people know they matter is to keep them in the loop.

communication
We feel good when we know what’s happening.

The moments where we are surprised by new information are the moments that feel bad—like someone didn’t think of us or didn’t think we were important enough to keep informed. 

A simple way to communicate value to your team and raise morale is to focus on clear communication.

When making a decision, I try to think through: “Who needs to know this?”

And, when I’m at my best, I attempt to pre-communicate with anyone who will be affected by a decision, before they find out in an email or a meeting.

Doing this communicates value. You aren’t just a cog in the machine, you matter, and I thought of you. 
 

Direction

A team with a high level of morale knows the collective goals and their priorities.

They can answer two important questions:

  1. Where are we headed?
  2. What’s my role?  

Clarity around direction is a big deal.

direction
People want to do work that matters, and people like to win.

It would be like playing a sport without keeping score or ever declaring a winner.

It just doesn’t work well.  

So, if you want to raise the morale of your team, clarify the win.

Set some goals and a direction.

This is especially important during this time because the COVID pandemic has turned everything upside down, and our goals are confusing right now.

Bringing clarity around your direction will help rally your people together.  

If you’re unsure how you’re doing in this area, take some time to ask team members what their priorities are right now.

If their answers are aligned, you’re probably doing well.

If their answers are all over the place, you may need to clarify your direction.

Listening

Team members on a high-functioning team feel like they have a voice.

When decisions are made, they feel like their point of view and concerns are welcomed.

It’s not that everyone has to help make the decision, that doesn’t work very well.

It’s that as decisions are made, the team believes what they think and see was heard by leadership and incorporated into the decision-making process.  

listening
As we begin to emerge from remote working environments and an incredible amount of change and upheaval, one of the wisest things leaders can do is take the time to listen to their teams. 

“How are you doing?”

“What are you seeing?”

“How has your ministry changed?”

“What needs to permanently change?”

“What do we need to get back to?”  

“What does our leadership need to know?”  

Leaders who truly listen usually have a strong staff and volunteer culture.

Community

People want to feel like they are part of something bigger.

One of the greatest challenges to remote work is creating a sense of community.

community
You have to work hard and be very intentional to build community when you can’t be together physically.  

As we emerge from stay-at-home orders and remote working environments, one of the easiest ways to invest in the morale of your team is to bring your people together in community.

Remind them that they are connected and part of something bigger.
  

Discipline 

Perhaps the greatest hindrance to a strong staff culture is a person.

Yes, I’m talking about a particular person who is part of your team and makes everyone else on the team miserable.

This is a person who people have to work around because they are ineffective, emotionally toxic, or frustrating to work with.  

One of the challenges of leading a church staff or volunteer team is that, well...churches are supposed to be nice!

As church leaders, we often fail to confront or discipline team members who make everyone else miserable because of their attitude or inability to work effectively.

discipline
My point here is that you can’t have a strong staff culture or morale without making difficult decisions.

For the sake of your team, it’s important to confront toxic behavior and transition ineffective people into a role that actually fits their skill-set.

A toxic person, or a person in the wrong role, can derail all your clear communication, goal-setting, and community building.  

I wonder if there’s a tough, but necessary, conversation that needs to happen?

 

Wrap Up

This season feels like an important season for rebuilding morale.
I hope this post has been helpful in providing some focus areas for investing in your staff and volunteer morale. 

Topics: Advice

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