How to Retain Your Best Church Staff

Posted by Aaron Buer on April 28, 2022

There’s something that happens with young and talented staff members in churches.  They do great work.  They build a strong ministry and then…they leave.  They are presented with a better opportunity somewhere else, and they take it.

You’ve probably lived through a few of these.  Or, maybe you’re that younger staff member who is considering an exciting opportunity.  

Here’s a question:  How do you build toward the future of your own church when your best young staff leave?  If you’re going to have a future, you need those young and talented people to stick around!  

So, how do you keep your best staff?  I’d love to share a few things I’ve learned leading my staff.  

 

Invest in Them

One of the reasons young and talented staff leave is because they don’t feel valued.  They feel like you don’t care about their future.  They feel like a cog in a machine.  If you want to keep your best staff around, invest in them.  Here are three ways to invest in your staff.

  1. Invest in them relationally.  Build quality relationships with your staff.  Get to know them.  Ask great questions about their family and life outside of work.  

  2. Invest in their development.  What can you do to grow your best people in their skills?  Could you send them to a conference, pay for a class, or possibly even a master’s degree? 

  3. Invest in them by helping them make connections with key leaders.  Sometimes providing young leaders with proximity to the executive pastor, senior pastor, or board members makes them feel valued and important.  

 

Give them Influence

Often, young and talented leaders leave because they don’t feel like they have a voice.  In other words, they don’t feel like they have influence.  If you want to keep your best people, you’ll have to give them opportunities to influence.

A key idea is something one of my mentors calls a “stretch assignment.”  Can you give your emerging leader a project that is a little beyond their experience level?  An important event?  A new ministry to launch?  Stretch them and provide them with an opportunity to lead and influence.  

When people feel challenged, they usually stay engaged.  Inviting your best staff into greater leadership and influence is a great way to keep them around.  

 

Challenge Them

In my experience, the kind of leaders you want to keep are the kind of leaders who aren’t satisfied with mediocrity.  They have something in them that is constantly driving toward excellence and improvement.  

Here’s what often happens:  We like a particular staff member and want to keep them so we don’t challenge them.  We don’t give them feedback on their weaknesses and how to improve because we don’t want to hurt their feelings. 

This is exactly the wrong approach!  The kind of leaders you want to stick around crave constructive feedback that will help them grow and become a better leader.  

One of the most strategic things you can do is to find ways to share constructive feedback with young and talented leaders.  Rather than feeling like you don’t like them, they will likely feel valued because you took the time to help them achieve their potential.  

 

Reward Them

Here’s a crazy idea.  What if you said this to your young and talented staff member that you really hope sticks around: 

“Listen. We think you are doing an incredible job and you have huge potential in leadership.  We want you to stick around.  We want you to be part of this church.  Here’s a $2000 bonus.  Did I mention that we really want you to be a part of our staff team for a long time?”  

Can you even do that?!?  

We do it all the time!  Seriously.  And you should too.  We call it a “retention bonus.”  Once a year, we look around at our staff and ask “Who would we be really sad to lose?”

We make a list and then we give those people a sizable bonus.  I’m just saying you can do this, and you probably should. It’s a great way to keep your young and talented staff around.  

 

Wrap Up

You need your young and talented staff.  They are your future.  How can you invest in them, give them influence, help them grow and reward them so that they want to stick around?  This could be an important focus for you and your staff over the coming months.  

Topics: Advice

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