And Then God Created Staff Meetings

By J. M. Montgomery


When pastors go to seminary, they learn that on the seventh day God ceased from all His work. When they become the leader of a flock, they suspect that on the seventh day God must have created staff meetings.

Staff Meetings

Staff meetings, like committee meetings, can be a source of great irritation to pastors and their staff. However, the staff meeting is a necessary means of effective communication and management, and it should serve both functions. Why, then, do so many staff meetings fall flat? Most of the time, the failure of the staff meeting to accomplish its purpose lies with the pastor or staff leader who has called the meeting.

There are a number of reasons why staff meetings create problems. Let’s look at some of the reasons:

1. The meetings are held on a regular schedule even when there is nothing to be discussed.

2. The staff members have not done their homework, and the result is digression and disorganization.

3. The person in charge does not know how to conduct a meeting.

4. The meetings are held in an atmosphere or environment that is not conducive to a good discussion.

5. The meetings last too long.

6. Worst of all, the meetings do not start on time.

We have looked at some reasons why the meetings are not successful. Now, what can be done to correct the problem? There is no way to insure successful staff meetings, but some general principles should be followed.

1. Hold staff meetings regularly but not more often than is needed for worthwhile communication.

2. Don’t let anyone monopolize the time. Balance the program. Establish give and take.

3. Put the decisions made in the meeting into practice. Make the meeting part of a vital system.

4. Have established objectives.

5. Be prepared.

6. Have someone in charge who is competent (but not always the pastor).

Pastor, it is your responsibility to be a Monday morning quarterback. You should determine through feedback whether the meeting really did achieve what you wanted. If you are not happy with staff meetings, if they are falling flat, try putting someone else in charge. Give your ego a rest.

It might be well for us to remember Paul’s charge to those in Rome: “I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3). There are those who have the ability to speak out in a group, and sometimes they will dominate through force of personality. Their strong natures or quick tongues often inhibit others in the group. I have found that it takes careful observation to draw out a good thought or a new idea from a more reticent staff member. In most cases, the least likely person can do a great job of leading a staff meeting when he is given a chance.

If communication and management are the primary functions of staff meetings, it is important that we understand the terms. Because communication is such an everyday aspect of the pastor’s job, we will not dwell on it. We will look at management very closely though. We will discuss the five basic functions of management:

1. Planning

2. Organizing

3. Staffing

4. Controlling

5. Directing.

With these in mind, Let us examine each one.

Prayer and Planning

Just as the pastor must set aside time for prayer, he also must set aside time for planning. It is not possible to “plan when I have time. ” The life of the church depends upon the two Ps: prayer and planning. Prayer, without a doubt, is the single most important factor in any church’s success, and through prayer comes the ability to plan creatively. It is as reasonable for a pastor to lock his office door, unplug the telephone, and plan as it is for him to go into his “closet” for prayer. There is no other way. You must set aside the time.

The springboard function of management is planning. Without it, things just happen; they “occur without apparent reason or design. ” Effective planning makes demands on those who would be planners; time must be set aside for creative thought.

One of the greatest deterrents to planning is the urgent. In the course of an average day, a pastor or church leader may be called upon to extinguish many fires of varying intensities, some of which recur the next day. The more common varieties of urgencies are mediating and arbitrating misunderstandings; attending committee or staff meetings; counseling on the telephone; and responding to letters, all of which are important. However, one can find an entire day with routine and mundane activities, and at the end of the day he will be exhausted. Yet, he will not possess any feeling of
real accomplishment.

The need to do the urgent can be compared to Gresham’s law of monetary economics: Bad money drives out good money. ” In other words, if one allows it, the day-to-day programmed and routine tasks can drive out the creative planning processes. Perhaps opportunities for growth may go unnoticed, be shoved aside, or be passed by entirely.

After you have set aside time for creative planning, the next step is understanding the two facets of planning. The first is short-range planning or problem solving. Some call this goal setting. As important as short-range planning is, it should be placed within the broader and, in my opinion, more important area of long-range planning.

The best definition of long-range planning is a description of an attempt to uncover God’s strategy and to become a part of it. Short-range planning generally deals with a time span of one month to three years, and long range planning looks beyond three years, out as far as ten or twenty years.

No one knows what tomorrow will bring. Certainly we cannot presume to know what is going to happen in ten years; however, we can know about today.

What we do today will affect our tomorrows. The long-range planning we do will help us to understand the direction we are heading, so that the decisions we make today will be more appropriate in view of the future.

Don’t consider the job of long-range planning completed after you have made your initial plans. The plans need to be reviewed and rewritten on a regular basis. Certainly the planning will need to be reconsidered and modified at least annually.

At this point we might ask ourselves the question: Do we as Christians need to “go through” all this executive stuff, do we need to dwell on planning?

Can’t we just give it all to the Lord? Is all of this really Christian? The Bible has much to say on the subject of management; the word steward basically means manager. We have all been charged to be good managers of what God has given us. Dare we take management lightly? We know we cannot control the future, but we can plan toward a future, the kind of future that we believe God would have us live. Consider Proverbs 21:5: “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.” It certainly can be said that God had long-range plans; we know that from our reading of Genesis. He created the best plan of all: the plan of salvation.

Organization and Staffing

For effective management, the next functions are organizing and staffing. Cohesiveness should be a prime goal of your organization. All departments must function as a part of the whole; all of the parts are equally important and make up the whole (1 Cor. 12:12-14). The Apostle Paul has given us the guidelines; they are certainly as true today as they were when he wrote them.

However, each individual within your organization has talents unique to him or her. Your job is to put the right person in the right job. Often I have called upon a pastor and have been greeted by a receptionist who, though she was a lovely person, just did not have the right personality for the job.

Remember, for many people the receptionist is the first, and sometimes the last, contact they will have with your church.

Select the right person for every function of your organization. Each individual must be able to perform with all the skill required for his position. Too often we have made do with mediocrity or worse; then we have overworked the able staff, while we put up with the unqualified. God’s work desires better.

Perhaps it is time to take a lesson from the world of business in this area. The competent executive knows that high caliber personnel do not usually come at bargain rates. It is not economical to hire people who perform on a mediocre level. In the world of business, Andrew Carnegie was without question a success. It is said that on his tombstone there is an inscription that reads, “I managed to hire men better than myself. ”

I am convinced that it is better to have one adequately paid, efficient, able person than any number of less capable ones. Most church boards consist of businessmen. If they are successful they did not get there by accident. They had qualified people on their staff. Shouldn’t you?

Now that you have dedicated, quality people, how do you retain them?

1. Give them a challenge.

2. Let them have responsibility

3. Involve them in planning decisions

4. Regard them as associates rather than subordinates.

5. Provide the opportunity for promotion from within the organization.

In short, weld them into a cohesive body. The “one-man-show” concept of leadership is neither scriptural nor conducive to morale or growth. Pastors should be careful, as Peter said, ” . . . nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge” (1 Pet. 5: 3). Pastors, in other words, should not be church bosses.

We all can read in the Bible about the pastor’s role. We know the position the Lord took regarding bossism: “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them . . . . But it is not so among you” (Mark 10: 42-43). We must not confuse the role of leadership with authority just because of the call God has extended to pastors. There should be no confusion either that the flock willingly gave the pastor part of the authority that belonged to them. They give the authority to the pastor, and he dares not demand it. When authority or the “one-man-show” is
excessive, it stifles communication and incentive. It also creates a feeling in staff members of “us” and “them” and a possibility of division within the organization.

I have seen the “one-man-show” situation carried to many extremes. Perhaps the most ludicrous is a pastor who spends precious time personally approving all of the checks for payroll and accounts payable. He thinks that this allows him to exercise his high position and indispensability. In reality, if the checks need to be written, the obligations already have been incurred and it is too late to approve or disapprove.

Staffing is the systematic involvement of people within the organization to accomplish the purpose of the organization. People are the primary resource of your church and organization.

Part of staffing is obviously recruiting. Your church or organization must put thought and effort into the task of recruiting or staffing. You need a method of recruiting rather than a last-minute “who-can-we-get-for-the-job” attitude. Too often the pastor or leader is carrying too much of the load and the board might then decide that he needs an assistant. Finding the pastor an
assistant will surely help the pastor, but is it going to solve the recruiting problem? Many organizations would do better to obtain a competent recruiter who also can function as a trainer. In this way, instead of just helping the pastor, the potential is there to multiply the ministry. Of course, the recruiter needs to be someone who shares the pastor’s vision and knows the people who are available.

Often we find that those responsible for recruiting view the church or organization as a vehicle which uses people. However, they should view the church as a place where people relate to one another and perform tasks. It is imperative that we stop forcing people into jobs they don’t want or for which they are not equipped. How often have you found that people who accepted a job
after being pressured into it did not perform it well? Did they also complain so much that others caught the negative attitude?

We must remember that a Christian organization is unique in that we are all part of one another and we are responsible for one another. At the heart of every organization, Christian or otherwise, are the people. We, as Christians, must function with as much efficiency, if not more, than the world does. We also must set an example of unity. It is important that each member of the staff be able to identify with and strive toward the goals of the organization as a whole. Involvement in the organization’s goals is a complete necessity no matter how small the task might be.


Controlling and planning are almost twins. In planning you and your staff outline what you are going to do. In controlling you review the performance of the organization on a regular basis. You monitor and verify your immediate goal.

Once your organization has reached its immediate goal, you must reevaluate your position and set new goals; the process of planning starts all over again. Remember, we all have one ultimate goal of serving Christ, and we must set ourselves toward that goal continually.


Directing an organization demands the qualities of leadership. If a pastor has truly been called by God to the ministry, he will have these qualities. Now he must begin to use these qualities in directing the organization. Directing begins with a clearly identified goal: one that is realistic and has the enthusiastic participation and support of everyone in the organization.

It is important in directing an organization to be specific about goals. Too often they are ill defined and the staff is left to guess How high is up? or How much is too many? Goals should be, when possible, quantified-such as dollars and cents, ratios, and time periods. This is not meant to imply that goals must be rigid. It is good practice to remain flexible enough to accomplish the goal rather than to set a rigid goal that is unattainable. If we keep in mind that all of our goals and plans are predicated upon the will of the Lord, we can say,

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit. ” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that” (Jas.4:13-15).

Directing is in no way the same as dictating. People must be permitted to apply their own thought processes and work habits to their jobs without feeling compelled to “obey or else. ” Individualism and latitude usually stimulate effectiveness and pride in work.

As we discussed in our section on planning, we should not allow solving problems to crowd out time for planning. So, what is the best way to go about problem solving? Here are a few techniques that have worked for many people over the years. Perhaps you will want to try them.

First and foremost, pray and them pray some more. Then, with God’s help, start work on solving the problem. Next, put the problem down on paper, put it into words. It is next to impossible to analyze a problem while it is only in your head. Get it out! Putting the problem down on paper forces you to be specific.

When you have it written down, ask yourself, “How can I solve this problem?” You must assume that there is a good solution. However, there are times when the only solution is to accept the situation for the present, and then not let it distract you from other important tasks. It is a profitable habit to distinguish between problems you can solve and those you cannot. If the problem seems to be one you should be able to solve, but you don’t seem to be solving it, it could be that you have not identified the real problem.

Keep reviewing the specifics until you identify the real problem. Ask yourself, “What is the best possible way for me to solve this problem today?”

In other words, focus your attention on the present. If you don’t carry over assumptions from the past, you may gain fresh insight. Yesterday you might have used a technique for solving it that didn’t work. If so, don’t dwell on it-look for a new approach today.

When you approach a difficult situation, it is important to remember that the solution comes from only two sources (1) information you have in your memory, and (2) new information obtained from other sources. Often information from memory alone is not enough. First, ask yourself, How much do I know about the situation, and how and where can I obtain more information abut it? An active search for more than one way to understand the problem will increase the number of alternative solutions.

Not long ago I was following my own advice. I had outlined a situation on paper, and l had determined that I could solve the problem. I was at the point of finding the solution, when a long and perplexing telephone conversation interrupted my problem-solving time. When I got back to the problem, the solution seemed very distant. I had discovered that proper timing is important to solving many problems. Ask yourself, “Is this the best time to work out the solution?” If it is not, move on to something else, if possible. You might even find, as I did, that the problem is not nearly as large or as perplexing the next day.

I might as well confess that what I was concerned about was a “people problem”; it involved my opinion versus another’s in a particular situation.

The next day I was able to see that if I gave my ego a rest and let the other person be right, when in fact we both were a little right and a little wrong, the problem could be solved.

I read recently that one of the biggest time wasters in the day-to-day functioning of an organization is the game of buck passing, blaming, and just plain needing to be right. Too often we view being wrong as a sign of failure and thus being right becomes all important. Frequently hurt feelings accompany the proving that “I am right. ” One’s need to be right all the time will
intimidate people. People will feel it is a waste of time to discuss an issue with those who think they are always right or become offended if they are not right all the time. People will think, “He already has his mind made up,” and a great deal of creative thinking and discussion will be stifled. Most of the time it is not a matter of right or wrong, just differences of opinion.

Beware though of the oversimplified answer. Sometimes our wish for a simple solution causes us to reject anything that appears slightly complicated. In this event we may fail to size up a situation accurately because we have oversimplified it. Some problems just do not have answers and searching for simple solutions just will not work. The problem must be solved by pure hard work.

This brings us to the next-to-the-last of the problem solving techniques. Sometimes we must stop looking for a perfect solution. Seldom have I found an absolutely perfect solution for a problem. Some of us fail to realize this. We do not want to try any solution unless it is certain to work.

What we should do is try the most promising solution and continue to look for a better one. Even a mediocre solution, if used, is better than a superior one never put into action.

Now for the last, and best, problem-solving technique: give the Holy Spirit permission to work. How many times have you had what seemed to be an unsolvable problem, and after making desperate attempts to solve it, you have gone to bed only to awaken with an answer? Some credit the subconscious. I prefer to thank the Lord and give the credit to the Holy Spirit. Can we use
this as a technique for problem solving? Certainly! Learn all you can about the problem, and then let your mind digest it. Pray about it. Give it to the Holy Spirit, and then try not to be surprised when the answer comes at a totally unexpected time.

I am certain that the above techniques will not solve all the problems the modern clergyman meets daily. It is my hope, however that these suggestions might give you some new insights into problem solving.