Dear Staff, Sincerely, the Senior Pastor
Several years ago a pastor friend invited me to fill his pulpit. I told him that I would preach a sermon to his church that he couldn’t preach. The title: “How to Love Your Pastor.”
It’s a sermon that church members need to hear, but which most pastors would feel uncomfortable preaching to their own congregations.
Now 9Marks is letting me do it again, except this time I'm writing an article that church staff need. The title: “How to Bless Your Boss.”
By God’s grace, I have served as a senior pastor for over thirteen years. In that time I have had the privilege of working with over twenty paid staffers, from full-time associate pastors to quarter-time nursery directors. In light of this experience, I’ve pulled together a few thoughts on how a church staff member can effectively serve, encourage, and help the senior minister. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Pray daily. “I urge then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority” (1 Tim. 2:2). This includes your lead pastor. Do you pray for him? Daily? Serve the senior pastor with a hidden ministry of faithful intercession. And pray for him publicly at ministry team meetings or when you lead congregational worship.
2. Seek the Lord. Maintain your own personal fellowship with Christ. Haven’t you found that people are easier to lead and work with when they are living in obedience to God? And don’t problems arise whenever we fall back into pride, selfishness, and fear? Your boss faces the same dynamic in trying to lead you. Make yourself easy to lead by following Jesus.
3. Be honest. Don’t be a “yes man.” Have the courage to challenge your boss’s thinking or approach. At first, he may not respond like you’re blessing him, but a wise leader will eventually listen. You have a perspective he needs in order to lead effectively. Of course, speak respectfully and lovingly, and at the right time and place. But speak up nonetheless. As you speak the truth in love, you will help your whole staff team grow in Christ-likeness (Eph. 4:15).
4. Be loyal. Don’t undermine your boss. Speak well of him and his decisions to church members and other staffers, even if you disagree with him. If you have an issue with him, address it directly. If you think he has sinned, don’t gossip. Speak to him in person. And encourage disaffected church members who have concerns with him to do the same. The last thing any senior pastor needs is an associate playing Absalom at the gate with disgruntled members.
5. Work hard. You know how invaluable a dedicated, diligent volunteer can be to the work of your youth ministry or your hospitality committee. Be that same hard-working person for your boss. If he asks you to do something, just do it. And do it quickly, well, and joyfully. And even if your senior pastor doesn’t inspire heroism, remember you are working hard for Jesus: “Whatever you do, work at it all your heart as working for the Lord, not men…It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Col. 3:23-24). May your boss brag about your diligence the way Paul often boasted of the hard work of his co-laborers.
6. Absorb shocks. When churches experience conflict, members often want to take their beefs “straight to the top.” Help your boss in the ministry of peacemaking by courageously intercepting rising rancor instead of always passing the buck. Be a shock absorber for him by working out issues with other staffers directly. Don’t be the repeated cause of brushfires that he has to extinguish. Work for unity and peace in the body, so that he might be free to devote himself to prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:6).
7. Visit the bridge. Church staffers often toil away in one compartment of the ship. They can easily become preoccupied with the needs of their particular ministry area, whether for finances, volunteers, or space. These can be valid concerns for vital ministries. However, your boss must stand on the bridge and guide the whole ship. Bless him by standing watch with him on the bridge, so to speak, and sharing his concern for the church’s overall direction. Then align your ministry efforts with the church’s mission. Don’t be a squeaky wheel, but be a champion for the vision God gives your boss and the elders.
8. Encourage often. Finally, tell your boss when he does well. Encourage him in his preaching. Let him know when he stepped up and led effectively in a meeting or handled a sticky situation adroitly. Senior pastors are still flesh and blood. They need encouragement just like everyone else. Tell him when he makes you proud to serve with him.
One final thought: When you bless your boss like this, you end up blessing the whole body by modeling a godly response to authority. They will see in you what a biblical relationship to pastoral leadership can look like. And you will bless the body as they see their staff members loving each other. Just as parents brim with joy when they watch their children playing together happily, so the congregation will delight in seeing their staff work in unison. "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity" (Ps. 133:1). May your relationship with your senior pastor display the gospel’s power for the whole church family to see.