Recently, I was asked to describe briefly what staff development looked like at our church. After taking a few minutes to sketch out a response it seemed like something that might benefit others so I took a little more time to do this well. I don’t believe this is perfect. I’m sure that there is more that I could and should be doing, or things that I could be doing more effectively, but here is what it looks like in general right now. I’m 100% sure it will change. Here is a year in the life of staff development for me at Mosaic Church . . .
Big Group Level Staff Development and Encouragement:
Staff Retreat-Each year, the staff team takes a retreat (our next one is April 30th to May 2nd). The goals of this time are:
- Encourage the team with great teaching and worship that they don’t have to do anything to make happen. Each weekend our team works tirelessly to make church happen for others. And even though we require everyone to actually attend one gathering, sometimes it can be hard to turn your mind off in the middle of the craziness. So at our staff retreat, I bring in an outside speaker and an outside worship band. I even hire a guy from another church to run Media and Sound so that our tech team does not have to.
- Have fun as a team through shared meals, games and simple relaxation in between a morning and evening session. As our team grows, this concentrated time away becomes super important in relationship building and keeping.
- Re-Orient the team through re-casting vision and helping everyone understand what we are all trying to accomplish for the gospel.
- Thank the team with time away from work and even a small gift. (Last time it was a custom metal water bottle with the Mosaic Logo on it and hand made luggage tags for travel.)
Christmas Party-Each December, our Lead Pastor and his wife host a great Christmas Party for all the staff and spouses at their home. There is little to no agenda. It’s just a fun time to be together. We usually do some sort of game driven gift exchange. Each director level person takes time to publicly praise individuals on his or her team and them a gift. (We leverage AMEX points to buy Christmas gifts for the staff).
Conferences for the whole team- Because Orlando has such extensive conference facilities and tourism, many national church leader conferences choose to have their big events here. Sometimes we participate in one as a team for a couple of days. This cuts out all the extra costs of a conference such as airfare, car rentals and extra meals.
Fun Days- Once or twice a year, we take the team out for a day of agenda free fun. We try to plug this into a time when we think the team will be in need of some connection and a break. Our last Fun Day was at the Kennedy Space Center last year. It tied in nicely to our story as a church that was about to “launch” into a whole new phase of life in our new building. Our next Fun Day will be in the middle of the busy Fall season and the location is TBA.
Seminary Cost offset- All of our staff and residents are offered the opportunity to go to Reformed Theological Seminary and only pay 1/3 of the cost. RTS has a program where, if the church pays a third and the student pays a third, then RTS will scholarship the last third. Currently we have about 5 people taking advantage of this opportunity.
Reading Week- Once a year in either January or February, the staff has what is called “Reading Week”. The idea here is that we cancel all normally scheduled meetings for departments or directors etc. and we keep our schedule as free as possible creating an extra 10-20 hours to do some reading on something that will grow us as a team. We don’t tell them what to read. We just tell them, “read those books you’ve been wanting to read to make you a better worship leader, kids min leader, etc.”. In addition to the developmental nature of the week, it sends a clear message to the team that we care about them and we trust them to figure out the best way to spend that time. It has become an important part of our yearly schedule.
All Staff Gatherings-Once a month (taking certain months off each year around holidays or summer) we do an all staff gathering that spouses, interns and residents are all welcome to attend (Lay Elders are also invited, but due to the daytime schedule, it’s hard for them to attend). These gatherings run from 10AM to 2PM on a Tuesday.
(Note that we call them Gatherings, not meetings. Meetings are all business, this is meant to be like church for our staff).
Here are components of these gatherings. Some happen every month, some are intermittent::
- Vision oriented teaching from Renaut (LP) or Phil (XP).
- We bring in guest speakers at times to talk about something of developmental benefit for the team. (we’ve had experts on budgeting, team development, soul care, etc.)
- 2-4 times a year we assign a book to read and discuss at our next all staff gathering. (The team is currently reading “Breaking the Islam Code” by JD Grear).
- Introduce new staff and give everyone a chance to get to know them with a few questions.
- Celebrate milestone like births, marriages, engagements etc.
- Talk through shifts happening in the org chart or various ministries.
- Remind the team of various aspects of our guidelines and procedures.
- Celebrate the team through something we call “Throwing Sun” where people can shout out encouragement to fellow team members for something they’ve seen in the last month.
- Prepare the team for things that are coming down the road like Easter etc.
- Leverage in house experts to talk through areas of development. For example, we had Brady White teach on LGBTQ issues one month and Kerri-Ann Hayes teach on issues related to Special Needs Awareness.
- In 2018, we are adding segment called “Meet the Elders” where one lay Elder will come in and be interviewed.
Here is a link to the most recent All Staff Gathering:: Feb 2018-
(Note: these are my notes, and the agenda I share with anyone who has a part in the gathering, so it’s a little scattered, but you’ll get the gist).
Smaller Group Level Staff Development and Encouragement:
Directors Meetings- Department Leaders meet twice a month to get on the same page and hear from each other on needs and issues we need to be thinking through. Renaut and Phil lead these meetings and it is a space where we restate the mission and vision again and again to keep everyone moving in the right direction.
Department Meetings- Each department does their own development based on the unique nature of their teams and focus. Phil visits these meetings a couple times each year to be an encouragement, answer questions and do targeted development based on what each team needs. Phil also takes each department out to lunch once a year to connect with that team in a more casual setting.
Design/Story Team- Because we have not yet hired a Communications Director (it’s the next big hire) Phil currently leads this department and will continue to do so until the position is filled.
Emerging Leaders Cohort- Every other month, I gather with our youngest and least experienced staff members to do general ministry development with them for a couple of hours. They often show up with a list of questions, and I have some things prepared to train them in. This is a time when I just lean on 20+ years of experience to help them move forward in their own development. For them, it gets them time with an executive leader instead of going through their department director. For me, it gives me a chance to learn how to lead millennials before they actually become my direct reports in the next few years. They don’t know it, but I’m doing research when I meet with them:)
Conferences- Teams are encouraged to find and attend conferences that would be of unique developmental benefit to them. The church covers these costs for them within reason. No more than one a year in most situations. My role here is to simply tell them that it’s something they can and should do.
Individual Level Staff Development and Encouragement:
One on One Meetings with Direct Reports- Phil meets with each department leader (director level) at least once a month formally. These times are used to catch up on what that team member is working on in their area of responsibility. Because our team is such a hard working and self motivated group, they don’t generally need much more than encouragement. But occasionally, there is a corrective need or small re-direction needed.
Unscheduled time with Direct Reports- Over the course of any given week I’m in contact through text, call, email and quick meetings in the hallways with just about every one of my direct reports and others.
Weekly Encouragement- Once a week, my calendar tells me to encourage two staff members with some kind words. My assistant schedules this out for me so that over the course of a year, each staff member and lay elder receive one or two texts or phone calls just to say “I’m praying for you” or some other encouragement. It’s too easy to only talk business. I want our team to feel like they really know that I’m praying for them.
General Availability to All Staff- Every staff member knows that they have the right and freedom to schedule a meeting with me at any time and for any reason, personal or professional. Because they have great department leaders (directors), I find that not many need to grab time with me very often. But when there is a conflict that needs to be worked out, or they are dealing with something above their directors skill set or experience, I get called in to assist and I’m glad to do so.
Intentionally unscheduled time- Once a week, My assistant has time in my calendar that is meant to be unscheduled time for any staff member to just “grab a few minutes with me”. I usually sit in a very visible place in the lobby and work on email or something. And as I sit there, I’ll have a steady stream of staff, interns and residents come over and say “Hey, can I grab a few minutes with you”. I find that two hours of unscheduled time often saves me five to ten hours of individually scheduled meetings because not everyone needs an hour with me, they just need 10 minutes.
Dinners with staff couples- Over the course of a year, Aimee and I grab dinner with each staff couple (staff member and spouse) just to connect and look into marriage health etc. Sometimes we’ll add on something fun like mini-golf. In a ministry context, it’s super important to connect with the staff’s spouses as well as the staff member.
Encouragement for staff kids- Last year, I started something new. I mailed a handwritten note to all of the kids of our staff along with a gift certificate for ice cream or movies depending on their age. It was fun to hear back from some that it was the very first piece of mail they had ever received. In the note, I took time to tell them how awesome their mom or dad was and how much I liked working with them at the church. In addition to it being a fun thing for the kids, the parents really felt supported by me. When you care for someones kids, it sends a huge message to them and garners quite a bit of loyalty and credibility. This will become a yearly thing for me from here on out.
Conferences- Individual staff members are encouraged to find and attend conferences that would be of unique developmental benefit to them. The church covers these costs for them within reason. No more than one a year in most situations.
Resources- The cheapest way to develop staff members is to give them the freedom to buy books that they want to read to get better at what they do. There are no plane tickets, car rentals, meals or reg fees to pay for. It’s just a $10-20 book. As such, I tell our team all the time to buy and read anything and everything that they think will help them grow in their roles and to do that learning on the churches time and dime.
What about Annual Evaluations?
You may notice that their is no “Annual Evaluation” built into this rhythm. That’s intentional. I believe in “Constant Evaluation” rather than “Annual Evaluation”. There is a quite a bit of research being done right now demonstrating that the traditional annual evaluation model is broken, unhelpful and creating a lot of sideways energy. This is especially true with millennials, which is about half of our staff at this point.
Here are a couple of articles (written by others) that summarizes my feelings on the matter.
I truly believe that If I’m doing constant evaluation rather than annual evaluation, it actually makes the annual examination perfunctory and useless. Since our pay raises for the last 5 years have all been an effort to catch up to industry standards, there was not a clear need to tie an appraisal to a raise. This may change in the future. In the next year, I’d like to see if I can bring some additional tracking to my style of constant evaluation.
My leadership of the staff team continues to grow. I’m a lifelong learner so I’m always looking to see how others are doing it and trying to figure out what makes sense for our context. I don’t believe I’m an expert on this by any means.
This is XP gold. Thanks Phil for “taking a little more time” to put all this down. I will be referring back to this over and over.