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12 Ways to Build Staff Morale

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Good staff morale can help you build momentum in the good times and sustain you in the hard times. Here are some great ways to cultivate it.

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Why is it that some church teams stick together like brothers and sisters even through adversity?

Their attendance may be stuck, perhaps few baptisms are taking place and the offerings remain under budget but the morale is still strong. They stay on mission, press forward and genuinely enjoy being with each other.

Their morale is high.

The classic illustration is a church plant. There is often minimal or slow success in the beginning. There is more effort than results, progress is tough and the resources are modest. Yet, everyone is fired up, the morale is high and the team sticks together like family.

Other church teams seem to realize consistent success, but they don’t experience a positive esprit de corps. The numbers are good, services are mostly full and the general outlook is that all is well. But among the staff it’s more professional than personal. They lack community and the laughter is minimal.

Their morale is low.

We’re all familiar with signs of low morale:
• Increasing complaints
• Lack of enthusiasm
• Uncooperative spirit
• Minimal effort
• Chronic discouragement
• Assigning blame
• Negative attitudes

We’re also familiar with some of the causes of low morale:
• Poor communication—staff feeling left out
• Over-staffing
• Unclear expectations and changing goals
• Change seems impossible, no one will listen
• Allowing politics and gossip
• Lack of coaching, development, evaluation and feedback
• Micromanagement and lack of true empowerment

None of us have all this perfect, and there are always ebbs and flows to morale. All churches go through tough and stressful seasons. Teams with high morale are resilient, resourceful and can make it through those tough times.

High morale is a church staff’s best friend. High morale to a church staff team is like momentum is to the overall church. The more time you can intentionally invest in the morale of your team, the better. So here are 12 ways to build high morale on a church staff team:

1. Offer consistent development and new opportunities.

Consistent leadership and personal development is essential for high morale. A simple approach is best. Teach leadership, study leadership books together and put good coaching into play. New job opportunities are essential. If your church cannot provide new positions, you can offer special projects and other opportunities to keep high achievers motivated.

2. Welcome new ideas and innovation.

One of the things I love about the multi-site model is how “central services” helps press innovation forward. An openness to new ideas from an entire team is essential to success. It’s true that you can’t implement every idea, but the more ideas expressed in open conversation the better the chances are that you will find the best ideas!

3. Demonstrate genuine love, kindness and respect.

From the top leadership to the newest staff member, the expression of love, kindness and respect is core to high morale. Few things will lift morale like giving the benefit of the doubt when there’s a question, forgiving quickly and showing intentional kindness under pressure.

4. Practice honest conversations and make tough decisions.

The quickest road to a dysfunctional and unhappy staff is one that does not include candid conversations about real issues. Many church teams have been taken out by the proverbial elephant in the room. Sometimes tough decisions are required. Teams that will not address the issues will suffer in both joy and productivity.

5. Stop chasing fair, but do cultivate a sense of reasonable.

Life is not fair, and if you try to do everything the same for every staff member, you are chasing an unrealistic expectation. However, there is an intuitive sense of what is reasonable. This means there is no playing favorites and everyone on the team is highly valued and cared for.

6. Create a sense of community and belonging.

Some churches like to use the word family for their staff and others don’t, but all will benefit by cultivating a sense of genuine community where it’s not just coworkers but brothers and sisters in Christ. Things like worship, prayer and communion together make a big difference. Share burdens and comfort in difficult times. (Good old-fashioned fun is also integral to a sense of community.)

7. Confront problems and unacceptable behavior.

Few things discourage staff and lower morale more than when the primary leaders won’t deal with problems and deliver solutions. Whether it’s unacceptable behavior in the staff, or systems in the church that don’t work etc., problems cannot be left untended. Even if you can’t fully solve something immediately, the staff members need to know you acknowledge it and are working on it.

8. Outlaw boring and unproductive meetings.

It’s often the “little” things that really bug staff and get them discouraged. Poorly organized and poorly led meetings that ramble on without productive results drive good staff members nuts. Start with a clear written agenda, get the right people in the room, make assignments clear and follow up.

9. Practice consistent and appropriate compensation.

Compensation is one of the most complex subjects in the church. Doing it right requires consistent diligence. It’s essential to conduct salary surveys, utilize a clear and written structure approved by your board and not to make decisions driven by emotion or favoritism. It can be tough to navigate between generosity and prudence, but both sides are critical to keeping morale strong.

10. Recognize above and beyond effort and achievement.

You might be surprised how much you boost morale by something as simple as giving others credit and expressing appreciation. Recognize those who go the second mile and achieve fantastic results. From public praise to monetary rewards it’s important to show appreciation. It doesn’t always involve money, but if you want to recognize someone financially and your budget is tight, you can give a modest gift card and the impact is still very positive and encouraging.

11. Encourage personal physical fitness.

Physical fitness promotes mental, emotional and physical well-being! Barb, our HR director, is a fitness enthusiast and encourages our entire staff to participate in a regular exercise program. No one is forced, of course, and she finds deals around town for great rates at various gyms. Barb makes it fun!

12. Communicate a clear and compelling vision.

Your staff want and need to know where the church is going and the plan to get there! High morale is always directly connected to vision and direction. A clear and compelling vision boosts morale both when you have strong momentum and when you face more difficult seasons in your church.

Which morale builders on this list will help your team in the next 90 days?

Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. This article was originally published on Reiland’s blog, Developing Church Leaders.

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