Christianity is built on relationships. Our relationship with God. Our relationships with one another. Jesus taught us that in what he said and how he lived.
As ministers on a church staff, one of the most important things we can do is to model healthy relationships, particularly with one another. The pace of life and ministry can make this challenging if we are not intentional about cultivating those relationships and our life together as a staff team. We can get caught up in the responsibilities and deadlines of our own area of ministry and forget that we are in this together.
I recently spoke with a pastor who was facing many new additions to his staff team. He wanted to be intentional about the relational culture of that new team and was considering creating a staff covenant. It got me to thinking about the types of things I would consider to be essential in such a covenant.
When times are good, the relational commitments we identify in a covenant may seem obvious, self-evident. “They go without saying.” But when the world gets challenging, when ministry is chaotic, or people or events disappoint, we can subtly slip into behaviors and attitudes, ways of relating that are self-protective, but may not be as God honoring or kingdom building as we would like them to be.
A covenant reminds us of our shared identity as a staff. It is one of the ways scripture suggests we can organize ourselves to advance God’s agenda. When we are about to respond in a way that is more driven by emotion or pride, there is always a voice from among the group that reminds us – “That’s not who we are.” Or when the right way is the hard way, the voice that says, “Because this is who we are.”
I offer several of my own ideas for a covenant here as a way to start a conversation – between you and your own staff, and among the community of churches and ministers who are passionate about helping one another to cultivate healthy churches. Where are we healthy? What areas do we need to strengthen?
We will pursue excellence in our areas of ministry, but we will never be in competition with one another. A common vision is critical to everyone rowing in the same direction. It is good to be passionate about our area of ministry, but ultimately it’s not about us. There is a larger goal at hand.
We will speak honestly and openly with one another as we talk through the issues and challenges of ministry. When we are free to be ourselves in staff conversations we can say what we think or feel and not wonder if we will pay for it later. Likewise, when we are able to be vulnerable and put our hopes and concerns and fears on the table, to be both encouraged and cautioned, we create a safe space from which to take risks, to innovate, to call our folks to something more – to discover what God might be up to in our midst.
We can disagree greatly about how to handle a particular situation, but when we leave the room, we will stand together. We are a staff team. We value the diversity of the gifts and experiences around the table by debating ideas, not individuals. When we come to a decision, we are all in. We take the accolades and the criticisms together.
We will be instruments of peace not discord, of unity not division. What we do and say can set the emotional tone in the congregation, consciously or unconsciously, for good or for ill. We need to calm anxieties, not fuel them. We need to help others (and ourselves) to resolve issues directly with the persons involved, not talk about the issue with others. Under the best of circumstances, there is much room in relationships for miscommunication, misunderstanding and mistakes. We should expect all three and be ready to create room for grace and understanding and redemption.
We will intentionally love one another. We will do life together – playing and praying together. We will try to be as real and as authentic as we know how to be. We will make time for one another, for shared experiences. To listen to each other. To know one another. To pray for each other as we are becoming the people and the ministers God created us to be. As we mess up and seek forgiveness. As we hurt and need comforting. As we discern God’s voice and take risks. As we laugh and love and serve together.
What does your staff covenant look like?
Minister of Spiritual Formation, FBC Wilmington NC
Consultant and Coach with The Center for Healthy Churches
Jayne Davis has served as the Minister of Spiritual Formation at First Baptist Church, Wilmington, NC since 2001. Prior to going into ministry, she was the Executive Director of a non-profit organization and worked as a strategic planning consultant for early childhood initiatives. Jayne is a certified coach, working with both individuals and churches, and is a part of the CBFNC coaching network. She is also a partner in Hopeful Imagination, a ministry encouraging and supporting churches as they
seek God’s direction in a changing world.