10 Values of a Stellar Church Staff

Bricks In the PathAt Grace Hills, one of the most important things we ever talk about is our Code – our Core Values. We talk about these values in every membership class and in most staff meetings. They’ve done more to guide our growth than anything else we’ve written down.

Recently I began reflecting on where our church’s staff needs to go as a team and it occurred to me that while our church, as a whole, understands who we are because of our Code, our staff may not have a strong identity as a team because I’ve never clearly and succinctly articulated my own values for those who join our ministry in a leadership role.

So I wrote out the ten values I hold most dear when it comes to church staff members. And they are…

Grace Hills Staff Values

  1. Jesus is the One who fuels genuine passion, so we stay close to Jesus, we honor Jesus in all we do, and we make time with Jesus first priority.
  2. Integrity is required for leadership, so we honor our covenant and remain accountable to our leaders, and put our families before ministry.
  3. We lead by serving people, and we serve by leading people, so we value the soul of those we lead more than valuing what they can do for us.
  4. Values are easier caught than taught, so we will go first and lead by example in the things we expect of the people of Grace Hills.
  5. My real role is developing disciples and servant-leaders, so we spend time with people in real life and we give ministry away whenever possible.
  6. The mission launches every Sunday and gets carried out all week long, so we create ministry opportunities outside the weekend worship gathering.
  7. Excellence brings God glory unless it becomes an idol, so we strive for excellence but we move forward even when excellence is not yet in reach.
  8. Failure is a sign that we’ve taken a risk in faith, so we will take risks and celebrate failure and learn from it rather than playing it safe.
  9. Teamwork is more valuable than specialization, so we help each other out as a team, pitching in to make everyone around us more successful.
  10. Ministry is a privilege many would want to do for free, so we work hard to honor and earn the right to be in our role.

Feel free to borrow ideas, but I don’t recommend adopting this list as your own. If you’re a Lead Pastor, write your own values out of the overflow of your hopes and dreams for what a great church staff looks like. I’m sure we’ll tweak these over time, but this is a good start.

photo credit: jasimsarker

5 Truths About Empowering People to Change the World

In the Bourne series, the assassins (who are the central characters) are referred to by their controlling agency merely as “assets.” Sometimes I fear that within Christian ministry, we fall into the terrible habit of treating people as assets – instruments to help us get ministry done successfully rather than people with souls. One of the values I remind myself of often is that people are not a means for getting ministry done. People are the ministry. And those who volunteer are not placed in our path to make us successful, but so that we can help them to grow and to move forward.

To keep ourselves from the edge of the slippery slope of using people to get ministry done, it’s important to remember some hard, unchanging truths…

1. Ministry is about relationships, not results.

If we think like much of the surrounding corporate world, as much of the western church does, then we see goals and figures without seeing people. I’m all for looking at numbers to celebrate and evaluate, but never for the purpose of determining who is and isn’t useful to the kingdom. It isn’t about what a volunteer or staff member can produce in the way of results for us. It’s about what kind of growth we can help to produce in that leader. Growing leaders typically have growing ministries, but numerical success is the byproduct of healthy relationships.

2. People are souls, with or without roles.

If we ever leave someone in a role because of their talent while their personal life is falling apart, we’ve failed. As leaders and shepherds, it is our calling to create healing and health deep within the souls of people. So when people walk into the room, our first question shouldn’t be are you ready to get to work? It should rather be something like how’s life going? How’s your soul doing?

3. Jesus modeled people empowerment perfectly.

Jesus wept over people, prayed over people, and eventually died for people. He gave up His time and His comfort to serve others. And He accepted the rejection, criticism, and abandonment that He would receive from His people, even knowing full well that it was coming. Then at the end of His earthly story, He released His people to go change everything with the gospel. If you want to know how to empower people, start by looking at Jesus.

4. Everybody matters, and every life has dignity.

To use anyone for what they can produce, or to reject someone because we doubt they can produce, is to insult the One who created all people with inherent dignity. Moses even learned this lesson when he questioned his own ability to be a persuasive speaker. God responded simply, “Who made your mouth?” In the business world, we select the most qualified. But in the Kingdom, everybody gets to participate!

5. I’m a people too.

Some awesome mentors and friends have poured into me, expecting nothing in return. Someone is waiting for me to pay it forward. It’s the way this idea of ministry is supposed to work. Don’t use people, empower them.

Photo by Tim Pirfält.

Two Conditions for Starting a New Ministry

VolunteersOne of the challenges of church planting is staying lean. I became a Pastor under a programmatic mindset – offer enough things and more people will come. Thankfully, I came across a good book long ago that helped to shift my thinking. Instead of a list of programs to attract people, what we really need is a simple process for growing people.

Programs can easily become dead weight and create the drudgery of having to “find volunteers” to staff them. But processes scale with growth naturally. Nonetheless, there will still be times to determine how to best reach out to a new group of people – students, seniors, divorcees, etc. How do you know when it’s time to pull the trigger on launching a new ministry? I have two criteria…

1. There is enough supply.

That is, there is someone, or a group of people, ready to lead it. They may be people whom you’ve raised up, or they may be people who have shown up, but they have the spiritual gifts, heart, ability, personality, and experiences necessary to pull it off. And most importantly, they have the “want to.”

2. There is enough demand.

The second indicator is that God has opened the door with the intended audience. It could be that God has opened your eyes to a new need in the community, or there is an influx of people in a similar life stage.

If you have to scrounge for either volunteers or attenders to make a program work, try something else.

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Even when these two indicators are present, I still don’t recommend starting ministries haphazardly or randomly. In fact, there are still other filters to be considered. Grace Hills Church, for example, doesn’t have a “men’s ministry.” What we do have is a bunch of men we hope to connect in small groups. The same is true for women.

Launching a “women’s ministry” with outings and adventures for “all the ladies” isn’t scalable and doesn’t fit with our vision and values, which is rooted in the idea that people grow in circles (small groups) and not rows (large gatherings). So starting more large gatherings can actually distract people from getting into a group, which would be a loss for us no matter how large the ministry grew.

As you clarify your own vision and values, and chart your strategy for launching new initiatives, avoid the “scrounging” syndrome. If you have to scrounge for either volunteers or attenders to make a program work, try something else.


3 Ministries of Every Church Staff Member

Some churches view the staff as hired workers. If that is the case in your church, respect your leaders and don’t blame any rebellious attitudes on what I am about to say about this. Other churches view the staff as interdependent creative thinkers and leaders. In the first case, the usual mentality is “anything you aren’t doing for the church should be done ‘off the clock’.” In the second case, the mentality is “everything you do as ministry and mission benefits us as long as your priorities are in order.”

When I was at Saddleback, I learned some pretty great lessons about systems, structures, and staff leadership. In spite of our blessed chaos and the “fast, fluid, and flexible” environment of the southern California megachurch, I learned a ton about leadership and how a church staff can function in a healthy way.

One of the principles Pastor Rick often shared was that every church staff member is expected to fulfill three different ministries, on or off “the clock.”

1. Every church staff member has a ministry to the lost. And our ministry to the lost trumps our other responsibilities every time. We advocate for the lost, relate to the lost, and give our time and energy to bringing lost people to Jesus, first and foremost.


2. Every church staff member has a ministry to the church. It is this second priority that is made first in many churches, probably to the detriment of the creative potential of the staff collectively. We wind up falling into the trap of just doing the work we’re expected to do with little time for independent, creative thinking. Apple, Google, and thousands of other tech startups could teach us some important lessons here about freeing people up to think beyond what currently exists. Gmail, for example, was a product born out of the personal development time granted to some employees who were free to play around on the clock. Today, it’s a core Google component. If we aren’t thinking about the lost and how to creatively reach them as much as we think about getting our jobs done, we’re toast.

3. Every church staff member has a ministry to his or her peers. That is, we have a responsibility to pour into and invest in our parallels. As Pastor Rick put it, Saddleback’s receptionists were to minister to other church receptionists, children’s ministry leaders to other children’s ministry leaders, etc. This is the trickiest of all for established churches who see “outside” ministry interests as competing with the productivity of their own staff. But it boils down to a matter of stewardship. If my church is blessed with knowledge or resources, it’s up to our staff to share that blessing with others. Ministering to our peers keeps us in the company of encouragers, prevents isolation and burnout, keeps me up-to-date and sharp on leadership innovations, and is ultimately good for the kingdom (and heaven knows how we need more kingdom-minded churches!).

It’s a tough shift. If you lead a church to be clock-punching and productivity-obsessed, you’ll get a lot done and perhaps build a larger, more effective church. But if you care about developing people into more influential leaders and growing the kingdom as much as you care about growing your institutional machinery, you’ll at least open yourself to the possibility of releasing your staff to think more about the lost than your church and also spend time investing in their peers.

Graphic background by Zach Fonville.

Who Will Be Our Worship Leader at Grace Hills Church?

Worship LeaderThe position has been filled.

We aren’t hiring a Worship Leader. We’re offering an opportunity to a pioneer. I recently wrote a story about why you might NOT want to join our new church. In that same vein, let me tell you why you might NOT want to be on staff at Grace Hills Church.

  • We don’t have a salary for you. Yet. We’ll try to help you as you raise it, but we don’t have the budget for multiple full-time salaries. I’m raising the financial support for my own salary, in fact.
  • We don’t have an office for you. And the office that doesn’t exist doesn’t have a private restroom or leather couch.
  • We don’t have a band or singers for you. You’ll have to assemble a team from scratch, which is why we need a leader even more than we need a musician.
  • We don’t have a global platform. There are no guarantees you’ll be the next Chris Tomlin launching from Grace Hills. It could happen… but we’re not going to count on it just yet.
  • We have high expectations. You’d have to work. Hard. You’d have to sign a Staff Covenant, live out our Staff Commandments, attend things, serve, tithe, and really love people.

What we are praying for is a leader that has a tight chemistry with our leadership team, a passion for Jesus Christ, a theology of worship thoroughly rooted in Scripture, an adventurous and entrepreneurial bent, and a determination to multiply the Kingdom by always training other worship leaders and helping to foster a church planting movement. Study us to know if we’re a fit for how God has wired you.

Yes, we need a chief musician, in spite of my mad kazoo playing skills. But we’re more concerned that you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and that you’ll lead others to do the same. We’re also concerned that you can handle things being “fast, fluid, and flexible.” You need to be able to turn on a dime, understand trends and culture, and think beyond Sunday morning as you define the “church.”

If you’re still reading, and God is beating on your heart, email me and we’ll start the conversation.


Graphic by Sam Jessup.

10 Quick Lessons for Every Church Staff Member

Glen Kreun

Today’s staff meeting at Saddleback was a bit different from the norm at Saddleback Church. Pastor Tom Holladay shared from his heart 10 lessons he’s learned from watching Glen Kreun over the past twenty years of ministry.

Pastor Glen served as Executive Pastor of Saddleback for 27 years under Pastor Rick Warren’s leadership. Over those years, he developed an amazing ability to both lead and to be led in ways that supported the miraculous growth of the church.

Here are Tom’s ten observations…

Continue reading 10 Quick Lessons for Every Church Staff Member

Don’t Be a Know-It-All Leader

One of the amazing aspects of the structure of Saddleback Church is that there isn’t much of an organizational chart to speak of. Some feel frustrated about this, but the reason is that people are empowered to make decisions at the lowest possible level to avoid having to climb any ladders of authority.

Continue reading Don’t Be a Know-It-All Leader