By Josue Ortiz
A Guest Post—The following post is from a friend of mine, from whom I have learned much. Josue Ortiz and his wife Bekah are currently on deputation to plant churches in Mexico. They are heading to the field very soon. I met Josue a couple of years ago, and my respect for him was instantaneous. We have become good friends.
Recently I asked Josue to develop a staff lesson on qualities of a healthy church staff, based upon his observations from visiting healthy churches across the country in recent days. He delivered that lesson to our staff a few weeks ago, and when I asked him to write it that I might share it with you. Thank you, Josue, for your friendship, your excellent spirit, and your insightful observations below!
Enjoy Josue’s thoughts about a healthy church team!
One of the privileges of traveling on deputation for the last several months has been visiting and partnering with extraordinary churches all across America. It has been encouraging to see healthy churches growing biblically. In sharing some of my observations with pastors and friends, the question was asked, what is a healthy church? More specifically, how is the pastor directly involved in the health of the church?
While those questions have may have a lengthy answer, I believe that it all comes down to this simple statement: healthy churches have a pastor who preaches the Word of God accurately, interprets the Word correctly, exposes the Word biblically, and has a staff that supports the pastor in achieving such a foundational goal.
Every program, vision and goal of healthy churches is designed in one way or another to keep the preaching of the Bible central. When the pastor is preaching and interpreting the Bible accurately, then the church is a healthy church. The members of the church are spiritually fed, and therefore are growing in Biblical maturity. Proverbs 4:1-2 says it best, “Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.” It is good doctrine and God’s law that change people’s lives.
In order to gather valuable input, I called a few of the churches that have impacted my ministry view. I am blessed to call these pastors friends, spiritual mentors, and ministry examples. I developed five basic questions. The data obtained is remarkable. The relationships are too obvious and significant to be ignored. Here is a summary:
Pastor, what is your primary task as a pastor?
The answer was unanimously the same: the preaching of the Word of God. As a person who visited those churches, I can witness to that answer. It was quickly noticeable that the preaching of the Bible is central in their ministry. Not only in theory, but also in practice. The people were spiritually fed, and therefore a sense of health and biblical maturity permeates their congregations. This answer led to the second question.
Pastor, what is the main reason to have a church staff?
The answers, while not worded exactly the same, had a common denominator: to protect the pastor’s time for studying and preparation of sermons.
Because I have visited these churches, it was no surprise to hear that they all valued their sermon preparation time very highly. Their sermons were well-designed, well-prepared, and well-interpreted. The sermons had to take a lot of time of preparation since studying a passage, structuring it, finding the main idea of the text, building a bridge between the original and the contemporary audience, finding the main idea of the sermon, and structuring the sermon take a lot of time! The amount of time the pastor spends in preparing sermons does not directly affect the size of the church, but more importantly the spiritual health of the members.
Several pastors added that not only was the staff vital to protect his time for studying, but that they also contributed to a multiplication of effort. A church with a well-equipped staff, all working towards the same goal helps the church to be exactly what God has planned the church to be. An assistant pastor explained, “…as a staff of the church, we feed the flock in a different role. We want to help train people for ministry.”
Almost everyone mentioned that the importance of the church staff is priceless when it comes down to people. The number of lives that a pastor can touch are supplemented by the ones that the staff helps minister unto as well. Another pastor noted, “We have a staff so that I have the time to study. I couldn’t do it all. We couldn’t accomplish what we accomplish without them.”
Pastor, what is the best way in which your staff can help you in ministry?
Everyone’s answer was very similar: helping the pastor avoid micromanaging so that he can stay focused on preaching the Bible. The pastor seeks a staff that supports him so that the preaching remains central. When asked about this subject, a pastor said, “The staff can help me by seeing things that they can do so that I can have more time to study and preach God’s Word.”
Acknowledging his staff, another pastor remarked, “They are an extension of my ministry so that I can focus on my time of studying and prayer. They do not just carry out programs. They do it in such a way that I am hands-off as much as possible. I spend a large percentage of my time during the week studying and praying due in large part to the help of the staff.” That was indeed the original reason for which the overseers of the church needed help in ministry. Acts 6:4 says, “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.”
Many pastors also communicated that the staff ought to delegate to the members of the church. The staff should not become an end in itself but rather a tool by which the congregation can mature and serve in ministry. A pastor suggested, “They (church staff) are not there to merely do the work of the ministry, but to train and equip others to do the work of the ministry. If a church staff doesn’t delegate to the church family, they will never be what they can be in Christ. As the delegation increases, the maturity of the church family will increase as well.”
As I visited these churches, I witnessed the unity that each pastor and his staff displayed. The staff was disciplined, hard-working, self-starting, diligent, friendly, people-oriented, and godly. Everyone in the congregation, guests, and others could sense a spirit of order, harmony, and love among the staff and the pastor.
Pastor, what is a way in which the staff can hinder effective ministry?
All the answers were strikingly similar: staff can hinder effective ministry by not having real love towards each other. An assistant pastor commented that “We could potentially hinder ministry by having tension among each other; not spending time together outside the office; not having a culture within a culture by living the ‘real life’ outside the office; not finding staff within the same age group and enjoy life together; not having intimacy and real love among each other.”
I like the phrase a “culture within a culture”. I think it speaks not only of the work relationship, but most crucially of the spiritual relationship as co-laborers in ministry. The danger of having a dysfunctional staff is that every member of the staff will push in his own direction while trying to keep his area of ministry afloat. Lack of communication and transparency coupled with the urgency of being successful in ministry will cause confusion among the members of the church and will dramatically limit the potential spiritual growth of the church. The staff then creates their own agenda and decline is imminent.
It was stated that “one way to hinder ministry is by the staff creating their own kingdom, rather than drawing people to the common heart and purpose of the gospel.” When we visited these churches, the atmosphere that I grasped from the staff and the pastor was very tangible. Every staff member was in one accord with the pastor’s vision and not only supported it, but did everything they could to maximize the potential of such a vision.
In addition to dissension, a pastor suggested that time management is crucial. He said, “A way to hinder ministry is by not having good time management. They need to make sure that they are good stewards of time.”
Finally, what is the main difference between a corporation staff and a church staff?
As much as I was impressed with the effectiveness and efficiency of the church staff, it was the Bible-centered direction that makes a difference in these churches. Both the staff and the pastor understand how critical it is to obey the mandate of feeding the flock. It is because of that understanding that they will do anything necessary in order to fulfill that primary responsibility.
While businesses often have a staff that seeks to be as effective as possible, the essential goals are very different. One pastor said, “Our goals are somewhat different. The mission is different. We don’t work for money. We love people. I work knowing that I am making an impact in lives for eternity.” The staff and pastor understand that ministry is about people and particularly about their most critical need, the Word of God.
It was well stated that “Corporations seek for effective ways to manage money. In the kingdom, the development is not of a portfolio, but rather of hearts. If people are not being discipled by the staff and pastor, then we are no different from a business model.” The church staff has the most extraordinary privilege of ministering to people and helping the pastor to preach the Word of God. As a church planter, if I ever forget that it is the accurate preaching of the Word that develops people, then I will become ineffective in accomplishing my primary task.
An effective staff team makes the church…
—A place where the Word of God is central.
—A place where the Bible trumps emotional stories seeking for an emotional response.
—A place where the Bible is interpreted literally, grammatically, and historically.
—A place where the Bible is interpreted properly and accurately.
—A place where the pastor has a staff fully committed to supporting the ministry of God’s Word.
—A place where the staff is fully engaged with people and committed to their spiritual health.
—A place where the staff loves, serves, trains, delegates to, and prays for people.