12 Ways to Build Staff Morale

Why is it that some church teams stick together like brothers and sisters even under 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.

Other church teams who 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 amongst the staff, it’s more professional than personal, they lack community, and the laughter is minimal.
Their morale is low.

These two examples are incomplete. There are different examples for every scenario.

It’s never as black and white as I’ve written, but regardless of the circumstance, we all know the difference between high morale and low morale on a church staff team.

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.

High morale is a church staff’s best friend.

We all know the signs of low morale:

  • Increasing complaints
  • Lack of enthusiasm
  • Uncooperative spirit
  • Minimal effort
  • Chronic discouragement
  • Assigning blame
  • Negative attitudes

We also know 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 tough times.

The more time you can intentionally invest in the morale of your team, the better.

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.

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 intentional kindness under pressure.

4) Practice honest conversations and make tough decisions.

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 co-workers 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 if the primary leaders won’t deal with problems and deliver solutions. Whether it’s unacceptable behavior in 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 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 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 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!

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?

2 thoughts on “12 Ways to Build Staff Morale”

  1. Dan, I hope 2018 has gotten off to a great start for you. I think this is a great resource to use as a checklist to refer back to occasionally for evaluating and reflecting, maybe even as a team. One comment regarding item 2, New Ideas and Innovation. The word that came to mind as I read this was collaboration. I think going a step beyond getting ideas and choosing the best ones is choose the best ideas and collaborate as a team to turn a good idea into a great idea. It doesn’t always have to be my original idea, and maybe it’s even seldom my original idea, but if I feel like I’ve contributed to improving an idea and making a good idea great, then I’m all in and my morale is lifted. It feeds in to #1 and #6 and helps everyone feel valued.

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