7 Smart Moves for New Church Staff

You got the job! Now what?

Your first 3-6 months at your new church is a uniquely important time. Regardless of the position, it’s easy to establish “comfortably unproductive” habits and patterns that are surprisingly difficult to change. Resist falling into a leadership rut at all cost. Keep meeting new people, practicing leadership and pushing yourself to learn and grow.

If you were hired from outside the church, you have “fresh eyes,” valuable experience, and unique perspective. Within about six months you lose that edge. That doesn’t mean your value declines, but it does mean you should not waste this valuable window of opportunity.

Make a list of what surprised you, impressed you, blessed you, and disappointed you in your first three months. Have coffee with your boss and share your insights.

Here are two important things to make this work.

  • Ask his or her permission to have this conversation.
  • Don’t expect or demand any particular change. That’s not your job. Your job is to communicate what you experienced. That is highly valuable and a gift to your church.

If you changed positions within the same church, you could still do a version of this, for example, if you changed departments or campuses. You won’t see as much as someone hired from outside your church, but you can still add great value.

Everyone wants to do well in their new job, here are seven key actions to help you be successful.

7 smart moves for your first six months:

1) Learn the culture fast.

Become a student of the culture starting on day one. Church culture can be summed up in these three components: who they are, what they value, and how things get done. That’s not hard to figure out. (Forgive my use of “they,” it’s only for clarity. I don’t mean for you to think “they.”)

Who they are — what are the dominant characteristics that make up the personality of the team?

What they value – What are the behaviors, principles, practices, and how are resources directed?

How things get done – How are decisions made? How are plans and strategies implemented? Who are the people that make things happen?

2) Don’t assume what worked in your last church works in your new church.

Your experience is highly valuable, but I’ve watched leaders get in trouble by assuming that what worked in their last church will work in the new one. It often doesn’t. Style of leadership matters. For example, if you are highly relational, and go to a church that is more corporate and driven, the way you led in the past may not work now. Again, this doesn’t invalidate your experience, but you must learn to translate your experience, so it fits your new environment.

3) Show up!

At 12Stone we often say “somebody just showed up” when a new staff member arrives and quickly begins to make a difference.

When a leader shows up, they make things happen, add value, and bring energy into the mix. The purpose is not to impress people or bring attention to yourself, you just do your job and do it well. You don’t have to fly your own flag.

4) Strive to get better, not get a promotion.

It is both surprising and yet common how often new staff appear more focused on getting the next (perceived) better position rather than getting better as a leader. Becoming a better leader naturally leads to higher levels of responsibility, and the rest takes care of itself. But it does take time.

Enjoy your job, get better, make a difference, and give that some time. Take that road, and you won’t have to worry about your future.

5) Make sure you understand the expectations.

The path that nearly guarantees you will not launch a positive and productive early leadership trajectory is if expectations are unclear.

Remember, expectations are a two-way street. You have expectations and so does your boss. Do you know what they are? Have you talked about them? Are they written down?

It’s true that your boss will have more expectations than you do. That is reasonable; you are doing a job you agreed to do. However, you have some important expectations that you need to verbalize. Don’t list 17 things, choose 3-5 that are very important to you. For example, honest communication, helpful coaching, and a humble spirit.

6) Be yourself.

It is surprisingly difficult to be yourself when you are the new kid on the block. You don’t know the ropes yet, you’re not sure you’ve figured out the cultural sense of humor, and you’re trying not to make too many mistakes.

The best gift you can give yourself is to relax and be yourself. Remember, they picked you from all the candidates. I love to say to our team, “People like you best when you are yourself. Not everyone will like you, but they like you best when you are the real you.” It’s true. Have fun, laugh, and enjoy your job.

7) Your spiritual fervor counts more than you think.

We all focus on leadership, productivity and getting the job done. And for a good reason, that’s why we all get a paycheck. But as Christians who serve a local church, there is more to it. In fact, the whole experience is a supernatural endeavor.

It is God’s favor that makes the real difference. You work hard, but He adds the blessing that establishes an eternal impact.

Chase God! Your prayer life matters more than you can imagine. Wait upon God, listen to His voice, and obey.

8 thoughts on “7 Smart Moves for New Church Staff”

  1. A great “keeper” for the file, Dan. Good words for all new hires. In the church environment, #5 is often the most challenging. Expectations come from the senior leader, the staff, the board, and the congregation. Impossible to know all of them, but the time to ferret out as many as possible is in the interviews. Are you up for this? Even so, your words to “chase God” are the wisest. His expectations of us are paramount…wherever we land.

  2. I appreciate the sentiment behind “Learning Culture Quickly.” That said, we can only learn the “visible” culture quickly. The visible culture is obvious, it’s like the tip of the iceberg, over the water line. But understanding the unconscious and invisible parts of the culture, can take longer, even up to 12-18 months.

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