3 Relational Characteristics for Your Staff to Work Well Together – (Even Under Pressure)

Have you noticed that friends and family get along pretty well when life is smooth and easy, but the moment that pressure is on and stress is up, getting along becomes challenging?

Of course! That’s human nature.

You know, real stuff like:

  • Money is tight.
  • Kids are struggling in school.
  • The car is in the shop.
  • A loved one has a significant health issue.
  • Your spouse lost their job.

Any one of these increases stress and pressure, and if there is more than one, well, you get it.

The same thing is true with your church staff.

A church staff is like a family, but with job descriptions and paychecks! When we acknowledge the human element, the relational complexities are easy to understand.

We also know some families get along better than others.

The same is true with church staff. Why?

Let me start with three principles that help answer the question about why some relational environments function better than others; then, we’ll address the three characteristics.

Three Principles of Healthy Relational Environments

1) Your staff culture is values-driven.

Like a strong family, a great staff needs a healthy environment to thrive.

And keep in mind that your staff culture never rises above your standards and values.

What “relational rules” are embedded in your culture? Are they stated in your written values? Or does your culture lack intentionality that negatively impacts the staff?

What you create and tolerate establishes your staff culture, and it takes work to get it right.

When your staff values are embraced, pressure makes you better, but without cultural mooring, pressure produces cracks in the team’s effectiveness.

2) Trust is cultivated, and the benefit of the doubt rules the day.

Human nature is flawed; therefore, trust must be intentionally cultivated. Trust left unattended is eventually weakened, damaged, or sometimes broken.

Trust within your church staff is cultivated by honesty, integrity, and competence. Things like pretense, gossip, and divisiveness are extremely harmful and must be avoided at all costs.

A great way to cultivate trust in your church staff is by extending the benefit of the doubt. If someone does or says something that hits you wrong, assume the best, and ask what they meant.

3) Alignment to the vision is strong.

It’s amazing how many problems are solved (even before they occur) by the unifying factor of a strong vision that your whole team is aligned with and committed to.

  • Keep your vision clear
  • Communicate it often
  • Make sure everyone knows why their role on the team is important

3 Relational Characteristics:

1) Pizza after work is common. 

Church teams are highly relational. Both productivity and enjoyment are greatly enhanced by personal friendships.

We understand the difference between a close friend and a casual friend.

Quick, who would you call?

  • You are discouraged and just need to talk.
  • Your spouse is out of town, and you need someone to take you to the hospital.
  • It’s a holiday weekend, and you need someone to pick you up from the airport.
  • You just want to chill and have a little fun over a good pizza.

Is anyone you named on staff?

Depending on your personality and the staff size, this might be one person or several. But don’t miss the principle. Relational isolation on a church staff is not a healthy, productive, or enjoyable circumstance for anyone.

When your close and personal friendship(s) on staff are mature and healthy, you enjoy your work more, and the whole team benefits.

Who is your pizza buddy on staff?

Note: In a smaller church, keep in mind that “staff” includes your top volunteer leaders.

2) Hallways and breakrooms are free from pretense.

While it may have good intentions, being inauthentically nice to staff mates is not a good idea. Here’s the problem, pretense is not good for your soul.

Let’s face it, some people, good people, in fact, kind of bug you. And spoiler alert, you probably bug a few people too. It’s not intentional; it’s just chemistry.

The larger your church and staff becomes, the pressure naturally increases. So we try to do relationships at high speed, which doesn’t work. Relationships require time to breathe.

I’m not referring to relational conflict, but the ability to casually connect with anyone on the team in a hallway or the breakroom without an awkward moment or the need to pretend.

We’ve acknowledged in the first point that not all relationships are close, but for the staff team to function well, everyone should feel a sense of ease in connecting with anyone on the team.

If this isn’t the case, the solution is often just one conversation away.

Surprisingly often, all it takes is a cup of coffee to get to know each other a little better. The goal here is not confrontation but to assume and believe the best.

If you discover that conflict exists, courage and grace are needed.

3) Conflict resolution is just a little courage and grace away.

Great church staffs experience relational conflict, but they know how to resolve it and do it quickly.

I’ve never been part of a church staff, either personally, or as a consultant, where conflict didn’t exist. However, progress, forward momentum, new territory, and solving new problems always cause tension. It is all about how you handle that tension.

We know from the previous point that pretending is not the answer.

Good leaders are honest about their differences of opinion, and they can handle the heat, but they never allow the conflict to linger.

Conflict resolution requires four elements:

  • Trust the heart of the other person.
  • The courage to be fully honest.
  • Speed to resolve an issue quickly.
  • Grace to surrender your rights and genuinely forgive.

For many years I’ve summarized the three characteristics this way at 12Stone Church:

  • Close to a few
  • Connection will everyone
  • Conflict with none. (unresolved conflict)

8 thoughts on “3 Relational Characteristics for Your Staff to Work Well Together – (Even Under Pressure)”

  1. Thank you for sharing your insights regarding this matter. It is practical, achievable and I’m now excited to practice it.

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