Mark CabanissA 7-Step “Program” to Healthier Staff (and/or choir) Relationships
By Mark Cabaniss
Managing Director, Alfred Sacred

File this article under “things they never taught us while majoring in music.” I teach a class once a year in music business at Belmont University, and each year, I tell my students that no matter what we do in life we’re all ultimately in the same business: The People Business. And if we can’t get along effectively with each other, then life is going to be a lot tougher.

And church staffs are filled with co-workers and volunteers. Yes…people! Many bad situations are often rooted in poor staff relationships (which often begin with misunderstandings). Too many times, churches are weakened because of staff relationship problems. People leave, get fired, burned out, etc., so here are seven steps to healthier staff relationships.

Many of these things you already know; some you don’t; all are great reminders of what it takes to keep a healthy staff.

Brethren, We Have Met to…Work Together!

  •  Have a mission statement. Everyone work together to forge it. Everyone owns it. Frame it. Everyone should have a copy of it. It’s the forest…not the trees.
  • Cultivate a team spirit: Socials (baseball game, birthday treats, team goals/contests).

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

  • In general, too much is assumed! One of Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
  • Email is a great tool for effective communication (there’s an electronic paper trail) but be careful not to assume everyone reads everything you write. Important issues: Call or visit in person in addition to an email.
  • Inform your pastor and co-workers constantly. Write a weekly report. Consider a weekly or monthly newsletter.
  • Weekly staff meetings. Important. Keep them structured.
  • Be honest about your feelings. Address unpleasant issues soon before they fester. Choose the right time to express such issues (for the person to whom they need to be expressed and for yourself as well). Don’t dump on someone when you’ve reached your boiling point.

Support your Local Pastor and Co-Workers

  • The Pastor is the Boss. Dissension in the ranks can be contagious and detrimental.
  • Support those events/activities of the pastor/co-workers…great and small.
  • Diplomatic compromise is healthy. When there’s a roadblock, agree to disagree.
  • When large issues are at stake where compromise isn’t possible, one needs to examine and pray if they should stay in that situation. You should feel “called to the church AND the pastor.”

Thou Shalt Be Open to Change

  •  “The only thing permanent in this world is change.” (Helen Cole Krause)
  • Sometimes change is difficult. Be open; be positive.
  • Serenity Prayer: “Change those things you can, accept what you can’t, and give me the wisdom and grace to know the difference between the two.”

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

  • Creeping apathy/negativity…permeates a lot of organizations (big and small!)
  • Apathy/negativity is sometimes inevitable…be on guard against it!
  • Weekly meetings: Inject positive thoughts, scripture, etc. Celebrate triumphs! Talk about challenges and how to handle them. Confront it all! (Even the air conditioning…heating…etc.)

We Need We!

  • Independence: I don’t need you. Dependence: I need you. Healthy interdependence: We need each other. Cultivate this mindset.
  • The sum is greater than the parts. Encourage free exchange of ideas.
  • Have a yearly staff retreat. Get away. Be creative. Have fun. Socialize.

Take Time to be Wholly (Complete, That Is)

  • Balance your life. The personal is interminably linked to the professional. (Just as the spiritual is linked to the physical).
  • Encourage counseling when needed. “We’ve all got baggage, it’s either checked or unchecked.”
  • Engage in keeping the whole life balanced: spiritually, physically, emotionally, intellectually.
  • Encourage staff-wide (or choir-wide) book readings/devotionals. Share your thoughts in staff meeting (or choir rehearsal) once a month.
  • By doing these things that aren’t urgent (but very important) you’re “depositing” into the emotional/professional bank account and can draw upon those things in the crunch times.

I hope some or all of these ideas will stimulate your thinking to keep your relationships with staff…and your choir…healthy and satisfying.