What produces satisfaction for you in your ministry efforts? Is it seeing increased attendance, or increased giving, or receiving a lot of positive feedback? These are nice when they happen but on their own probably don’t lead to a deep sense of satisfaction in ministry. For me, when I served as an associate staff member, satisfaction came when I knew what I needed to do, had the resources to carry it out, and was able to see good results over time. I didn’t necessarily need a lot of praise or affirmation for my work from others, but it meant a lot when I was able to see that the ministry that I valued was going well, and I could see how my investment of time was bearing good fruit in the lives of others. More than anything else, I wanted the ministry areas that I was entrusted with to not just run smoothly but also have a positive impact in the lives of those who participated in them.
We believe that for many associate staff members, the best way to help them find deep satisfaction in their ministry is to provide them with the resources and support needed to allow their ministry areas to flourish. This is what they care about and what they feel called to invest themselves in, and when they see their ministry areas going well and having the desired impact in the lives of those who participate, it leads to a deep sense of fulfillment and makes all the sweat and long hours worthwhile.
We want to look at the ways that you, as a ministry supervisor, can provide the kind of practical support your associate staff members need to help them do their jobs well and see good results from their efforts.
The first practice that is important for supporting the ministry of your associate staff members is simply to keep up on what is happening in their areas of ministry. This falls under the Regular Team Meetings and One-on-Ones that we talked about in chapters 3 and 4. Keeping up on what is happening is important because it reinforces the value of that area of ministry, shows your concern and desire to understand what is happening, and helps you as a supervisor have peace of mind regarding that ministry area. It also allows issues to be raised and addressed before they become more problematic. This does not always require formal meetings but can be done with brief conversations in the hall or over a coffee. Two of the associate staff members we heard from describe how they felt supported in this way:
I never felt more supported in my ministry than when my supervising pastor asked how things were going. Though too few and far between, I do remember sitting in my supervising pastor’s office and being asked how my ministry was going. It was great having him share some good feedback and/or concerns, and especially when our time ended with him praying for me.
My pastor did a good job of balancing between enough vision-casting and guidance on the front end, followed by plenty of space for me to work things out in my own way as the ministry begins to roll out. Then checking in regularly to see how things are going, rather than waiting for a crisis to emerge before stepping in.
Another way of keeping up on what is happening in the various ministries your associate staff supervise is to occasionally take time to visit them in action. Your presence there, even for a few minutes, communicates the value you place on that area of ministry and your desire to be a support. It also allows you to see firsthand some of the good things happening and some things that may be good to talk about together later. The goal is to make the visit a supportive experience, not an evaluation. Express appreciation to those working alongside your associate staff member, pray with them, make it clear how important this ministry area is to your church. This is affirmed strongly by several of the associate staff members in our study.
Except adapted from Supervising and Supporting Ministry Staff: A Guide to Thriving Together, by Kevin E. Lawson (professor of educational studies) and Mick Boersma (M.Div. ’74, Ph.D. ’94, professor of Christian ministry and leadership). Copyright © 2017 by Kevin E. Lawson and Mick Boersma. Used by permission of Rowman and Littlefield.
Read more by Kevin E. Lawson and Mick Boersma at the Good Book Blog.