When you are called to join a church ministry team as a staff member it can be exciting. But a clear call does not guarantee a smooth transition.
The church that was described to you in the hiring process may not actually exist. That’s OK, go with it! Stay flexible. Everything won’t be perfect, but you can do much to set up yourself for success by paying attention to these four areas.
Explore the mission, vision and values of your new ministry context. Approach your new position with genuine curiosity and humility. You probably have a high level of skill in your area of expertise. That is why you were called. What you need to focus on now is how your skill and expertise fit into this church’s unique mission. Here are some tips for exploring the mission, vision and values fit:
Be an advocate for the church’s big picture—not just your unique piece of the ministry puzzle.
Express commitment to the mission through your hard work—not just your words.
Connect your work to the mission and vision in measureable ways as soon as possible.
Learn how things are done around here. Who has to sign off on your decisions? How is the budget managed? How is your performance evaluated?
Every church has people who everyone listens to—discover who those people are.
Build productive team member relationships. It is critically important to build a network of meaningful connections with your new team members. You can start building these relationships by investing the time and energy necessary to get to know your teammates on both personal and professional levels.When you think about ways to manage the relationship with your pastor or direct supervisor it is important to establish a regular pattern of communication. These questions can guide your thinking.
What do they understand your job to be?
What are their expectations?
How will goals be established?
How often will you meet for coaching and coordination?
Don’t ignore the value of the other relationships around you. These horizontal relationships, as well as your direct reports and relationships with key volunteers, will be critical for your success. The goal is to establish yourself as a credible leader—one who is trustworthy and values the contribution and strengths of all team members. These three reminders will guide your interactions with those around you.
Don’t lead every interaction by telling people how you did it somewhere else.
Don’t expect everyone to be equally glad you have arrived. Don’t take it personally if there are those who take some time to warm up to you and your new role.
Don’t be a source of office drama. Be emotionally intelligent.
Participate in the unique culture and traditions. Learn the rituals, traditions and things unique to your new church and join in intentionally. Don’t expect the new team to adjust to you. They are inviting you to join them. Let them know how honored you are to join them in the good work they are already doing. Learn the culture and traditions by asking these four questions:
How do they like to work? Smarter or harder? Centralized or decentralized? Paper or paperless? In silos or collaborative?
How do they build community within the staff? Staff prayer times? Birthday celebration lunches?
How do they have fun? Is it a football church? If yes, pro or college? Hunting church? Fishing church? Learn to participate at least verbally in the banter.
How do they learn? Are they a reading, conferencing, or a best practices church?
Develop clear self-awareness. Positive performance with a self-serving attitude wears thin quickly. Your attitude is a choice. The following practices can dramatically increase your personal perspective.
Be sure you know what success looks like from your boss’ perspective.
Be concerned about helping make things easier, better and faster.
Regardless of the job description, what does your supervisor need you to do right now?
Decide which projects are already underway that your team needs your support on?
Get feedback on how your body language, facial expressions and stress behaviors are affecting the team.
Learn when it is more helpful to speak and when it is time to listen.
Ministry transitions bring a variety of exciting and challenging situations. Your first few days in the new role can set a course for effective ministry for years to come.