Eric Geiger serves as one of the vice presidents at LifeWay Christian Resources, leading the Resources Division. We are thrilled to post one of his articles with his permission. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric authored or co-authored several books including Creature of the Word and the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. He also serves as the senior pastor of ClearView Baptist Church in Franklin, Tennessee.
Read more of Eric’s excellent articles at his blog: ericgeiger.com
I recently wrote about the members of a church staff who make the biggest impact. Inevitably, among the staff members who make the biggest impact in their ministry areas and the church culture as a whole, there is deep alignment between the church’s mission and values and the staff member’s mission and values. Every healthy ministry has values that guide the culture of the church.
At the same time, every leader or team member also has a set of values that guide decision-making and behavior. When there is alignment, the church and the staff member are in harmony as their values overlap with one another. Because there are varying levels of alignment, when it comes to mission and value alignment, there are three types of staff members.
- The “no alignment” staff member
A staff member who has a mission different from the church or a set of values that are different from the culture of the church is not a fit. For example, if the culture of the church values equipping and developing and the staff member does not, there will be continual frustration. The staff member will feel the challenges to “develop leaders” are unrealistic and cumbersome, while the other staff will be frustrated with a continual violation of their culture. If the culture highly values community and the staff member highly values individualism, then there will be constant frustration on both sides.
When there is no value alignment, the only option is to move the person off the team. Which, of course, is best for the person too. There is another staff culture somewhere else that is a much better fit.
- The “partial alignment” staff member
Because “no alignment” is typically rooted out in any semblance of an interview process, much more common is “partial alignment.” Partial alignment occurs when a staff member does not disagree with any of the stated values but doesn’t fully embrace or live them either. When there is partial alignment, the church’s values are not offensive or bothersome, but they don’t fire the staff member up either. When there is partial alignment, the staff member is just doing a job rather than passionately living out a calling.
Partial alignment is what makes leadership challenging. The “no alignment” decision is obvious, but dealing with “partial alignment” requires much wisdom, compassion, and discernment. The leader should ask some hard questions of himself/herself: Have the values been taught and illustrated? Were they clear when the staff member joined the team? If you want value alignment, you must invest time in teaching and illustrating them. Teach and live the stated values and invite your team to embrace them.
- The “full alignment” staff member
When there is full alignment, everyone wins. The staff member is grateful for a place that cares for what he/she cares about and never feels he/she is having to sacrifice who he/she is to be on the team. The church culture wins as the values are reinforced and lived out passionately. The impact is exponential because the time that would have been spent in constant philosophical debate or dialogue is invested in people instead. Instead of constantly self-managing philosophical disagreements, the team moves in the same direction. Instead of debating, an aligned team member executes.
How should leaders treat fully aligned staff members? Give aligned staff members immense amounts of freedom. Not only are they moving in the same direction, but how they are moving, how they are leading, is aligned with the culture.