7 Practices of the Best Church Staffs

“Whether you are blessed with natural chemistry, all teams must invest effort and energy to experience great chemistry.”

Greater chemistry leads to better team performance.

Natural chemistry is that coveted “magic” that happens when two or more people connect and experience an affinity that is easy, energizing and enjoyable. It makes you want to come back for more.

Natural chemistry allows relationships to rise above the mechanics of functions and responsibilities and into connection and meaning. It includes a mutual give-and-take that creates an engaging and appealing experience. These staff relationships help create great teams that produce innovative results. Great chemistry makes the tough times endurable and the good times extraordinary.

I’m a champion of natural chemistry, especially when hiring, but at the same time, there is no such thing as accidental chemistry. This means that even natural chemistry can deteriorate if left unattended. Like in a marriage, without deliberate efforts, especially under pressure, the chemistry often turns toward tension and begins to cause breakdown.

If your staff chemistry is bad, you can’t automatically blame it on genetics, personality or personal experience. And if your staff chemistry is good, don’t take it for granted.

Generally, there are two categories. Natural chemistry is organic and comes easy. Intentional chemistry requires more effort and focused attention.

Both can be a fantastic experience. In fact, intentional chemistry can be better than natural chemistry, if the natural chemistry has been taken for granted and ignored.

The following seven practices will help you cultivate great chemistry, regardless of whether your team leans toward natural or intentional.

(Note: In larger churches this is primarily focused on staff. In smaller churches this includes volunteer leaders.)

1. Every player carries his or her own weight.

Few things will crush chemistry faster than when a leader or two draft in the wake of others who are working hard. When someone coasts instead of getting the job done with zeal and excellence, the team’s chemistry suffers. Chemistry is cultivated among like-minded people who are focused on the same mission, take the initiative and give it 100 percent.

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2. Relationships extend beyond just work.

Some of my favorite times with staff have involved things like going to baseball games, movies, gun ranges and concerts. There was no work agenda. Work might come up, but it’s natural and part of the shared passion mentioned in the first point.

3. Expectations are made crystal clear.

Unmet expectations result in disappointment and ultimately conflict. Champion teams thrive on clarity and fail in disorganization and chaos. When responsibilities, goals and big-picture outcomes are made clear (and put in writing), chemistry is significantly enhanced. The best chemistry is organic, but it’s not random. It requires effort to know exactly who is responsible for what and corresponding accountability.

4. The team members do not take themselves too seriously.

Titles are important to delineate responsibility, but not to elevate ego or status. If anyone takes him or herself too seriously, chemistry begins to erode. A strong indicator of great chemistry is an abundance of easy laughter, inside jokes and fun stories that get told time and time again. Teams with great chemistry are made up of positive people who are not thin skinned and don’t get their feelings easily hurt.

5. Each person puts the overall needs of the ministry first.

We all have certain ways we want things to go. We prefer decisions that will best suit our personality and preferences. That’s normal, but it’s problematic if you push too hard to get what you want. When we push a personal agenda rather than the mission, chemistry is weakened. Great chemistry is built when the team chooses a collaborative effort rather than independent progress.

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6. The team genuinely cares about one other.

When I meet with church staff of larger churches or volunteer teams in smaller churches, it’s easy to tell if they sincerely care about one other. Whether it’s a physical illness, family stress or just a tough time personally with work responsibilities, the rest of the team jumps in to help. A caring nature overrides a work-only disposition among teams with great chemistry.

7. Communication is open, honest and current.

Church staff and teams with the greatest dysfunction are those that simply won’t talk. They ignore the elephant in the room and refuse to have tough conversations. Teams who tiptoe on eggshells so they don’t “poke the bear” (whoever that might be) squash chemistry. Great chemistry is cultivated by clear and candid conversations that keep things up to date.

Whether you are blessed with natural chemistry, or you need to work at it, all teams must invest effort and energy to experience great chemistry.

What would you add to the list?

Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. This article was originally published on Reiland’s blog, Developing Church Leaders.