How Church Leaders Can Communicate Without Knowing the Final Answers

How Church Leaders Can Communicate Without Knowing the Final Answers

No one knows much about what the future holds as some COVID-19 restrictions are eased, but we know that a lot feels uncertain.

Church leaders are hearing questions such as…

What’s our plan?

Will we reopen soon?

Will there be any layoffs?

With so much uncertainty in the world, your answer might be, “I don’t know.” And rightfully so.

But “I don’t know” doesn’t help and doesn’t give people a lot of confidence. On the other hand, communicating with clarity reduces anxiety.

We have two suggestions that we believe will help you communicate even when you don’t know what to say. When the answer is, “I don’t know,” here’s what you can do.

#1 – Bring your process front and center

Where “we don’t know right now” can be frustrating, communicating a plan or process is reassuring to people.

Simply knowing that there’s a plan being worked on puts people at ease.

Fewer people cared about the church’s cleaning process a few months ago. Everyone assumed that this hidden process excited and that it was happening behind the scenes.

But now, especially as churches consider reopening buildings for in-person services, plans and processes need to be front and center.

Even if you don’t have all of the answers yet, share the process you’ll use to get there. For example, “We’re not reopening the building this month, but we’ve put together a team of health professionals in our church family to help us do it safely. This group of people will meet every week during the month of July and work on safety and sanitation policies, reopening guidelines, and ordering the equipment we need.”

You can communicate this process for any decision when the answer is still “I don’t know.” Communicate how you’re making the decision, who is a part of the team helping to make the decision, and how you’re ultimately going to process it and decide.

#2 – Share trigger points or milestones

If you’ve spent any time on social media or watching the news from March 2020 to now, you know that opinions vary on staying home, wearing masks, and reopening businesses.

But one of the main, common frustrations seems to be that people hear “We’re closing things down” and there’s no answer in response when they ask, “Until when?”

You don’t have to know the final answer to say, “Here’s what we’re waiting for before we make our decision.”

We’re going to close the building down until we see cases reach this level.

We’re requiring masks until we see this happen.

We won’t meet publicly until these things happen.

We’re taking our cues from here.

We don’t have to cut anyone’s salary right now, but if our reserve account dips below this number, then we’re going to start reevaluating.

Communicating trigger points or milestones is more reassuring than saying, “We’re monitoring the situation.” It gives people specific things to look toward for answers and moments of change to look forward to.

When you say, “Here’s our process” or “These are the key milestones for us as we make decisions” even in the midst of uncertainty, people can have confidence in your communication and your leadership.

Watch our practical tips on communicating without knowing the final answer:

Take a Next Step

Knowing what to say can be a big leadership hurdle right now, but that’s understandable. We’ve never been in a situation like this before and “pastoring through a pandemic” isn’t taught in seminary. But that’s why we created those twelve prewritten emails—to help you save time and communicate well. 

You can serve through communicating and these email templates can help you get started. These pre-written emails will help you communicate with clarity, care, and concern and offer the hope and consistency that people need in these uncertain times.

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12 Emails to Send Your Church

Seven Causes of Low Morale on Church Staff

Seven Causes of Low Morale on Church Staff

There's nothing like being on a team that's excited, focused, and winning.

But for too many church teams, low morale is just a way of life.   Though deep down we should be excited, energized, and driven by our calling, we’re just…tired.

We’re tired because we’re doing more than ever.

We’re tired because we’re doing things that are outside our comfort zone.

We’re tired because we’re figuring out new challenges and we don’t know what’s working.

And for many churches, the current situation has just exacerbated the issues.  Morale was trending down for some time and this has just accelerated the decline.

Morale is confidence, enthusiasm, and the discipline of a team at a specific time.  It speaks to a sense of purpose and confidence in the future.

If you’ve got it, it’s great.  You’ll probably have to keep fighting to keep it.

If you don’t have it, things might seem dire.  But you can recognize the causes and take practical steps to build it.

Leaders can make things better or worse.

Ignore the signs, and your team will go from tired to burned out to gone.  But jump in with practical solutions and you can build team morale, team momentum, and lead your church into the next season of ministry with a new sense of purpose.

Let’s talk about the seven causes of low morale and what to do about them.

#1 Poor Communication


One of the quickest ways to kill morale on your team is poor communication.

If successes aren’t shared, challenges aren’t discussed, and ideas aren’t heard, people will feel like they are working alone.

During normal times, most team members admit communication is not where it needs to be. In times of rapid change or confusion, this is even more important.

Average communication feels like bad communication during times of confusion.

Because communication is one of the biggest challenges on most teams, it means improving your communication processes is one of the quickest ways to build team morale.

At one of our monthly meetings, our Church Fuel team recently had a conversation about how to improve communication.  We’re a small, remote team and we work really well together.  Communication is honestly pretty good.

But with some new people and new projects in the works, I felt like we needed a tune-up.  I found this document from Basecamp and shared it with our team, We talked through it and re-committed to the idea of communication and implemented a few tactical changes.

Here were some of the principles that stood out:

  • You can't not communicate. Not discussing the elephant in the room is communicating. Few things are as important to study, practice, and perfect as clear communication.
  • Substantial decisions start and end with an exchange of complete thoughts, not one-line-at-a-time jousts. If it's important, critical, or fundamental, write it up, don't chat it down.
  • Poor communication creates more work.
  • Ask if things are clear. Ask what you left out. Ask if there was anything someone was expecting that you didn't cover. Address the gaps before they widen with time.

Since things tend to go from a state of order to disorder when left alone, it’s important to revisit your communication principles and practices and tools from time to time.  Talk through what needs to be communicated and talk through HOW things need to be communicated.

Honestly, many of the leadership tools we have for members at Church Fuel get right at this issue of communication.

  • The RACI Spreadsheet helps church teams clarify who is responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed on everyday tasks.
  • The Ministry Action Plan helps each ministry clarify how ministry-specific goals, plans, and programs roll up to the broader church mission.

#2 – Unclear Expectations


The second thing that kills team morale is unclear expectations.

Most people on teams want to do a great job and excel at the things that are on their plate.  But problems arise when expectations are not clear.

If you’re a team leader, your people cannot meet expectations that are not communicated to them.  You might be holding to a standard that exists only in your mind.

If you’re on a team, you might feel like the expectations placed on you are not clear.  That means you have the opportunity to go and seek clarity.  While it could have (and probably should have) been communicated clearly, it’s now up to you to dig in and get clear on those expectations.

The solution is actually quite simple:  Write down your expectations.  If you want to get on the same page, create an actual page.

Team leaders, write down your expectations clearly.  Whether it’s for a role, a project, or a task, make sure you don’t have uncommunicated expectations that will turn you into a passive-aggressive leader.

Team members, get used to saying the phrase “just to be clear” and then repeat back what you head.  Push for clarity.

#3 – Changing Goals


Imagine scoring a touchdown in a big game and the referee throws a flag, consults the other refs, and decides the end zone was actually 10 yards away.

Over the last few months, churches were forced to change programming, strategy, budgets, processes, and significant parts of their ministry.

Change is a normal part of ministry.

Thinking there won’t be changes is a recipe for disappointment.

But when things change constantly, that’s a recipe for burnout.

Constant change will drain a team’s energy and remove any sense of morale.  Maybe you’re on a team and feeling this way now.

Maybe your team has a leader that continually comes down from the mountain with a new vision, a new direction, and a new “drop everything and let’s do this” message.

Maybe you’re that kind of leader.

If you’re constantly changing the goals on your team, not only will they lose trust (“did you mishear God the last time?”), they will struggle to give their full energy to the next new idea.

Goals are a good thing, but if they change too often, the ensuing whiplash will demotivate more than the and your fresh vision will never be able to compensate. 

#4 – Team Members Have No Voice


“I don’t really care if we actually do what I’m suggesting here, I just want to be heard.”

That’s what we heard from a team member who was struggling to find her place on the team.  She had ideas, and those ideas weren’t being honored.

Most people on teams want their ideas to be heard.  In fact, the number one reason people don’t speak up is that they have spoken up in the past and nothing happened.

In teams with a few loud voices, morale might be really low.  Usually, the loud voices don’t realize it, because they are too busy talking over everyone.  And sometimes, this is a long-term effect of poor communication culture.

If someone is valuable enough to be on the team, their ideas are valuable enough to be heard.  If someone has a seat at the table, make sure they have a voice in the room.

One thing we hear from pastors is they don’t have people around them that speak up.  They tell us they desire to have great leaders around them with ideas and drive, but they just don’t.

if you don’t’ have people around you with opinions, ideas, and leadership experience, that’s a leadership development issues.  That’s not other people’s fault…that’s on you. Leaders create the culture where voices are valued.

If you’re on a team and don’t feel like you can share your opinion, speak up about the culture that makes you feel that way.


#5 – A Lack of Collective Progress


Even if you have a clear goal, continual work and toil toward an outcome without feeling like you’re making progress can kill morale.

It’s like constant fighting with little advancement.  It’s tiresome work with little visible results.

There are a lot of churches that have been pushing for change, trying to build the right culture, and working hard to accomplish a mission.  But there’s little progress.  There’s not much to celebrate yet.

And that can really take a toll.

Honestly, it’s the same feeling caregivers can feel when exerting mental and emotional energy taking care of someone who isn’t getting better.  Even though the task is important and there’s a deep sense of love, it can feel draining.  And then the guilt that comes from feeling that way takes a second toll.

Many leaders feel that the key to getting momentum is having a big win.  They want to turn the tide so they swing for the fences.  Maybe it’s a big initiative or a new ministry or a big new plan.

Going big feels right.

But momentum isn’t jumpstarted by big wins.  Instead, it’s created by a series of small, connected wins pointing in the right direction.

Momentum (and team morale) happens with little win followed by little win followed by little win.  String enough of these little positive movements together and you have momentum.

One of my favorite ways to structure goals and see progress comes from book The Four Disciplines of Execution.  We profiled that book in the The Pastor’s Book Club.  That’s where you can get the breakdown containing notes, big ideas, and key quotes and a ministry insight video where we specifically call out applications to church.  The Pastor’s Book Club is included for all Church Fuel members or you could purchase it separately here.

The authors say the best format for goals is: “From X to Y by When.”

That’s a brilliant way to structure church goals.  You need to know where you are now.  You need to clearly identify where you’re going.  And you need a deadline.

The only thing I would add is that these goals may not need to feel big, audacious, or eternally significant.  They might need to be small and timely, so you can begin to generate momentum.

For teams to feel a strong sense of morale, they need to experience a simple sense of accomplishment.


#6 – A Lack of Coaching


I know “coaching” sounds ethereal and hard to understand.  It’s not a task like writing a sermon or leading a meeting, so while we know it’s important, we struggle to actually execute.

Coaching our team remains in the important but not urgent box on your Eisenhower Decision Matrix.

There are three specific things team members need from their leaders in this category of coaching.

Development.  Team members need intentional development from you.  Being on your team should help them be a better person.  Your team needs you to teach them what you know and what you’re learning.  They need you to help them grow as leaders not just just get better at the tasks of their job.

Most of the time, this doesn’t happen because it’s not scheduled.  That’s why we created a Team Training resource and recommend pastors use one of the lessons once a month at a regularly scheduled team meeting.

If your leader isn’t taking a developmental interest in you, take it upon yourself. Use our free Personal Growth Plan resource to build your own personal growth plan.  Share your plan with your leaders, and even if they don’t support you, execute your plan.  But a more likely outcome is your leader will see your effort and begin to invest more into your growth.

Evaluation.  Team members need to know how their doing.  They need to know what’s working, what’s not working, and what could be changed.  Teams with healthy cultures build this into their rhythm and it’s never weird to talk about performance.  If this is new to you, just recognize that it’s going to feel weird at first but as it becomes normal, it becomes better.

If you’re a team leader, conduct official evaluations at regular intervals.  If you’re on a team where this doesn’t happen, ask for it.  If you still can’t get it, do it for yourself and send the results up the food chain.

If you’re a Church Fuel member, you’ll find tons of evaluation forms in the Resource Library.  These can help you have honest and fruitful conversations about job performance.

Feedback.  Feedback is similar to evaluation, but it’s less formal.  It’s immediate.  It’s real-time.  When you give feedback, be careful not to say phrases like “I didn’t like…”. Because great leadership isn’t about imparting your preferences.  It’s about helping people be the most effective.

Ed Catmull, President of Pixar, wrote this in Creativity, Inc.: “Candor isn’t cruel. It does not destroy. On the contrary, any successful feedback system is built on empathy, on the idea that we are all in this together, that we understand your pain because we’ve experienced it ourselves.”

At Church Fuel, we often assign people a task to “make it better.”  Whether it’s an article or a webpage or a campaign, someone who is usually not highly involved is asked to provide “make it better” feedback.  It helps us produce collectively good work.


#7 – Micromanagement


Most people don’t like to be closely watched and tightly controlled.  They want to do their job with freedom.

Nearly every business article, book, and podcast warn against the dangers of micromanagement.

  • It’s annoying.
  • It’s not scalable.
  • It damages trust.
  • It leads to burnout.
  • It kills morale.

While some will chalk it to a personality trait or a leadership style (“he’s just a micromanager” or “she’s just a micromanager”), micromanagement is usually a sign of a dysfunctional culture.

It’s what leaders resort to when there’s poor communication, changing goals, poor development, and no clear outcome…all the things we’ve been talking about in this article.

Still, if you’re struggling to overcome this and want to make progress, there are things leaders and team members can do.

If you’re a leader, clarify outcomes and expectations on the front end.  If you’re a team member, push for even more clarity until you have NO questions about what is expected.

If you’re a leader, focus on developing, not managing.  If you can’t do it across the board, do it during certain time periods or with specific projects.

If you’re a team member, it’s time to over-communicate.  Tell your leader what you’re going to do, what you did do, and what happened as a result.  Do this before you’re asked.  It’s hard to micromanage someone who overcommunicates.

All parties should learn to write things down. It’s the old “plan the work then work the plan” principle. Processes, flow charts, checklists, and written project briefs really do make the difference.

Take the Next Step

Church teams are working harder than ever: serving, leading, pivoting, and trying to keep the church going. All this hard work makes people tired, and if you’re not careful and intentional, burnout comes next. You don’t want to come back with a jaded team with low morale.

The Tired Team: A Toolkit to Improve Staff Morale gives you and your team the coaching you need and the resources to make things better.

How to Survey Your Congregation as You Build Your Reopening Plan

How to Survey Your Congregation as You Build Your Reopening Plan

Earlier this year, we completed work on a course called Data Fueled Church. We’ll release the course later this year.

The big idea is that pastors should use data, information, and numbers in their decision-making process. The goal is not to be driven by those numbers, but simply to let facts inform our decisions.

We think that’s good stewardship.

During confusing times, when opinions are plenty and feelings are high, it’s really important to gather real information from your congregation.

A survey is a great way to do this.

Ask your people when they would feel safe to return, their attitude towards volunteering and family ministry, and what precautions they would want to see in place. Ask easy to answer questions and open-ended questions. Get the pulse of our people.

As you consider when and how to reopen, it’s smart to get real information from your people. Not anecdotal stories or one voice magnified by a factor of ten. You need to get real input.

It’s knowing the condition of your flocks. It’s being a good steward of the information available to you. To borrow from a story Jesus told, it’s considering the cost before starting construction.

Many of our Church Fuel members have been gathering data from congregational surveys and I wanted to share some of our favorites.

The Ridge Church

Long Hollow Baptist Church

Access Church

Your survey doesn’t have to be a long, complicated, or overly technical. In fact, you could just ask a few questions. Here are five questions I recommend you ask right now.

  • When is the soonest you would consider coming back to the church building?
  • What would you want to see happen before you would comfortably return to church?
  • If we opened next week, would you volunteer in your same spot?
  • If we opened next week, would you send your children to our children’s programming?
  • What do you miss most about church?

You can use tools like Typeform, Survey Monkey, or Google Forms to set up your survey.  You could take it to the next level and use a tool like Gloo to run periodic congregational check-ins. It’s a fantastic tool to help you get the pulse of your people with a free account and template.

Surveying your congregation is something you should consider as you wrestle through when and how to reopen the church.

For more about surveying your congregation plus practical advice and ideas to help you make a thoughtful, strategic decision and plan about reopening your church, download our free guide, The Senior Pastor’s Guide to Reopening.

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The Senior Pastor's Guide to Reopening

Three Reasons Your Church Should NOT Reopen Yet

Three Reasons Your Church Should NOT Reopen Yet

I've seen a lot of talk over the last week about when and how the church will reopen.

There are checklists, webinars, roundtables, and “expert” opinions.

We know it’s going to be different, but we want to meet again. We want to get back to “normal.”

If we're being honest, we've had enough of this isolation thing. It's taking a toll. The economic implications are starting to wear on us. And as believers, we have a desire to be with our people.

We miss gathering on Sunday. We miss that part of church. It’s more than human nature—there’s something theological happening here, too. The church is supposed to gather. Christians are supposed to meet.

But as states lift Executive Orders,  I actually want to encourage you NOT to open up too soon. Even though we want to. Even though our people want to. Even though there’s something inside pushing us to. 

Here are three reasons not to rush back to meeting.

Reason #1: You don’t want to be labeled reckless by the community.


Public perception is a big deal.

I’m seeing way too many churches and pastors in the news for the wrong reason.

Lawsuits, threats, protests. These are words I’m reading in news stories about CHURCHES.  The media is focusing on these negative stories (because that’s typically what the media does), not the stories about churches serving the community, meeting needs, and being socially responsible. If you’re labeled reckless, much of the good you’re doing will be glossed over.

And your story will contribute to a meta-narrative. We share in each other’s successes and we share in each other’s shortcomings. To the outside world, many churches are all the same. So, what we do affects the whole. This isn’t just a church issue: businesses, states, and programs that open up too soon run the risk of being labeled reckless.

Medical safety aside, there’s a big perception risk.

Even though you want to get back to meeting and your people want to get back to normal, this is not a race. There’s no prize for being first. In this case, those who go first might suffer even more of a public backlash.

Reason #2: You don’t want your church members to get the wrong idea.


The second reason I don’t think you should rush back is that this is not only the perception of the community but the perception of your church members.

For years and years, we have preached that the church is not a building. We’ve told our people not just to come to a service but go into the world. There are churches that have signs on their doors as people are walking out that say, “You are now entering the mission field” or “go be the church.” Even as we moved online, we encouraged our members to “be the church,” warning them against reducing everything to a livestream or online service.

So, what does it say if on the very front end when we can meet again—even when lots of people were advising against it and having questions—we rush back?

One of our ministry coaches, Matt, posted this in our Facebook group. He said, “Those churches that hurry back to worship will give members the perception that they need the public gathering to truly be the church. So all the things we've been telling them all along about church happening, wherever you are, we'll sound hypocritical now.”

I know we want to gather. I know we want to meet again.  And that's a good thing. But if you make it all about the meeting, then we are reinforcing the opposite of what we’ve been trying to teach.

It doesn't mean that the gatherings are unimportant or that they are not crucial to who we are.

But don’t give your people the wrong idea that we can't be who we need to be without gathering in a building.

Reason #3: You shouldn’t exhaust your resources solving temporary problems.


The third reason, and perhaps the most important reason, is you shouldn't exhaust your resources trying to solve temporary problems.

There is a thankfulness that will emerge out of this time as a lot of churches are rethinking what they're doing. They are looking at their strategy, their ministry, and their programming in light of cultural change. There’s a bit of a reset happening

Five years from now, when we look back on this time, we will realize we re-evaluated quite a bit.

We redefined the term “essential.” We built muscles we didn’t even know we had.  We learned a lot of things we didn’t want to learn but they turned out to be helpful.  We figured out how to expand our digital footprint.  We learned how to build a community online.  We learned how to be incredibly responsive.  We flexed an innovation muscle.

But what if we paused during this intermediate time and thought more deeply now? In the time between when we can legally gather and when we should gather, what if we leveraged our time to continue getting good at things that can help us for years to come?

These new skills and muscles we're developing will help us for years to come, not just the last few weeks.

Yes, we could rush back and quickly figure out changing guidelines, investing tons of man-hours and resources into solving a temporary problem. Or we could continue to build digital momentum, holding back the tide, until it’s not just safe but when it can truly kickstart momentum.

Build skills that you can use for the long haul; don’t just scramble to solve problems that only provide a quick fix.

We should view this pause as an opportunity to reset, not just rush back because we miss what we had.  Of course, we miss our gatherings, but let’s not just run back to what is comfortable and familiar.  Let’s embrace this time of learning and experimenting

Alan Hirsh said this…

 “If you want to learn how to play chess, you should start by removing your own queen. Once you’ve mastered the game without the most powerful piece, then put the queen back in and see how good you are! For the church, the Sunday service is our queen. We’ve been relying on it too much. Now that the queen has been taken off the board it’s time to rediscover what all the other pieces can do.”

When you gather again, you will have new skills.  You will be better.

It's not that we want to forever do church without the gatherings. We want to have those things, and we need to bring those things back. But it’s okay to temporarily build other parts of a healthy church.  It doesn’t make the queen unimportant, it just means it’s not all about the queen.

Maybe this time of waiting is an opportunity.

To reset.

To rest.

To reevaluate.

To refocus.

And to come back better.


We got you. Watch the video below to catch the latest on why your church shouldn't rush to re-open.

5 Tips for Effective Church Staff Evaluations

5 Tips for Effective Church Staff Evaluations

Your church staff needs to be made up of more than warm bodies. 

As a church leader, if you hire someone to do a job, then you need to not only hold that person accountable, but you should aim to serve that person to become the best he or she can be. 

But how do you know if someone is doing a great job? 

Is it their promptness? 

Do they have a jovial personality? 

Is there a way you can know if their work is furthering the mission of your church? 

In short, yes, you can know how well someone is performing and if his or her work is supporting your church’s mission and vision. Before digging into how this is possible. Let’s take a moment to talk about why you must conduct staff evaluations. 

3 reasons you should conduct staff evaluations

There’s way more to conducting church staff evaluations than adding another to-do on your checklist. 

Providing evaluations is one big way you can create a healthy church culture

Before we dig into the details, let’s take a look at 3 reasons why you must conduct staff evaluations. 

#1 – Feedback is a part of servant leadership 

Are you in a position of leadership? 

Do people report to you (staff) or do people look to you for direction (volunteers)? 

If you answered yes to either one of these questions, then you are called (by God) to serve those you lead. This is exactly what Jesus was getting at when he said: 

“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves” (Luke 22:25–26).

This doesn’t mean that you’re always washing someone’s feet or letting your staff or volunteers get by with whatever they choose. Far from it. 

As a servant leader, your goal is to help your staff members live and love like Jesus and to do everything for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31), which means your church staff will need feedback. 

I know this sounds like a tall order. 

But hear me out:

God calls you to serve your staff. 

Your church staff needs you. 

They are in a position to receive the vision God is giving your church.

They desire to do the best they possibly can. 

They need you to lead them to fulfill God’s call upon their life. 

Heed God’s call in your position by providing your staff with helpful feedback. 

#2 – The science of practicality is on your side 

Not only are you called by God to serve your staff. 

According to research, providing your staff with clear expectations and opportunities to learn and grow are essential to leading your team well. 

We will dig into this a bit more below. But when you hire someone, be sure to provide him or her with a clear job description and well-defined expectations. 



When your staff knows what’s expected and they have the tools and training they need to get the job done, then they are much more likely to perform well in their position.

Know what else?

When you provide a clear job description, you’ll make your job a whole lot easier when it comes to evaluations. 

Think about it. 

If your staff members don’t clearly know what they need to do, and you start evaluations, then they’re going to be really nervous because they won’t know if they’re hitting their performance goals or not. 

More on this in a bit. 

#3 – Feedback builds leaders

Feedback is essential for any type of work. 

It’s the one thing that can help anyone improve in anything. 

This is true for most things, including:

  • Preaching
  • Education
  • Sports
  • Parenting
  • Management
  • Work
  • Exercise
  • Graphic Design
  • Website Development
  • Communication
  • Nutrition
  • And more … 

Regardless of the work your church staff is performing, feedback is critical to helping them know if they’re doing well or if there’s room for improvement. 

By not providing any feedback, you’re leaving your staff guessing and stressing. They won’t know if they’re on the right track, performing well in their work, or what in the world you think about them, which can cause a tremendous amount of anxiety. 

Don’t let your team walk around blindly in the dark. 

Instead, provide them with the feedback they need to progress in their work. 

Rabbit Trail:

Below, we’re going to dig into church staff evaluations. But at this point, it’s important to highlight the importance of providing ongoing feedback. 

As a church leader, you can serve your staff well by setting them up for success and providing consistent support. 

Here are two big ways you can accomplish this goal:

  1. Integrate staff goals into the church’s goals
  2. Conduct one-on-one meetings

The first thing you want to do is integrate church staff goals into your church’s goals. The easiest way to do this is to ensure that the work of the person who’s on your team is woven into the very fabric of your church’s vision and mission. 

For example, the work of your staff needs to be tied directly into the work of the church. Sure, there will be miscellaneous tasks and projects that don’t necessarily “move the ball down the field” for your church’s mission. But, overall, the work your staff does should directly support the work of your church’s mission. 

What is more, you need to be prepared to conduct one-on-one meetings

Depending on your church’s context, these meetings can take place weekly or bi-monthly. During these meetings, the goal is to connect on a personal level with each staff member, see how his or her work is progressing, and to ask how you can help him or her accomplish his or her goals. 

Now, I understand it’s difficult to have these types of meetings during busy seasons (e.g., Christmas and Easter). However, the influence these meetings will have on the life of your staff is well worth the time investment from your schedule.

A short guide to conducting staff evaluations

Convinced you need to evaluate your staff?


Here are 5 steps you should take. 

#1 – Create clear job descriptions 

You know what’s impossible to do? 

Provide an honest, objective, or helpful evaluation without a clear job description. 

Here’s why:

Without clear metrics to measure, it can be a Herculean task to provide a helpful evaluation. 

Think about it. 

Without a specific task, responsibilities, or goals established, what are you going to evaluate? Whether or not they were on time every day? How many days they took off? Whether or not they looked busy?

When you’ve clarified your staffs’ roles and responsibilities, you’ll be in a much better position to know how well they are (or are not) performing. 

Know what else? 

Clear job descriptions are also uber helpful for your staff too. 

As I mentioned above, job descriptions provide clear marching orders for your church staff. It gives them clarity in their work, helping them to determine what they need to do daily and how best to prioritize their work.

#2 – Clarify your values 

Have you nailed down your church’s values?

Are you clear on your church’s mission and vision? 

If so, then you must evaluate your staff based on these core pieces of your church. 

If you haven’t clarified this part of the life of your church, then check out these resources before moving forward:

Alright, moving on. 

After you’ve clarified your church’s values, you’ll need to be prepared to evaluate your staff based on these values. As you live out these values and hold your staff accountable to do the same, you will move your church staff and entire church family toward living out these values. In a big way, as you and your team exemplify these values, you’ll influence the rest of your church to do the same. 

Let me show you how this works. 

Let’s say one of your values is to “live and love like Jesus.” 

To see how your staff lives out this value among your team and with your entire church, you could ask these two questions:

  • “What is one way you’ve expressed your love for Christ in the way you serve your colleagues?”
  • “How have you lived and loved like Jesus among our church family? What’s one example that comes to mind?”

When you ask questions pertaining to your values, it’s also a good idea to be prepared to provide your own observations. In sharing these observations, tell your staff ways you’ve seen them living out your church’s values and perhaps ways you can see them better reflect your church’s values. 

By helping your staff live out your church’s values, you will—in time—create a healthy church culture, which is the foundation to fulfilling God’s call upon your church. 

#3 – Set specific goals

For your staff, you must provide goals. 

There are two types of goals you want to help them set:

  1. Job goals
  2. Personal growth goals

Let’s take a look at job goals first. 

When you provide annual and quarterly objectives,, you create tremendous clarity for your staff by helping them to prioritize their work around the goals you agree upon. 

Now, the ministry goals you set shouldn't be excessive. For instance, you don’t want to set a dozen goals for your staff to accomplish at once. Instead, you want to provide focus for your team by limiting the number of big goals they need to accomplish within specific periods of time. 

When it comes to staff evaluations, provide your team with 1–3 goals they should aim to accomplish before their next evaluation. The goals you set together will serve as the guiding force for your staff members—to help them determine their priorities. 

When it comes time to talk about goals, here are some questions you can ask:

  • Are you happy with the progress you made toward your goals? 
  • Do you have everything you need to accomplish your goals?
  • Are there any hurdles within the church (e.g., culture, staff, or resources) that inhibit you from accomplishing your goals? 
  • What can I do to help you accomplish your goals in the next quarter? 

As you end your evaluation, it’s essential to discuss and agree on goals with your staff. This way, as you check in with them, you can get regular updates, see how they’re progressing, and ask how you can help them accomplish their goals. 

Regarding personal goals, you can challenge your staff to set a personal growth plan

These personal goals should be aimed toward professional development. These goals will need to either help your staff members improve in their current position or help them train to take on new roles or responsibilities. For example, when helping someone on your staff to improve in a specific area, agree upon resources he or she should digest. 

Practically speaking, here’s what you need to do: 

  • Identify 1–3 personal growth goals
  • Pick educational resources
  • Identify a mentor or coach

For these goals, the level of accountability you offer is different from job goals. The point of these goals is to help your team members improve—not to discourage them from growing at any level

To help you create a personal growth plan for yourself and your staff, click here to download a free guide

#4 – Be consistent

It’s easy to get excited about conducting church staff evaluations. 

You want to help your team improve. 

You’re working toward creating a healthy church culture. 

You want to make strides toward reaching your community for Christ. 

In your excitement, it’s easy to double-check your job descriptions, conduct one evaluation, and forget to have another one—again. 

Well, that’s not too helpful. ? 

When it comes to church staff evaluations, it’s best to do the following:

  • Set an annual evaluation
  • Schedule a semi-annual evaluation
  • Host regular check-in meetings

At a minimum, you want to conduct an annual and semi-annual evaluation. 

Only providing one annual evaluation is too infrequent. It’s way too easy for anyone to get derailed from their goals and get stuck in the proverbial rut. Semi-annual goals tend to work best for most church calendars. This is just enough time to set a six-month goal, have regular check-ins, and reconnect for an official review halfway through the year. 

#5 – Get peer feedback

Your church staff members are not robots. 

Their work influences more than whatever they’re working on.

Like you, your staff is a member of the body of Christ—a team member, manager, or employee. In other words, their life and work directly influences the people all around them. 

During your church staff evaluations, it’s also important to consider inviting peer reviews. These reviews can be anonymous, and they’ll provide a more robust evaluation of the staff member you’re evaluating. 

Peer feedback is especially important for larger staffs or if you have a decentralized leadership team. If you lack regular contact with your team, it’ll be difficult for you to get an accurate assessment on whomever you’re evaluating.

Evaluating your staff

Evaluating your staff can feel daunting—especially if you’re just getting started. 

If you feel overwhelmed, start with placing evaluations on your calendar. Once you make a commitment to evaluate your staff, you’ll be in a much better position to prepare yourself and your team.  

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Pastoral Searches: 4 Common Mistakes & A 7-Step Playbook

Pastoral Searches: 4 Common Mistakes & A 7-Step Playbook

Searching for a new pastor is nothing new.

But if you're feeling overwhelmed by the thought of finding a new pastor, you’re not alone.

For good, bad, and ugly reasons, pastors often transition.

But look on the bright side.

Since this is the case, there’s a ton of helpful advice out there on how to find your next pastor.

In this post, I created a short guide based on the best available advice to help you put together a pastoral search. Before getting into the nitty-gritty, let me save you some heartache and lay out the four common mistakes to avoid when searching for a new pastor.

4 common pastoral search mistakes

You’re going to make plenty of small mistakes along the way, and that’s okay. But you want to avoid stepping on one of these landmines during your pastoral search. One of them could blow up your entire process. So, tread lightly. ?

#1 – Avoid advice

Let me state the obvious:

Finding a new pastor is challenging.

Know what else?

This task isn’t something your church does every day.

In this post, I’m going to share practical advice handed down over years of pastoral search committee experiences. Following these tips will place you on the right track. But there’s one colossal limit this blog post possesses:

It will not turn you into an expert.

Becoming an expert in anything takes time, dedicated practice, and experience.

Does this mean you shouldn’t move forward in your pastoral search?

Far from it.

Here’s what this means:

In your search for a new pastor, don’t overlook your potential lack of experience with hiring people. Instead, be humble. Acknowledge the possibility that you, your church staff, or your church members may not have the skills you need to promptly find the right pastor for your church.

This process isn’t a simple task you can mark off of a church project-management to-do list. The life of your church marches on without a senior pastor, and in his or her absence, you may lose church members, experience a decline in giving, or lose forward momentum. When (not if) this happens, your search for a new pastor will feel more urgent, which can lead your search committee to make a rash decision.

As you prepare to search for a new pastor, consider soliciting advice from outside sources, such as your:

#2 – Searching too fast—or too slow

Timeliness is of the essence.

When it comes to pastoral searches, many churches have erred in two ways:

1. Moving too fast

2. Moving too slow

First of all, there’s no need to move too fast.

Don’t offer the position to the first person you interview. Give yourself and your search committee time to interview several candidates. There’s no need to rush the process.

The other error you want to avoid is moving too slow.

It’s easy to make the position public, receive interest, and then never return an email or phone call. Moving too slow will cost your church the interest of great candidates, and an unnecessarily lengthy search process will negatively influence your church members.

#3 – Lack of communication

Searching for a new pastor is a public (church) thing—not a private matter.

Even though your church may have a board, bishop, or search committee who’ll make the final decision in hiring a senior pastor, you shouldn’t leave your church members in the dark.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to forget to keep your church up-to-date.

How’s the process going?

Has your search committee narrowed down their list?

Will you invite a candidate to interview soon?

These are just some of the questions your church members are thinking. Instead of tempting them to gossip, it’s best to continually share updates while being open and honest..

Know who else needs to know what’s going on?

People who’ve applied for the position.

As you work through the pool of applicants, be quick to let those who didn’t make your short list know, and provide them with encouraging words to keep pursuing their vocational call to ministry.

Have you identified candidates you’d like to learn more about?

It’s best to let them know as well.

As I shared above, you don’t want to keep your candidates sitting in the dark for too long.

#4 – Unrealistic expectations

Visionary leader.

Executive skill set.

Gifted orator.


Organizational builder.

These are just some of the characteristics you may be looking for in your next pastor, and it makes sense. It’s nice to have someone who can “do it all.”

But here’s the deal:

From vocational ministry to the business world, you’ll never find someone who is or can do everything. So, be careful that you don’t place unrealistic expectations on the pastor you’re searching for that Jesus himself can't fulfill.

In your pastoral search, your search committee will have to define exactly what you’re looking for in a candidate. During this process, be sure to clarify your church’s priorities versus qualities that are nice to have.

A 7-step playbook for finding your next pastor

Now it’s time to get work.

After pouring over a ton of different resources from denominations, networks, and independent churches, I put together this 7-step playbook for finding your next pastor.

Here is the table of contents:

1. Pray, pray, and pray

2. Build a search committee

3. Find an interim pastor

4. Know the vision of your church

5. Know who you’re looking for

6. Review your applications

7. Interview your candidates (thoroughly)

It's time to get started.

#1 – Pray, pray, and pray

At ChurchFuel, we’re practical people—it’s what we do.

We have a biasness for action, and a tendency to act first.

We’re not alone.

As a church leader, you’re beyond busy.

Your schedule (LINK) can be unruly.

You have more work to do than hours to do it.

Now, in the search for a new pastor, you have a huge task to accomplish. At this point, it’s easy just to put your head down, make a plan, and start knocking out the work you need to do like whack-a-mole.


Take a breath and prepare to pray—a lot.

Calling a new pastor to serve your church isn’t a simple task. Sure, you can hire anyone you like. But you want to do more than find a hired hand. You want to discover the next pastor God is calling to lead your church, and this is a spiritual matter that can only be accomplished through prayer.

As you prepare to search for a new pastor, here are three things you’ll need to pray for:

1. Wisdom

2. Search committee

3. Future candidates

As for wisdom, you need to submit your work to the Lord. Place yourself and your church in his hands, and ask for him to lead the way. A prayer for wisdom isn’t a one-time event. Seeking God’s input through prayer is something you’ll need to do on an ongoing basis.

In your prayers, you’ll also need to pray for your search committee. At this point in the process, you haven’t put together a search committee. But you’ll want to start praying for God to put together the right team.

Don’t stop praying for your search committee after they're formed. You’ll want to lead your church to pray for them throughout this process. So, however you share prayer requests with your church members, be sure to include a call to pray for your search committee.

Finally, you’ll want to pray for your future candidates. Ask the Lord to lead the right person to serve your church, and pray for that person’s well-being and family throughout this process.

#2 – Build a search committee

Remember, searching for a new pastor is a public (church) task.

This is a principle that undergirds finding a new pastor—especially when it comes to forming a search committee. If prayer is the fuel that drives your church, the search committee is the engine behind finding your church’s next pastor.

Since forming a search committee is vital to this process, let’s take a moment to talk about the following:

  • What is a search committee?
  • How many people should be on your committee?
  • Who should be on your search committee?
  • What roles should form your committee?

Let’s dig in!

What is a search committee?

A search committee is a group of people in your church who are temporarily organized to find your church’s next pastor. From developing a job description, screening candidates, and setting up interviews, the search committee leads the process of finding your church’s next pastor.

How many people should be on your search committee?

For your search committee, it’s best to have an odd number of people, in the range of 7–11.

An odd number of members will help your team to avoid a stalemate.

Shouldn’t the search committee unanimously agree on the decisions they make?

This would be nice.

But a unanimous decision isn’t necessary.

Here’s the deal:

Your search committee should be made up of people with different perspectives. When this is the case, there’s a good chance that not everyone will agree on whomever your church decides to call as their next pastor.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a bad thing.

When disagreements are present, then your search committee will be able to talk through differences, make a compromise, and move toward the middle in whatever decisions they make.

For your church committee, you don’t want fewer than 7 members, and you want to avoid having more than 11. If you have less than 7 people on your search committee, then there’s a good chance your committee will get overwhelmed by the work and move too slow during the process. On the other hand, if you have more than 11 people, you run the risk of taking too much time to make decisions.

Who should be on your search committee?

Your search committee should reflect your church.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Involvement in the church
  • Positions in the church

Regardless of the polity your church does or doesn’t have for selecting a search committee, make sure your committee reflects the life of your church as best as possible. This way you can ensure that this process is a public (church) task.

What roles should form your committee?

Here are the three essential roles you need to fill in your search committee:

  • Chairperson
  • Secretary
  • Communications director

The chairperson is the man or woman responsible for leading the search committee. The chairperson’s primary role is to schedule meetings and oversee the work that needs to be done.

The secretary will take notes and help everyone stay on track.

Finally, the communications director is the person responsible for communicating with the church and with the candidates.

Don’t overlook this last position. Without having a dedicated communications director, you run the risk of keeping your church and candidates in the dark or slowing down communication to a standstill.

#3 – Find an interim pastor

In between senior pastors, your church will have a considerable gap to fill—especially in the pulpit.

One idea to consider during this pastoral transition is to identify an interim pastor.

An interim pastor is someone you can hire, an assistant pastor, staff member, or even shared responsibility among your church's leadership. Whatever your church decides, be sure to clarify the most critical work that needs to be done in the absence of your previous pastor, and ensure that someone or a group fulfills these responsibilities.

Here’s what else you need to know:

Having an interim pastor will help you fight the urge to hire someone too fast.


An interim pastor can preach and take on other responsibilities while your church works toward calling its next pastor.

#4 – Know the vision of the church

There’s one vital step your search committee needs to take before moving forward:

Your search committee needs to agree (not by a vote) on the vision of your church.

Thankfully, this isn’t something your search committee will need to define. This is something your church has probably already nailed down in a vision or mission statement. So, your committee won’t have to recreate the wheel at this point.

Here’s why this important:

The mission and vision of your church will influence the type of pastor you call.

In one way, the location of your church (urban, suburban, or rural) will naturally influence the type of pastors who will submit an application or be open to considering serving your church. Differently, your church’s mission, worship style, and philosophy of ministry will also influence what type of pastor you hire.

Here’s what else to keep in mind:

What is your church’s vision for the future?

For the answer to this question, your search committee needs to take stock of where you’re at and what type of pastor you need to help you get to where you want to go. When your team is armed with this information, then they’ll be in a better position to define what type of pastor can help your church fulfill its mission, which leads me to the next point.

#5 – Know who you’re looking for

Creating a job description is one of the first big tasks your search committee will need to complete.

Don’t treat this as a simple task to complete.

This job description is so much more than a random posting on a church staffing website. This description stakes a claim about your church and the type of pastor your church is seeking. What is more, the description you create will also influence the kind of candidates who apply.

When creating the job description or ministry profile, here are specific things you want to include:

  • Academic qualifications
  • Ordination requirements
  • Ministry experience
  • Necessary skills
  • Personal, familial, and spiritual characteristics
  • Job (pastoral) expectations
  • Philosophy of ministry
  • Ideal ministry setting
  • Personal testimony and call to ministry

Don’t rush this process—your search committee won’t be able to complete this in one evening. For a lot of this information, if your church is affiliated with a denomination or network, then you can lean on your network for input.

Keep in mind the future of your church. For example, if your church needs help breaking the 200 barrier, then it’s ideal to find a pastor who has experience doing this.

Know what else?

Depending on the size of your church, you’ll need to be careful of what type of pastor you call. For example, it’ll be difficult for a pastor of a 200-member church to lead a church of 2,000. Can he or she learn how to do this? Sure. Unless you have the time or a transitional plan in place where your current pastor will mentor the next pastor, then prayerfully move forward if your committee “believes” a candidate may fit the bill.

Here’s a different side of this coin to consider:

A pastor transitioning from a solo situation to a team or a team to a solo situation may struggle.

Here’s why.

The skills anyone needs—including pastors—to work with or without a team are different. If someone is skilled at being a solo pastor, then he or she will need time, resources, and support to learn how to work well with a team.

If a pastor akin to working with a team is considering a solo pastoral opportunity, then be sure to ask him or her if they’re ready to work without a team. This might seem inconsequential. But the type of work required in a solo setting versus a team setting differs, and the pastor considering a call in this scenario needs to consider this.

#6 – Review your applications

Let’s say you’ve already completed the steps listed above.

What is more, let’s also imagine that a couple of months have already passed, and you’ve received multiple applications.

What do you do next?

Are you supposed to interview every candidate?


After you receive applications, the first step your search committee should take is to create a short list. Based on the criteria you established in the previous step, examine applications and decide whether each candidate fits the qualifications.

At this point, there are three things you can do:

1. Pass

2. Pause

3. Go

At the first step, you can simply pass on candidates who do not meet the requirements for the position. As a search committee, you need to be prepared to receive applications from candidates who do not meet the qualifications—especially in the area of skills and experience.

In pastoral searches, many people will wrestle with a perceived internal call from God to serve as your next pastor. Some candidates may be called to serve in vocational ministry. But based on their pastoral experience, they are not the right person for your church. In these cases, it’s okay to say no and to let them know as quickly as possible.

During your search, there will be other candidates who you’re on the fence about. In these moments, it’s okay to pause and further explore this candidate. When you run across candidates who you’re not sure about passing on or moving forward with, you can follow up with them to ask a few questions. This can be done via email or someone from your search committee can speak with the candidate directly and report back to the team.

Finally, if an applicant meets the qualifications for the position, you can go—move forward—with interviewing them as a potential candidate, which leads me to the next point.

#7 – Interview your candidates (thoroughly)

Have your short list handy?

Great, now it’s time to move on to the interviews.

How many candidates should you invite to interview?

Well, it depends.

At a minimum, we suggest interviewing at least 3–5 candidates.

Now, when I say interviews, I’m not only talking about a friendly fireside chat over the phone. What I have in mind is inviting the candidate and his or her spouse to visit your church for a few days.

For this process to be effective, you’ll want to schedule 3–4 days and make sure they connect with multiple people and groups, including:

  • Church leaders and spouses
  • Ministry leaders
  • Volunteers
  • Long-standing members
  • Shut-ins
  • Small groups or Bible studies

Basically, you want candidates to meet as many people as possible.

By making multiple connections through your church, you’ll be better able to gauge how well your church members respond to candidates.

What is more, during your interview process, there are three areas you want to look into:

1. Experience

2. Personal life

3. Family life

Let’s take a look at these in detail!

#1 – Experience

When it comes to a candidate’s experience, look closely.

Here are some things to be on the lookout for:

  • Sermons
  • Bible studies
  • Social media accounts
  • Supplemental material
  • Recommendations

When your committee is reviewing a candidate, it’s essential to connect with his or her referrals or recommendations. This is a time-consuming yet vital step you don’t want to skip. There have been plenty of cases of churches who did not connect with a candidate’s referrals, and then discovered months or years later of significant issues that disqualify him or her from the ministry.

Here’s what else you’ll need to do:

Invite your candidates to preach and teach.

At a minimum, you want every candidate you’re seriously considering to preach. It’s one thing to listen to a candidate’s sermons. It's another thing to hear him or her preaching from the Bible for your church.

Also, depending on your church and the candidate’s time, it’s also a good idea to have him or her teach a Sunday school class, lead a small group, or whatever is essential for your church.

Requiring this step will give you and your church first-hand experience of each candidate’s ability to preach and teach.

#2 – Personal life

The pastor you call is your next shepherd.

He or she should be able to set a grace-filled example of what it means to live and love like Jesus.

There’s only one way you can find this out:

By asking each candidate questions, listening, and chatting with referrals.

Here are just some of the questions you’ll want to ask:

  • What are your views about [fill in the blank]?
  • What do you think about the use of alcohol? Smoking?
  • Can you describe your devotional life?
  • What place does family have in your life?
  • How do you approach sermon preparation?
  • Are you involved in your community?
  • What hobbies do you have?

There are many more questions you can ask. But this list will get you started.

#3 – Family life

Finally, the last big area you want to explore is a candidate’s family life.

Assuming your candidate is married and has kids, you might ask these questions:.

  • How often do you go out with your spouse?
  • In what ways are you discipling your children?
  • How would you describe your relationship with your spouse?

You don’t want to leave these questions to your candidate. During the interview process, you can also ask his or her spouse similar questions to gauge their relationship.

Before moving on, there’s one last thing I’d like to emphasize:

Require your search committee to maintain strict confidentiality.

It’s okay for your team to speak in general terms. But it’s best for everyone to hold back their thoughts on individual candidates until a final decision is made.

Calling your next pastor

In the end, it’s time for your church to make a decision.

How this decision is made will be influenced by your denomination or network. For example, do you allow your church committee to make a decision or recommendation, does your church’s leadership (elders, deacons, board) make the decision, or does the entire church cast a vote?

To make your decision, we don’t suggest requiring a unanimous vote. Instead, we suggest requiring two-thirds (2/3) of your committee or church to vote in favor of your next pastor.

Regardless of whom you call, your work isn’t done.

It’s now time to partner together with your future pastor to share the gospel, make disciples, and be a light in your community.