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Does Working From Home Actually Work?

3 min read By October 1, 2020October 12th, 20202 Comments

Lessons on COVID Management

COVID broke everything. As we all pivoted to working from home (WFH), pastors across the country started asking the same harrowing question: “Will we financially survive this?” Then our employees began wondering, “Is it even safe to come to work?” Those of us in leadership were suddenly dealing with financial, managerial, and mission challenges we had never before faced.

After calming ourselves down and deciding to try WFH, many of us worried that half our staff were binge-watching Tiger King during work hours and the other half were secretly home-schooling their kids and remodeling their houses while the church was coming unraveled!

Am I being dramatic? Perhaps, but if you’ve had these nightmares, then you’re not alone. We all know that leading a church is a lot more like football than golf: It’s a team sport that requires creative collaboration and constant communication. Distance creates distortion; the vision and values are always leaking.

I think it’s critical for you to question whether WFH works, but there’s a deeper question you should be asking yourself: Do I have metrics for my staff and management practices that work regardless of where the office is located? Does each of my employees have a measurable daily and weekly win? If not, COVID isn’t causing your management problems; rather, it’s merely amplifying and revealing the painful fact that you don’t have a universal job description for your staff.

On the surface, worship pastoring seems quite different from children’s pastoring. Worship pastors have music-specific tasks (for example, set lists and arrangements) while children’s pastors organize curriculum and safety policies. At Substance Church we call these responsibilities task-specific job descriptions. As you might imagine, these job descriptions have morphed a lot with digital church.

However, when we strip away these task-specific lists, the remaining eighty percent of our job descriptions are the same.

We all recruit and pastor volunteer teams. We’re all small group leaders. Every ministry has a flowchart or family tree of volunteers. And every staff person shares a universal job description: “My job is to increase the quality, height, and width of my family tree and the family trees nearest to me.”

Theoretically, if a staff member is doing his job, that family tree will always be growing. Aside from a global pandemic, the only reason a family tree should shrink is because of multiplication—that is, because we divided the team to launch a new service or campus.

If employees don’t know the daily and weekly win, they will make up their own wins, which may or may not sync with leadership’s vision and expectations. This is why it is critical to clarify task-specific job descriptions from universal job descriptions. A failure to clarify and communicate objectives will result in constant tension between leadership and staff.

Here is a three-step process to improving the management of your church in any circumstance.

  • First, create universal job metrics with weekly goals. Small groups and family tree metrics will build God’s church—even during an outbreak!
  • Second, create a weekly meeting schedule to monitor and enforce goals. Individuals who fail to meet goals need to be coached. (If you’re curious, we discovered the five main reasons staff fail to expand their teams.)
  • Third, be willing to have tough conversations when individuals repeatedly fall short. If you are diligent with the first two steps, the tough conversations become easier.

COVID is not the problem; rather, it’s our wake-up call to help us manage our churches more effectively. I believe that once your team adopts the job description and process improvement model I’ve described, your church will grow regardless of the work format you embrace.


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