We’re working our way through Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business.
Lencioni consults with businesses, nonprofits, and churches, and he frequently explains how the lessons apply especially to churches, because the work churches do is so much more important than the work done by anyone else.
At the core of any of these systems must lie the answers to the six critical questions. For instance, when employees are given a raise, they need to understand that they are being rewarded for behaving or performing in a way that is consistent with the organization’s reason for existing, core values, strategic anchors, or thematic goal. And when employees are denied a raise or a bonus, they need to understand that it is because they did not behave or perform in a way that is consistent with all those things. These are great moments of truth for leaders to demonstrate that they are really committed to what they say is important. To fail to make the connection between compensation and rewards and one or more of the six big questions is to waste one of the best opportunities for motivation and management.
I believe in raises designed to reflect inflation in the cost of living. To fail to keep up with inflation is to cut someone’s pay. You’d better have a really good reason.
But I don’t believe in seniority raises. Longevity is worth nothing in and of itself. Raises reflect increases in value. Nothing else is fair to the church or the Lord. It is, after all, his money.
Therefore, you have to have some way to evaluate the contribution of the minister, and the way you do that is based on the values of the congregation, its vision, and its culture. Does the minister’s work reflect the congregation’s values? He may be doing really good things, but are they the good things you hired him to do?
Of course, it would be grossly unfair to mark him down for not meeting standards you never explained to him. But if he’s been told that you want the teens involved in short-term missions led by adults, and he instead takes them to an inner city mission, he’s insubordinate, even if the kids learned great life lessons.
Just so, if he’s a great guy who loves Jesus dearly but who cannot connect with teens, he might be in the wrong ministry. Don’t give him a raise for being such great company. Help him find a place where his gifts will best serve the kingdom.
This will sound harsh to some, but it’s not fair to the church or the minister to give substantial raises for years of service that haven’t produced a harvest for the Lord. If the church’s goal is to develop a heart for the needy in the community, and if the preacher does nothing to support this goal, why does he get a raise? Housekeeping and the “same ol’ same ol'” doesn’t merit a raise. (It doesn’t even merit existence as a congregation.)
However, if the minister and the elders work together to set a vision for change that really needs to be made, and if the minister helps actually bring those changes about, so that the church has truly grown in Jesus, well now, that deserves a reward.
You see, sometimes we reward too quickly and too easily because our expectations are too low. Just preaching sermons that keep the pews filled is often all we ask. We don’t set goals, and so we can’t reward accomplishing goals. But a church that’s actually led as a shepherd leads sheep will have clear, well-understood path they want to follow — and having goals will make compensation decisions easy.
But it’s not just about money.
I like to explain to clients that when leaders fail to tell employees that they’re doing a great job, they might as well be taking money out of their pockets and throwing it into a fire, because they are wasting opportunities to give people the recognition they crave more than anything else. Direct, personal feedback really is the simplest and most effective form of motivation.
This is an area I’ve had to work on. I’m something of a perfectionist (surprised?), and so my internal voice rarely compliments me. I’m rarely satisfied with my own performance. As a result, I don’t need that much recognition and don’t naturally give it.
However, I’m getting better at it. In part, it’s because I’ve seen so much bad ministerial work that I’ve learned how valuable it really is. I’m working at it. I really am getting better.
I think a lot of elders are the same way. We’re guys, and guys are often just terrible at expressing their feelings. It’s the American way. Worse yet, some of us are cheap — and we’re afraid that if we compliment the preacher, he’ll expect a raise. Of course, the reality is that he deserves to be rewarded for his good work.
Some of us grew up in households or work in businesses where praise is really hard to come by. We struggle to praise others because we actually feel jealous — since we have unmet needs for praise.
Moreover, in many churches, even excellent elders are rarely thanked for their work. And we elders don’t get paid. Praise and seeing good things happen is all the reward we get in this world. And if we feel under-appreciated, it’s hard to give to others what we so desperately miss.
Church members, if you want your elders to work hard and lead well, express your gratitude often. And crazily enough, if you praise your elders, they’ll find it easier to praise the ministers and the ministry leaders and even the entire church. What goes around … You see, your encouragement of discouraged elders will start a resonating process that just might energize the entire congregation!