5 Ways to Set New Church Leaders Up for Success

5 Ways to Set New Church Leaders Up for Success

When your staff has been together for years, it’s easy to forget what it was like before you knew each other so well and before you got used to the way your church operates.

Even if they’ve led in other places or capacities, it’ll take some time for them to get used to leading at your church. And if you don’t set them up for success, there’s a lot that can go wrong.

When a new leader falls short, it’s not always a sign that they weren’t a good fit, they weren’t called to the position, or that their personal failings were simply too great. Sometimes it means they didn’t have the support they needed to be successful in their role, or the initial expectations were too high.

Here are some things you can do to equip your new leaders to succeed.

1. Define what success looks like for their role

It’s hard to do a good job if you don’t know what doing a good job looks like. Maybe you have big goals and dreams for what their role should accomplish years from now. Maybe they’re starting a new ministry to the homeless, or you need them to disciple kids, or find ways to partner with local charities.

Give your new leaders tangible things you want them to achieve in their position and metrics they can use to gauge their progress so that they have something to work toward. Help them find a balance of long- and short-term goals.

2. Establish a clear onboarding process

Some people can get by just fine without direction. They can step into an ambiguous new role with vague instructions and still make things happen. But not everyone operates like that. And even people who do will need time to learn your systems and understand why you do things the way you do.

Having a clear onboarding process means taking the time to really teach someone what’s required of them and walking them through the tasks and objectives their role entails. It means training your leaders to do things the way you want them done, instead of assuming they learned how to do ministry the same way as you.

A good onboarding process might include things like:

  • Introductions to every staff person (ideally one-on-one meetings/lunches, too)
  • Possibly a formal introduction to the congregation
  • A “go-to” person they can ask about anything
  • A complete tour of your facilities with explanations of what happens in each space
  • Tutorials of any programs or processes they will be expected to use
  • Reading material that will help them get to know the church
  • Grace

3. Meet with them regularly

When you start something new and ambitious and nobody talks to you about it or checks in on you, it’s easy to feel like you’ve been thrown in the deep end. Your new leaders need someone they can talk to when they’re having challenges—especially as they try to navigate relationships with other leaders.

Whether it’s you or someone else on staff, be sure to give new leaders a regular time to talk about how things are going and to freely discuss any frustrations or struggles they’re having. These meetings also provide an opportunity to check-in on their goals and ensure progress doesn’t go unnoticed.

4. Equip them with resources

No matter how long someone has been leading, they can still grow. Depending on your new leader’s position, it could be appropriate to equip them with Bible software, books, video courses, or extra training. Now more than ever, these kinds of resources are highly accessible, and every church should be finding quality teaching to help their leaders grow.

It could also be valuable to go through these resources with your new leaders or to discuss them in your regular meetings.

(By the way, we’ve got some recommended reading for your communications pastor and your lead pastor.)

5. Update your staff listings as soon as possible

This may seem superfluous, but it’s really not. When you hire new staff, outdated staff listings can make them feel like they’re not really part of the team yet, like they’re in an interim position. It can also create potentially awkward interactions with church members and visitors and increases the likelihood that members won’t know who they are.

If there are technical obstacles to updating your church website and other digital assets, it could be a sign that it’s time to make a bigger change. Contemporary church websites and apps are simple enough that you should be able to conveniently and quickly make important changes like this.

Bottom line: the longer it takes for you to update your staff listings, the longer it takes new leaders to feel like they’re really part of your team. In the meantime, here are 20 free, ready-to-use church staff job descriptions your church can use when hiring for your next open position.

Help your leaders follow their calling

You want your new leaders to succeed. So why not give them every opportunity to be the leaders God is calling them to be? Make them feel like part of the team. Show them what you think they can accomplish. And give them the tools to lead the best they can.

For churches that care about nurturing and investing in their leaders, there’s never a wrong time to take a critical look at how staff members are compensated. In fact, churches can automatically set up their leaders for success by simply taking a more guided approach to salary decisions and making pay consistent with specific critical factors like local cost of living and level of experience. Discover how other forward-thinking churches are using thoughtful salary decisions as a way to set up their new and current leaders for success. Download the free ebook, 2019 Church Staff Salary Guide, today!

Ryan Nelson

Ryan Nelson has been a volunteer youth leader with Young Life for nearly a decade. He writes in the Pacific Northwest, where he lives with his wife and twin boys.