Q&A Wednesday: How Can I Get The Head of Staff on Board?

Welcome to Q&A Wednesday! These questions were originally featured in my premium newsletter subscription Treasure Box Tuesday. If you’re interested in getting the latest, including special freebies and discounts, please learn more HERE. Premium subscribers have access to a private Facebook group and their questions are the ones I answer! This question was originally sent out to subscribers on February 4, 2020.

Q. I’m a family ministries pastor/Director of Children and Youth/Associate and my boss/Sr. Pastor/ Head Pastor isn’t on board with any of the things I want to do when it comes to family ministries. How do I make her/him/them understand my perspective?  

A. The first and most important thing I recommend in this scenario is changing the way you frame this one, just a little bit. If you approach it from the perspective of how you can make your Head of Staff see things your way, you may always be disappointed. Your Head of Staff is looking at a lot of moving pieces, including the budget, worship attendance, staff relationships, church growth, preaching, and on and on. Those who work in family ministries are doing critical work that’s essential to a thriving and healthy church. Unlike the Head of Staff, who needs to be a generalist, family ministry leaders are able to be specialists and focus on one key area. When you approach your Head of Staff about changes or issues that affect ministry to children, youth, and families, start by keeping in mind this bigger picture. Try to learn what your Head of Staff is concerned about and how you can help accomplish the goals they are thinking about as well. Instead of thinking of it as needing to convince your Head of Staff of something, think about how you can work together towards common goals. To this end, I recommend two books that might help.

Leading from the Second Chair: Serving Your Church, Fulfilling Your Role, and Realizing Your DreamsBonem and Patterson. – This book tackles some of the unique challenges of leading while also being subordinate to another staff leader. 

* Getting to Yes by Fischer and Ury – This is a slim book on negotiation that’s been around for a long time. I think it’s exceptionally useful, not just for this, but for all kinds of negotiating in life. 

The second recommendation for working with heads of staff is to make sure you’re involving lay leadership as well. Whether or not you have a ministry team, a committee, or other volunteer leaders, it helps to have a group of people working together on ministry ideas and changes. Every Head of Staff does things differently, so find out if your boss wants you to run meetings without them present, or whether you should act as co-leaders. These team meetings are a perfect time to talk about critical issues facing your ministry. 

A third suggestion is to summarize key research, findings, and trends in children, youth, and family ministries for your Head of Staff. You, as a specialist in this area, likely follow the Facebook Groups, trends, research, latest books, etc. If you’re reading this post, you’re probably clued in to some of what’s current. Your Head of Staff, in contrast, is likely not able to keep up on all of the trends and research around children, youth, and families, so it’s likely that the ideas your proposing might need to be explained a bit more.

Fourth, ask questions. If your Head of Staff seems unsupportive of an idea, try to find out what the specific concerns are. This is not to debate or argue the point, but it’s to understand and learn and grow.

The final recommendation I have about working with Heads of Staff on new ideas is to offer a simple, low-commitment trial with a promise to circle back around.  So, for example, let’s say you’d like to have children present for the entire worship service and not have them leave part way through. That’s a big change. Instead of presenting to a committee (or the Head of Staff) as a one-time,  once-and-for-all change, I’d present it like this. “Next year, for six weeks, I’d like us to try having children in worship for the month of September. We’ll promote it all summer, make sure we have plans for how to accommodate questions, and then, if it doesn’t seem to be working for our community, we’ll go back to the way things are now after this trial. If it does work, we can evaluate whether or not we want to make the change permanent.” Giving people an escape clause and reminding everyone that we can “always go back to the way things were” is super helpful in implementing change. It works, too. People are more relaxed during trials, and more willing to experiment, when they know it’s just for a change of pace or a try.

If you are a ministry leader who is interested in having me speak or consult with your congregation about children, youth, and family ministries, specifically, or implementing change, generally, please reach out. You can book a mini-consult HERE or be in touch for information about consulting packages.

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