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The Congregational Consulting Group, organized in 2014 by former consultants of the Alban Institute, is a network of independent consultants. We publish PERSPECTIVES for Congregational Leaders—thoughts on topics of interest to leaders of congregations and other purpose-driven organizations. —  Dan Hotchkiss, editor

Breaking the Burnout Cycle

Church staff approach the beginning of a program year with enthusiasm and energy, but as the year winds down, this often gives way to malaise and exhaustion. Staff rely on the summer months for revitalization before the cycle begins anew. This cycle of overwork, exhaustion and renewal has never been healthy, but during the pandemic, the summer hiatus has not offset months of overwork and stress. Many staff are running on empty—already burned out while the program year is still new.

It’s time to break the burnout cycle by instituting healthy, sustainable church workplace practices.

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Making Staff Evaluation More Engaging

I still dread performance management, especially annual evaluation of staff. I’ve built a structure that makes evaluation conversations doable, but they still make me so anxious that I want to run away and hide. Recently, Frederick Buechner collided with Harvard Business Review in my morning brain, and I started to wonder about adding a new question to the evaluation process—Should we alter course?—that could draw me out of my anxiety into a richer and more meaningful evaluation conversation.

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Shifting Staff Designs

Hands drawing on whiteboard
Photo by Kaleidico on Unsplash

In the 20th century, many churches followed a standard staffing model. As a congregation grew in membership and mission, it added a director of Christian education, associate pastors, and a business manager, usually in that order. Today, congregations are questioning the need for all of those positions, at least as they were performed in the past.

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We Need to Talk about Staff Size Differently

How many people should your church hire? At least since the 1980s, when Lyle Schaller proposed average worship attendance as a useful indicator of program staff size, churches (and church consultants) have used ratios to decide how many staff to hire. This mathematical approach has merit, but as a nonprofit executive I never used it—instead I made staffing decisions based on the specific work that needed to be done and what I hoped each staff member would contribute.

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Front Line Workers in Congregations

Photo by True Agency on Unsplash

During the COVID-19 shutdown, we all learned a new term: the frontline worker. Since the spring of 2020, frontline workers have put their health and lives on the line working in industries critical to keeping our economy running. Healthcare workers, firefighters, and grocery store employees, among others, have to work outside their homes, at continual risk of exposure. While I had the luxury of staying safely at home in front of my computer, my spouse, who is a manager in the transportation industry, went in to work every day. Thankfully so far, none of his co-workers have contracted Covid on the job.

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Trauma-Informed Workplaces

Staff who negotiated the first waves of the pandemic with resilience may be hitting the wall now. The relentless stress of this season is incapacitating some of our best employees. If you are a supervisor, you may wonder how to recognize and respond to traumatized members of your team. Five key practices will help you provide a trauma-informed workspace.

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Staffing When You Can’t Afford to Staff

Leaders of small congregations often say, “We can’t afford to hire as many people as we need.” Leaders of large congregations say the same thing! If your vision is ambitious, you will always need more staff than you can afford, no matter what resources you have at your disposal. Fortunately, there is another way.

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