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Tips To Manage Your Staff Remotely

Tips To Manage Your Staff Remotely

Church ministry is a unique thing. It runs on a different schedule and pace than a lot of other 9 to 5 jobs. Your church staff must often balance their administrative (office) duties and their “people” work, which can often mean they work around the schedules of those they work with or minister to. Whatever your role, it can be a grind. Now that your whole team is working from home and many of your ministries have either hit the pause button or moved to online options, how do you manage your team effectively to take advantage of the opportunities you have this season? Here are a few ways you can engage your team and your church during this season:

Mike Rhoades | Apr 3, 2020

Church ministry is a unique thing. It runs on a different schedule and pace than a lot of other 9 to 5 jobs. Your church staff must often balance their administrative (office) duties and their “people” work, which can often mean they work around the schedules of those they work with or minister to. Whatever your role, it can be a grind. Now that your whole team is working from home and many of your ministries have either hit the pause button or moved to online options, how do you manage your team effectively to take advantage of the opportunities you have this season? Here are a few ways you can engage your team and your church during this season:

1. Set Expectations

One of the greatest advantages of information technology is that it allows your team to work remotely and with greater flexibility than ever before. However, that flexibility presents more opportunity for misalignment in our expectations. Are you going to manage your team through a task-oriented approach or are you going to set an expectation that they are at their desk between certain hours? You will quickly find that some employees can be incredibly efficient when working remotely and can likely accomplish in 25-30hrs what might take others 40-50hrs a week. Are you okay with a person accomplishing their tasks in 25-30hrs a week and then “clocking out?” If not, how will you create an environment with a scalable workload so they can find productive ways to fill the rest of their time? Ultimately, as the team leader, you are going to set the tempo and you have to decide what you think will best suit your team. 

2. Create An Effective Communication Strategy:

Phone calls, text messages, emails, or even notes passed between cars as paper airplanes... there are a ton of great options for communicating with your team. Managing a team remotely is different than working together in an office. When your team is centrally located, a large amount of those little collaborative pieces happen naturally. A remote staff is much more of a self-directed workforce. They manage their day, make countless decisions (big and small), and will be largely responsible for setting priorities to ensure they reach their goals. It’s important to consider how you will handle the following activities:

  • Team Meetings: The temptation is to either fill up your people’s time with long conference calls or to forego team meetings altogether. Both extremes are problematic. Regular team meetings are essential, but be sure to set an agenda and to keep them as concise as possible. For more ideas on team meetings, checkout Patrick Lencioni's book, Death By Meeting.
  • Daily Communication Systems: Just because your team communicates well in the office doesn’t mean the same will be true working remotely. We utilize several different types of communication for different purposes. It helps to communicate with your team what type of communication should be used for what purpose. Here are three examples:
    • Slack - Quick conversations, brainstorming, and other casual conversation that benefits from real-time response. Share files, retain conversations and monitor which team members are online.
    • Email - Formalized information, church-wide communication, information that is not overly time-sensitive.
    • Google Meet - Video conferencing, discussing sensitive/challenging topics, allows for a more personal connection. 
  • Workflow and Task Management Systems: Now that your team is working from home, it can be hard to track and execute team projects. You might be planning a big small group initiative to engage your church family online. How do you manage the development of all the elements you need to successfully run a church-wide campaign with your team working from their homes? Fortunately, there are a number of great systems out there, many with free versions, that will help you set goals, assign tasks, track progress, and deliver on many of your key initiatives. The important thing is to pick a system that works for you and commit to it as a team. Here are a few great examples:
    • Basecamp - simple, organized, great for multiple types of teams.
    • Monday.com - easy workflow, track progress, excellent for content and creative teams.
    • Asana - flexible, different styles of workflow, integration with other systems

3. Set And Track Goals:

This may sound like a familiar concept (and in many ways it is), but it becomes even more important when your team is working remotely. In the marketing world, it’s a common rule of thumb that a person needs to hear a message seven or more times before it begins to sink in. You no longer have the benefit of walking across the hall to make sure the youth pastor is on the same page as the rest of the team. Now is the time to double down and really leverage your favorite goal-setting process. If this is new to you, I would encourage you to check out the book Measure What Matters. It’s a master class on how to set great, actionable goals that you can actually track and how to measure their effectiveness. 

Managing your team remotely can be a whole new world but that doesn’t mean it has to be chaotic or less productive. I’ve always said that the larger the group, the more simplified and clear your message needs to be. I think the same is true with a remote, self-directed team. The reason is that whenever we create distance between two individuals who are communicating, we add distortion to that communication channel. It’s like the telephone game you played as a kid. You will need to be extra clear on your goals and expectations in order to allow your team to function at a high level. But if you can set good expectations, create a great system for communication, and set attainable goals, I believe your team can thrive during this season and your church will benefit greatly from it.  

If you would like more resources about leading ministry online, be sure to check out our other posts!


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