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Author: Heath Lambert

The Seventh Commandment of Staff Relationships: Thou Shall Assume Good Things about Others

We Will Always Assume the Best of Another’s Actions, Words, and Motivations Until Evidence forces Another Conclusion A Staff Mess Conversations can be complicated on ministry staffs. Years ago, a staff member at First Baptist asked for my plan about his boss’s future. That would have been an inelegant question at any point, but in this case, it was positively awkward. Recently, our leadership team had decided his boss was a great man who was poorly placed. Everyone wanted to keep him on the team but had come to believe he was serving ineffectively where he was. Because he didn’t see it that way, the communication required some delicate and painful conversations. Those conversations were ongoing when his team member asked what I thought about his future. The question put me on my heels. On...

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The Sixth Commandment of Staff Relationships: Thou Shall Not Gossip

We will never speak critically about someone without a plan to help them Gossip consists of critical comments made about another person without a plan to help them. At First Baptist, our ministry staff is not allowed to talk this way. I hope this is true for your ministry team as well. To help you understand why, I want to tell you ten true statements about gossip. 1. Gossip Is Very Damaging When I first came to First Baptist, there was a terrible problem with gossip. It seemed that everyone talked about everyone else. Tons of problems flowed from this. One problem was the absence of trust that came with working on such a team. Another problem was the way difficulties persisted by never being addressed. Perhaps the worst problem was the destroyed reputations. I could tell you many stories...

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The Fifth Commandment of Staff Relationships: Thou Shall Not Grumble

When We Discover a Problem, We Will Neither Deny It Nor Complain About It But Seek to Resolve It All Ministries Experience Trouble The Apostle Paul wrote the book of Philippians while locked up in prison. He was being unjustly held for a crime he never committed, and you would think—even expect—that such treatment made him bitter. It didn’t. In fact, he wrote to us from prison and gave one of the most amazing instructions ever handed down by a convict, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing” (Philippians 2:14). When Paul, with chains around his ankles, says to do all things without grumbling or disputing, I think we can trust that he means it.  If “all things” include unjust incarceration, then it certainly includes enduring the problems we face serving the Lord in our contemporary...

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The Fourth Commandment of Staff Relationships: Thou Shall Fight for Reconciliation

We Must Address Sin When We See It, Confess Sin When We Commit It, and Forgive Sin When Victims of It. The Greatest Threat to Your Ministry Staff In the first blog in this series, I shared about the many staff problems I had to begin addressing when I became senior pastor at First Baptist. When I began to deal with those problems, things turned ugly very quickly. Long-term staff members began to plot with others about how to damage our church. People I have known for years began to slander me to others while refusing to speak to me. Pastors and their wives posted (and still post!) messages online designed to embarrass me and damage the church they once said they loved. People who used to be my friends now root for my ministry to fail. I truly understand when people are upset over a lost...

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The Third Commandment of Staff Relationships: Thou Shall Accept Correction

As We Pursue Excellence Together No Person May Ignore or Reject Correction but Must Respond Positively to It Correction is Hard Anyone close to me can tell you how much I really dislike correcting people. It is one of the hardest parts of my job. But, because I am committed to regular, truthful, and loving communication, I am committed to providing correction when it is necessary. Years ago, a member of my team did something I specifically requested he not do. I hated to have a corrective conversation with him, but I knew it was necessary. I told him he was out of line. I made clear that he is always free to ask questions, to disagree, and to propose alternatives, but that it was wrong for him to be openly defiant. I made clear I never wanted to see that kind of behavior again. It was a...

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The Second Commandment of Staff Relationships: Thou Shall Communicate Regularly, Truthfully, and Lovingly

Because Silence Creates Trouble We Will Communicate to Stay Ahead of Problems and to Resolve Problems Staff Problems Are Communication Problems Almost every problem you can imagine in any relationship you have traces back to some communication failure. Years ago at First Baptist, several of us in leadership trusted a staff person to work on an important set of problems with a few key people on our ministry staff. As the months passed, however, the problems were increasing, and the relational tensions were worsening. When I would ask why things were getting so much worse, this staff member would rub his face, plead ignorance, and express profound frustration over the difficulties. I suggested that it might be good to just get everyone in the room, lay the problems on the table, and develop...

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The First Commandment of Staff Relationships: Thou Shall Love People More than Your Job

The People You Work with Are More Important Than the Tasks You Are Accomplishing A Problem of Priorities One of my first meetings during my first week as Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church was with a leader on our staff who had received dozens of complaints from the people who reported to him. The complaints painted an ugly picture: He was angry, loud, accusing, forceful, and generally created a hostile work environment. Several women who reported to him were afraid to come to work. This environment is obviously unacceptable in any place of work, but especially in a church. I called a meeting with him immediately. As I raised the serious complaints, he immediately became loud, angry, and accusing. Before I knew it, he was on his feet towering over me, pointing his finger in my face, and...

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An Introduction: 10 Commandments for Ministry Staff Relationships

A Broken Church and A Broken Team When I became Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville the church was facing overwhelming challenges. Decades of decline in membership created a number of punishing financial realities, the most obvious being $90 million in financial liabilities the church had no idea how to pay. But the most challenging difficulties we faced were related to our staff. Many problems existed. For starters, the staff was far too large. Back then, we had a paid staff of over 220 people. That is more than twice the total attendance of most churches. The big problem was that this was more than double the team we needed for a church of our size. Our church was going broke paying for staff we did not need and could not afford. Another problem was the many on staff...

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A Royal Lesson on the Rumor Mill from The Princess of Wales

“Prince William is having an affair!” “Another woman is pregnant with his baby!” “Princess Kate can’t be seen in public because William hit her!” “She is filing for divorce, and another royal marriage is ending!” Those were a few of the reports making the rounds in the last few weeks as the world was ripe with speculation about the reason why the Princess of Wales had not been seen in public for months. Those reports were widespread and viewed by millions of people all over the globe. Of course, we now know those reports are complete fabrications. The princess has announced that the reason for her retreat from public view is the discovery of cancer during her planned abdominal surgery in January. It has taken months to heal from surgery, begin cancer treatment, and explain her condition...

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Four Facts about Sexual Abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention

Part 4: We Must Have Solutions That Understand the Way Our Convention Works No Right to Fatigue During the release of the most recent update from the Abuse Reform and Implementation Task Force (ARITF), the chairman, Josh Wester, observed a sense of fatigue setting into the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in our response to sexual abuse. He warned against an attitude that desires to move along too quickly. I appreciate Pastor Wester’s service, the hard work of his committee, and his words of warning. Every pastor I talk to in the SBC agrees with them. We know we have an obligation to keep our people safe, and we are not exhausted by that obligation but invigorated by it. A Sacred Obligation Every pastor has a sacred obligation to protect the people in our churches from abuse. Our principal...

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