15 Proven Ways to Demotivate Your Church Staff

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Ever met a leader who deliberately went out of their way to de-motivate their staff?

Of course not.

Ever tried to do de-motivate your own staff?

I’m sure that’s never crossed your mind.

And yet, when you spend as much time in churches and with church teams as I do, from time to time you come away thinking that this is exactly what’s going on.

You see, sometimes, usually through sheer lack of awareness, church leaders appear to be going out of their way to ensure a demoralized, de-motivated staff.

While not exhaustive, here is what I have found to be the top 15 proven ways to de-motivate your church staff.

If your goal is have a team of fired-up, aligned, highly motivated ministry leaders on your team, avoid these strategies at all cost.

  1. When someone complains about a staff member, always assume the complainer has a legitimate beef. Take the complainer’s side when you meet with your staff person.
  2. Never drop by a staff member’s office (except when you want something).
  3. Never attend their ministry gatherings.
  4. Make them jump through hoops before approving their request to attend a conference.
  5. Don’t show up at staff parties and functions. (If you must, show up late and stay for just a few minutes).
  6. Withhold information.
  7. Don’t involve them in leadership conversations, unless it’s specifically about their department.
  8. Constantly compare them to their counterpart running “that great ministry in the church down the street”.
  9. Don’t answer their emails or voicemails. If you must respond, take a very long time to do so.
  10. Impose significant change on them without seeking their input.
  11. Set high expectations for results without the necessary resources.
  12. Never give them a shout-out in “big church”.
  13. Avoid showing interest in their lives outside the office.
  14. Make a big deal about small mistakes.
  15.  Make a small deal about their big ministry wins.

Remember, no team ever drifted towards being a charged up, motivated team of go-getters. Building that kind of team requires diligence and intentionality.

But you can build that kind of team.

And your starting place could well be avoiding each of these de-motivators.

What would you add to this list?

the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Willow Creek Association. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave & Willow and John, Fiona & Will. Lifelong learner.

12 comments

  1. Great list! From my experience what works great is to use number one and fourteen together. So when someone complains, take their side without hearing from the staff person they are complaining about, then make even minor complaints major issues. For even better results take the minor compliant to the elders board.

    All joking aside it can be easy to demotivate staff and volunteers and often we don’t intend to as we are caught up with our own issues and busyness. Thanks for the reminder to step back and look at the unintentional ways that we demotivate staff and look at how we can be more intentional about motivating them.

  2. Great input Jeff.

    When I served as executive pastor I would sometimes make things work by believing people when they said everything was great! You know what it’s like; you bump into a staff member in the hall, you say, “How’s it going?” and they say, “Great!”

    I walk away thinking, “Oh good…no problems there…”

    As you’ve noted, avoiding all this comes down to being intentional. At the end of the day it’s the leader’s job to set the emotional tone.

    Thanks for weighing in.

  3. Excellent stuff Scott, thank you!

    I would add a few more:

    16. Make statements disguised as questions. The more condescending the better.

    17. Never ask for feedback, and if you receive some unsolicited, defend yourself to protect your ego.

    18. Forget about their birthday, wedding anniversary, kids basketball championship etc.

    Some if these I have learned the hard way!

    Blessings,

    Brett

  4. Thanks Scott, awesome message.

    I have a few to add:

    16. Make statements disguised as questions.

    17. Never ask for feedback and if you receive some unsolicited, defend yourself.

    18. Forget your staff birthdays, anniversaries and kids’ championship games.

    Ugh, Lord have mercy!

    Brett

  5. 16. By under-utilizing them and failing to empower them

    17. By not sharing in the responsibilities (giving them opportunities to preach, etc)

    18. By not affirming them.

  6. This is a fantastic list. Thank you for sharing it. I was a Senior Pastor for a very long time, and although I’m sure I violated some of these on the list, I sure never meant to. My staff members were such an integral part of our lives and of our churches, and we thank God for each one we had the privilege to work with. I hope some pastors read this list and make a determination to avoid these demotivators at all cost.

  7. Tracy, I appreciate your honesty in saying that you may have violated some of this list, without ever intending to.

    That was my experience as well.

    I served as executive pastor of a large church, and staff morale and culture was my responsibility. I wince when I think of how often I might have unknowingly committed some of these.

    Hopefull with awareness we all take steps forward in the right direction.

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