Twelve Ways to Encourage Church Staff Members

By Chuck Lawless

For more than thirty years, I have been a full-time minister. Most of that time, I have been a senior pastor, a seminary professor, or an interim pastor. For a brief time, I served as a ministry staff member (in this case, an associate pastor) in a local church. That time was important to me because it gave me some insight into what staff members experience.

Whether you are a senior pastor or a lay church member, here are some ways you might honor your church’s staff members.

  1. Pray proactively with individual staff members. Pastors and church members alike too often pray for staff only when they face difficulties. We wait until we hear a need, and then we pray. Change this pattern by intentionally planning times to pray with each staff member. Praying as a group is great, but praying with individuals illustrates your concern and affirms their importance to the team.
  2. Give staff members a vacation day on their spouse’s birthday. This gift will not only be a surprise, but it will also show your church’s commitment to healthy marriages. Frankly, some staff members would not consider taking that day off unless you make it possible.
  3. Send birthday cards to your staff members, their spouse, and their children. The church likely already has this birthday information, so the task is simply to organize and follow through with a plan. Recognizing your staff’s family members will quickly strengthen your relationships with the staff.
  4. Give staff members a free weekend on the week of their anniversary.  Church activities are so Sunday-focused that some staff seldom miss a Sunday. Work out the details so they can readily take off for their anniversary – and make sure the church knows their reason for their absence. Again, you will honor staff while also affirming the primacy of our marriages.
  5. Budget to provide family memberships to a local gym. The work of ministry can be draining. Sometimes, we get so busy we take little time for needed exercise. The costs for providing memberships may not be insignificant, but the value can outweigh the costs. Healthy staff members and families are a plus for a church.
  6. Surprise staff members with mass emails of thanksgiving. You might do this on an employment anniversary, or you might do it at an unexpected time. Work through your church’s small groups or particular ministries to express gratitude to your staff. A simple “We appreciate you” will go a long way toward affirming your team.
  7. Give staff members a sabbatical.  Professors receive sabbaticals to renew their studies, develop their research, and work on personal growth. Surely, church staff members are worthy of the same kind of benefit. Even a month of renewal time every five years can produce great dividends for the church.
  8. Give a gift to missions in honor of a staff member. Christian living is about dying to self, and staff members often want to deflect any praise. Giving for the sake of the nations is one way to honor staff while not making them feel uncomfortable. Perhaps an entire people group will first hear the gospel as a result of this gift!
  9. Provide a budget line item for the senior pastor to recognize the staff. The pastor will still be accountable to the church, but give him freedom to determine the best way to use the funds. Simple things such as gift certificates, a book, or a meal can provide recognition without being too costly.
  10. Ask staff members “How can I help you?”  This suggestion might be the best way to honor staff. They often need assistance, and pleading for volunteer help gets tiresome and discouraging. In fact, staff might be caught off guard if volunteers come to them first. Staff members also see other staff as so busy that they often do not bother one another with needs. Honor your staff by helping them.
  11. Evaluate job descriptions for your staff.  As a church consultant, I ask staff members two questions: “What is your current job description?” and “If you were to write the job description you want, what would that be?” Any discrepancy between the two answers can be a source of frustration for a staff member. We can’t always adjust job descriptions, but any appropriate shifts would likely be welcomed.
  12. Lead children to write thank you notes. Cards and notes from adults are important, but those from children are special.  Their honesty is heartfelt, often bringing a smile to a discouraged staff member. I still have notes children wrote me more than two decades ago.

What other ideas do you have for recognizing and honoring church staff members?

Lifeway_Blog_Ad[1]Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary.

You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.


  1. Raymond Johns says

    Thanks Dr. Lawless these are great suggestions. I started doing some of these a couple of years ago. The Sabbatical has been the best. I was given a Sabbatical and it was so renewing. I came back and did that for the staff. It was so good for them and their families. I plan on implementing some of your other suggestions soon. They so desrve it. Thanks again.

  2. says

    Number 12 on this list helped me through one of the most difficult times in my ministry. A set of cards from the children brought me right around! I still have them and cherish them as a reminder of God’s provision and love for me as we walk through the valleys.

  3. LG says

    Great suggestions for honoring families and marriages! Do you have any additional suggestions for encouraging single staff members?


    • Chuck Lawless says

      Good question. #2 and #4 are the ones most relevant, and here’s what I would do: give the single staff member a day off on his/her birthday, and then give time off the weekend of his/her anniversary with the church.

    • Chuck Lawless says

      Agreed completely, recognizing that sometimes we must be careful in sending notes, etc., to missionaries serving in high-security areas.

  4. AS says

    Great list! Another item: review HR policies and/or the employee handbook (hope you have one!) to determine if any policies are needlessly antagonistic. Sometimes, policies get created to root out one bad apple but then end up penalizing every other staff member for years to come (sometimes long after the bad apple has left). Of course, the pastor would need to work with whatever Board or polity is in place at the church, but creating a healthy, trusting work environment goes a long way to keeping happy staff.

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