Churches in American Metropolitan areas see entirely too much turnover, not only of their staff but also of their congregation. For staff, one of the main reasons people leave is because they do not feel invested in and equipped to fulfill their role on staff. The top two reasons people leave churches are because they do not feel connected to others at the church or they do not feel like there is a place for them to serve at the church.
The value of investing in people simply cannot be overstated, especially in our local churches. In Ephesians 4:11-16, the Apostle Paul described how the various offices of the Church are designed to serve people, build them up, and help the Church reach complete unity in Christ. Not coincidently, contemporary leadership research also reveals that when leaders invest in their people not only do they thrive, but organizations thrive as well. Putting people first is a win-win for everyone.
It goes without saying for our churches, but I’ll say it anyway, the people in every church are its greatest asset. As leaders, it is essential that we provide the necessary resources for them. Resources for their spiritual life yes, but also resources to help them thrive in their roles throughout our churches. When people feel like they have the resources and skills needed to not just get their jobs done but to do them well, then organizational efficiency, productivity and commitment increases and turn over decreases. In their article in The Academy of Management Journal, Dvir et al. (2002) shared that their research of transformational leaders found that employees’ commitment levels, motivation, and satisfaction levels were increased by training and coaching initiatives. Further, Gyensare et al.’s research found that people’s intentions to leave depended not only on the leadership style of their direct leader but also on their “emotional attachment to and involvement with the organization.” While we don’t want to be overly protective of the people in our churches, there is much we can do personally to ensure they aren’t leaving because of us or our leadership.
When church leaders invest in the people in their church, the benefits are felt on multiple levels. It increases the self-assurance of the individual and their ability to be successful in their roles, as detailed in Kouzes & Posner’s book The Leadership Challenge. It also decreases the turnover of staff (and volunteer leaders) and thus diminishes the financial and time costs of training new staff as pointed out by Losey, Meisinger, & Ulrich. And overall, Losey offered that it improves the morale of the organization because people feel invested in and cared for.
The costs of investing in our people might be time, and potentially some money on our part. But the benefits to them AND our churches is incomparable. Let’s decrease the turnover in our churches and increase morale throughout by not only investing in people spiritually, but also by providing the resources, training, and coaching they need to succeed in their roles throughout our churches.