What does your church/ministry staff do in terms of social events? How many events involve partners of staff? How many involve kids? Especially as a church staff team gets bigger, and even more so once there are part-time staff involved, this can get very difficult to organise and accommodation and afford!
Personally this isn’t my ‘love language’. I’m more of a ‘when the work gets done, people feel looked after’ person than a ‘when people feel looked after, the work gets done’. But I realise that others are not like me and this is an important thing for them. I also realise that even for those, like me, who don’t gravitate towards this by way of preference, it can still have very positive effects for our relationships and experience of the team.
I asked a bunch of friends from a range of multi-staff churches and parachurches around the country what they do. I was especially interested in:
- What do you do as an entire staff team… and what do you do as sub-teams (whether ministry team areas or senior staff vs apprentices)?
- What do you do with staff only? What do you do with staff and their partners? What do you do with staff and partners and kids?
- Do you do it in a home/church building/park? Or at a restaurant?
- Who pays? Is it a potluck thing? Or split the bill? Or is it in the ministry budget for the year?
- Is there any formal component?
If you are only used to one particular approach to these things, and that seems like the ‘normal’ and ‘right’ way to do things you might be surprised how much variety there was among the answers! And how many of the answers were in flux ‘We’re not sure what we’ll do next year’ and ‘I’m not sure if it’s working’ etc.
It’s an interesting thing to stop and think about. Something worth pondering as we evaluate this from time to time is the purpose and value of the time is. What the very clear and concrete value is… and what is the less tangible ‘This is an expression of an underlying principle or core value that we want to embody and express”.
Also worth pondering is how much time, money and energy is worth putting into this? Is there a point where extra time and money produces little tangible benefit in terms of relationships, trust, morale, good will or effectiveness?
Lastly, especially with ‘everybody all in together’ it’s tricky to know what to think about this. Especially when the teams and their families begin to exceed 20 people. At what point does this become symbolic and sentimental? How often and in what context is this worth engineering?
Some striking things:
- Everyone, no matter what their personal preference, recognises the value of some staff social stuff, especially at the end of the year.
- There was a lot of diversity: not everyone does overnight planning retreats, some go out to restaurants but others do BBQs, not all have staff-and-partners things and not all have whole-families-things, several did some staff at a smaller level than the entire staff team.
- One church budgets for all the transport, accommodation and food for 1) Staff and their partners to go on an annual retreat 2) Staff, partners and kids to have a family fun day (or weekend) and 3) Staff to have an offsite conference.
- Several teams plan for multiple types of dinners and social events throughout the year.
- Especially for those who LOVE this kind of stuff, it’s worth taking the time to consider those who don’t. For some on our staff teams these things “hidden costs” of the work: it asks more of their (and their family’s) time, more sort-of-optional-but-not-really additional financial expense, more babysitter goodwill, and more child wrangling.
One standout comment about why one staff leader likes having something that the kids are present at:
- I want kids to feel like mum or dad working for church is a win.
- I wanna meet and know the kids of my staff team.
- I want the spouse and kids to hear the “presidential thank yous” so they know their dad/mum/husband/site is valued at church. Often they take home the struggles but don’t pass on the encouragements.
Super keen to hear your thoughts, experiences, insights, preferences etc etc