Updated: Mar 26
A few months back, I was approached by Pastor Josh about taking a two-month Sabbatical in 2021. For some people, this would be the greatest joy they could ever experience in their life. For me, the initial thought was of being gone for two months was terrifying. I am the weirdo who loves to get up and go to work every day. So I did a little bargaining and convinced Josh that two separate months would be a better option for me. We agreed the February and October 2021 would be the months I would take.
Being away from the office can make me nervous—the list of what if's begin to pile up in my brain. Thankfully I was able to sit down with my assistants and brainstorm multiple what-if scenarios. Melanie and April must have come up with over 50 situations that could have taken place. That conversation put me at ease because I knew that they would know who to go it in case of emergency.
It is impossible to plan for every situation. It is impossible to know how every staff member will handle every issue that arises. Sometimes you have to sit back and trust you hired the right people. Thankfully, I did!
Let them have their own ideas.
Even though I was on Sabattical, I was in the loop of church events and promotions thanks to my wife Kelly still being involved in children's ministry on Sundays (FYI she is doing nothing in October). She would come home and tell me what was going on, and I would reply with a simple "that's cool." I knew if I went any further in the conversation, I would jump into work mode and begin calling staff members to discuss what was decided. Not getting involved was hard, but I know it was beneficial for me and definitely for each staff member. I cannot create an environment where my team needs me around to take a risk and think big.
Let them have added responsibility.
One of my goals was not to overwhelm any one person with extra work. The initial temptation is to give everything to Jason. I have worked with Jason for 13 years, so it is easy to think of him first. Then I realized Josh, and I put enough on his plate already. So I delegated to each staff member one or two small tasks to manage while I was gone. This way, they are still able to accomplish their own goals while helping me achieve mine. In short-term situations, this is perfectly acceptable. In the long term, this is not healthy for an organization. The work quality in all areas will decrease.
Let them make their own mistakes.
About five years ago, I had a conversation with a friend of mine. He was an Air Force officer who leads hundreds of employees. We were talking about when a boss leaves on vacation and then comes back to the office. The boss will always see things that either he does not like or were done incorrectly. How the boss reacts in this situation will determine who his employees act the next time he is gone. There is a danger of overreacting to errors. The boss who blows up will create timid employees who will not think for themselves. Hence no progress will be made.
The boss keeping his cool does not mean they cannot address issues. It is merely a time to do more training. I had one instance where an employee did the online offering entries differently than I would have done them. It was not a wrong way of doing them, just different. He thought, why don't I do a weekly online offering total and not daily as Fred does. Not a bad idea except for the fact it makes reconciliation almost impossible with our current system. Thankfully I did not overreact (I was tempted), and the employee is now motivated to give the task another shot in October while I am away for month two of my Sabbatical.
Rick Warren famously said, "It is not about you" in the Purpose Driven Life. Building staff is about leading others to become better. Maybe even better than you.
Let your staff be creative, be stretched, and make mistakes. You will both grow in the process.
Thank you to my Southern Hills team. You guys are amazing!!
Senior Executive Pastor
Southern Hills Church - Las Vegas