Exploring the State of Church Staff Health: Todd Rhoades & Matt Steen on Findings and Insights from New National Study

Thanks for tuning in to the unSeminary podcast! Today is part 2 of a conversation that we started back in April with Todd Rhoades and Matt Steen, the co-founders of Chemistry Staffing.

If you’re curious about the state of church staff health in the US, you won’t want to miss this episode as we dive into the findings of the 2023 Church Staff Health Assessment.

  • Survey topics. // The Church Staff Health Assessment gathered data from 1,063 part- and full-time staff members at churches all across the United States. The sample size included all different church sizes, denominations, people from different positions and age ranges, and the study asked 50 different questions around seven major church staff health categories, including: communication, job satisfaction, leadership, team dynamics, compensation/benefits, work environment, and future stability.
  • Communication is key. // The study revealed that while 60% of people surveyed feel communication is great, 40% of staff members feel that their leadership needs to improve communication with them. Regular and transparent communication is essential to ensure that staff members feel valued and heard. Address issues by communicating information repeatedly and consistently through multiple channels. Also, provide staff with a way to give feedback to the leadership.
  • Job satisfaction. // 80% of staff members feel like they are making a difference in their current role. However, the study found that does not necessarily translate to overall job satisfaction. Over a third of those surveyed are either unhappy or neutral about their overall job satisfaction. These results may reveal some toxicity in the church culture that needs to be addressed. A church might be great to attend, but not so great to work at.
  • Compensation and benefits. // While 58% of church staff members are satisfied with their current salary and benefits, there is a discrepancy between the satisfaction levels of executive pastors and senior pastors when compared with other staff members. In addition, 59% of church staff say that the annual evaluation process along with the strategy for compensation analysis is broken. And when executive pastors and senior pastors are removed from the equation, the number goes up even more. Although it’s challenging to have conversations around your staff members’ job performance, it’s critical that people get clarity on how they are doing in their roles.
  • Future stability. // 60% of church staff members say that they’re optimistic about their future at their church. Yet over half of staff members surveyed have seriously considered leaving their current church role in the past year, and 56% are open to other opportunities. Todd suggests that this signals a chance for leadership to build partnerships with the staff and understand why there is this openness to leaving. The bottom line is healthy staff members create healthy churches. And healthy churches minimize the transition of staff members.

You can download a FREE 45-page PDF of the 2023 Church Staff Health Assessment results when you visit chemistrystaffing.com/staff-health. Plus, if you are interested in surveying the staff at your church, Matt and Todd can help provide you with a customized survey.

Thank You for Tuning In!

There are a lot of podcasts you could be tuning into today, but you chose unSeminary, and I’m grateful for that. If you enjoyed today’s show, please share it by using the social media buttons you see at the left hand side of this page. Also, kindly consider taking the 60-seconds it takes to leave an honest review and rating for the podcast on iTunes, they’re extremely helpful when it comes to the ranking of the show and you can bet that I read every single one of them personally!

Lastly, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, to get automatic updates every time a new episode goes live!

Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Well, hey, everybody welcome to the unSeminary podcast. Rich here, and I am super excited for today’s conversation. This is really part 2 of a conversation. Back in April we had our friends Todd Rhoades and Matt Steen on from Chemistry Staffing. And they were just kicking off the Church Staff Assessment where they were really out talking to church leaders and looking to um, you know, gather insights. And today we’re going to get a chance to dive deep into those insights. So welcome back to the show, guys. So glad you’re here.

Todd Rhoades — Thanks for having us; good to be here.

Matt Steen — It’s great to be here.

Rich Birch — So good. Todd why don’t you tell us ah, refresh people what you were so what you were talking about what you’re trying to sample from people, and then kind of talk about the at you know the size of you studied and all that kind of stuff, like kind of the meta information to start.

Todd Rhoades — Sure. Well we we asked 50 different questions around 7 different major ah church staff health categories. So we took ask questions on communication, and job satisfaction, leadership, team dynamics, compensation/benefits, ah work environment, and future stability. Really what we wanted to do was find out, ah particularly since you know the last three years since the pandemic has just it’s been crazy, ah for churches and for staff people. So we wanted to find out what how are how are church staff really really doing. So we were really excited. We had 1063…

Rich Birch — Amazing.

Todd Rhoades — …um, full-time and part-time staff people that completed their assessment. Um and a wide range, I mean we had um, yeah, all different church sizes, all different denominations, all different parts of the country, different positions, age ranges. We got a really good kind of a spectrum of responses. And again 50 questions, we asked ah a kind of 50 questions or statements and asked everybody to rate the how they were feeling on a scale of 1 to 5. You know, one would be strongly disagree. Three would be kind of I’m in the middle, I’m neutral. Five would be, man, I’m really strongly agree with this. So the the responses have been been really, really interesting.

Rich Birch — Yeah, it’s amazing. Congratulations on, you know, that’s a good sample size. A thousand is is fantastic. The fact that you were able to kind of get over that that hump is is incredible. And I, so friends, just pulling back the curtain a little bit here and seeing behind the scenes, this is a giant report, like you know 50, 60 pages, like there’s a ton of insights here. There are 17 major findings, and then dozens of like things that we could talk about, and we don’t have all day. We were going to try to do this in half an hour or so ah, but really we want to send you to pick up the entire report. Let’s right start off the beginning, where do we want to send people, Matt, to pick up ah, this report? Where do we want them to download it?

Matt Steen — So it’s it’s chemistrystaffing.com/staff-health.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Matt Steen — And so we’ll send send people that way and I’m sure you’ll drop it in down below. But that’s that’s where you can get the download, right there pretty, pretty easily.

Rich Birch — Love it. Well, Todd, I’d love, you know, our mutual friend, Warren Bird, I I ask him these questions every time he does a study like this and yeah, he hates it. I’m like okay, what’s your favorite finding. Let’s start with the thing that jumped off the page. And he’s like, I can’t just say one; there’s so many interesting things. So that’s for you, Warren. But ah Todd, where like where do we want to start? What do we want to you know top of the the conversation today. Where do we want to to dig into…

Todd Rhoades — I can’t just say one There’s so many interesting things.

Rich Birch — Yes, exactly.

Todd Rhoades — Ah no, really, there are. And, hey, Warren, if you’re listening.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Todd Rhoades — Um, yeah, what what let’s start here, just kind of overall, if we look at the 30,000 foot level. Um. We asked ah, you know all those 50 questions and then we we tallied up all the scores and kind of put everybody into into a number of different ranges all the way from strong, excellent, you know to critical, you know, fair, needs improvement, all of those. So ah, what we found was, overall, and again this 30,000 foot level, a little over half, about 52%, of all the church staff people that we that we got assessments from scored either strong or excellent. Okay?

Rich Birch — Okay, yeah, that’s great.

Todd Rhoades — That’s really good. Over over half 52%. Um about 24% scored good. Um, but we look at the goods as being kind of kind of the neutrals. Ah the good scores were in that 3 range out of the 1 to 5 scale. So the good, you know, the goods are getting like a C. You know, a C, a C+. So ah, those are the neutrals. Those are the ones that as we kind of look at what to do with this report and the findings of this report the neutrals are the ones that that kind of are they’re kind of they can be swayed. They can be convinced. Okay, so some of them might have one foot in, one foot out. So about about a quarter ah are fall into that good category.

Todd Rhoades — Another quarter, um about 24%, fall into the fair, ah or the needs improvement, or the critical areas. And as we kind of digest this all this data, I mean those that are that kind of come back with those ones, and a lot of ones, and twos, and a few threes, maybe a four here and there. Ah those are the ones that are um, honestly those are going to be the people that are gonna gonna resign or be fired…

Rich Birch — Yes, right.

Todd Rhoades — …ah you know in the next year ah if there aren’t some real proactive steps taken now. So hopefully by identifying some of these critical areas, not just how many people fall into the critical areas, but the individual things that are kind of causing people to feel like this, we think hopefully we can we can start to dive in and make things a little bit healthier.

Rich Birch — Wow, that’s ah you know that’s interesting to think about, and we’ll come back to this, but even you know you start to think about those numbers for our own teams, right? Maybe we got 10 staff members, you know, 5 of them are in that you know in in a good spot. You know might be in a good spot. A couple of them are struggling and a couple of them might be on the bubble. Right?

Todd Rhoades — Yep, yep.

Rich Birch — What’s and how did what’s your sense… I know so I’m looking forward to next year’s study already, but like what’s your sense just even from conversations, how that (and again unfair question) how that you know trends pre-pandemic even just in the conversations you’re having with churches that that sort of thing?

Todd Rhoades — Matt, you want to take that one?

Matt Steen — I think, you know, I was I was kind of surprised and encouraged, right?

Rich Birch — Okay, good.

Matt Steen — You know, and and I think, Todd and I, we we talk, you know, we spend a lot of time talking with people in transition, or or working with churches that are kind of in in some maybe bumpy spots as they’re as they’re going through a hiring process. And so this came out and I look at it. It’s like 52% of people are are in that strong and excellent. That’s that’s really encouraging for me. Um, and I think that’s I think that’s probably much higher than it was maybe oh two, two and a half years ago.

Todd Rhoades — I think so too.

Matt Steen — Um, and and we’ve even seen this in some of the work that we’ve done as we interview people. You know, there was there was a time there when we were sending more people to counseling than we were to to churches that were looking to hire somebody. And and I so I think this kind of matches some of the some of the anecdotal stuff that we see, which is really encouraging. I you know I am with Todd. You know the the 25% in the goods, man, there’s a lot of there’s a lot that can come from us focusing on some of those areas and and really kind of helping that that crowd feel, you know, more engaged in ah in their in in their day to day. And then we’ve got some we’ve got some issues to clean up with with that bottom 25%. But all in all, man, I genuinely was encouraged by this.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s cool. Well you know I know one of the things about it seems like everything that in any kind of human relationship communication is so important. Did you find anything that kind of talks about ah, how are we doing interacting, kind of communicating with our teams. You know, do people feel good about that? Where where’s that landing, Todd?

Todd Rhoades — Well and and this is this is one of the one of the top findings that I I think is most important because it has really overarching view on a lot of different things, right?

Rich Birch — Right.

Todd Rhoades — And what we found was that um even though everybody says communication, you know, communication is key and it’s essential, a full 40% of the people that that filled out the assessment feel that their leadership needs to improve communication with staff. So again, you can you can look, and we try to be really balanced in this report. You know, there there are great things that are happening, but there are also some things that that could could stand some improvement. So if you look at this question and this is, you know, as you dive into some of the details and some of these individual questions, so 60% think that communication is great. Um 40 but 40%, 4 in 10 people on a church staff, um feel like communication is needs to be better. So there’s there’s um, communication is not easy. It’s it’s one of those things you have to do continually, and intentionally. Um but a lot of churches are are just needing to really kind of step up in the area of communication, according to what we found.

Rich Birch — Um, yeah, it proves that, you know, old anecdote, you can’t really over-communicate, right? You can’t, you know, you you can’t like talk about stuff too much. You can’t like you got to try multiple channels. We’ve got to, you know, give people feedback loops. It’s got to be consistent. It’s got to be regular. Um, yeah, that’s that’s interesting. Interesting.

Rich Birch — One of the things I know, you know, ah during this season—particularly in this which I know this is a fascinating study to me because of the kind of post-pandemicic implications of all of this—is you know, are people holding on to their jobs because they love them. Or are they just holding onto their jobs because they’re worried that they can’t get a job somewhere else. Are are they really happy with their, you know, job satisfaction? How, were there were there things that you pulled out that give us a sense of, you know, where people are at from a you know job satisfaction point of view?

Todd Rhoades — Well yeah,. So let’s start with the positive, okay.

Rich Birch — Sure yep.

Todd Rhoades — Um, when it comes to how do they, do they feel fulfilled in their role, ah we asked the question you know, do you feel like you in your in your current role are having a positive impact in your church and your community. 80%, 8 in 10 people…

Rich Birch — Wow.

Todd Rhoades — …said man, I feel like I’m in my current role that I’m making a positive impact, having a great impact on my church and in my community. So that’s that’s the positive side. Okay, ah where where it gets a little bit um dicier is about 36%, a little over a third of staff, tell us that they’re they’re either unhappy, or they’re they’re in that 3 category. They’re neutral when when they’re asked about their overall, are you satisfied overall with your job, you have overall so job satisfaction. So about a third of the people tell us that they’re either unhappy or neutral. Um, which is you know over a third, that’s a lot of people that are kind of either, no, I’m not satisfied. Or I’m kind of on the fence with it…

Rich Birch — That’s fascinating.

Todd Rhoades — …according to what day you ask me. Um but at the same time, overlap that that still 8 and 10 feel like they’re like they’re they’re making a positive impact. So it’s possible I think from this if you extrapolate the data that people can feel really fulfilled, not fulfilled, but they feel like they’re making a difference, but yet they don’t feel necessarily like they they’re happy in their current job situation. Does that make sense?

Rich Birch — Yeah that’s an interesting insight because I think sometimes we might over ah put over emphasis on the fact that like, hey people are getting baptized. You know, whatever, whatever measures that to our church are really important, and we assume that well because people see those things that then translates into, oh then I’m they’re going to be happy; they’re going to like their job. And that’s interesting. That’s just even interesting mental kind of game to play is like it’s possible, there is a segment maybe a third of your team that is at the point where they’re saying, yeah I see that this is making a difference; I am just not very happy.

Todd Rhoades — Yeah, exactly.

Rich Birch — Like I know that what I what I’m doing is working, like but, gosh, it’s grinding me down.

Todd Rhoades — Yep, yep.

Rich Birch — Um you know, that is an interesting insight. Fascinating. What do you think about that, Matt?

Matt Steen — You know, I’ve been there, right? And I think I think there’s a lot of people that have been in ministry for a while that they get that, right? They’re they’re they’re looking around. They’re seeing fruit in their ministry. They’re seeing, you know, people getting baptized, people meeting Jesus, good things happening. But at the same time are just in this weird spot of, but man, I’m I’m, I’m empty, I’m hollow, or potentially, you know, there’s some other toxicity that’s going on here. You know I’ve I’ve heard some people say this is a great church to attend, but this is a awful church to work at.

Rich Birch — Yes. Yes, yes.

Matt Steen — And and so I think sometimes, you know, that 8 in 10 number can can cause people to hang on a little too long.

Rich Birch — Um, interesting.

Matt Steen — Um, and so I think there’s I think there’s good and good and bad in this. I mean good, man, the the fulfillment piece is awesome. But you know, we we need to you know we we need to be comfortable with with kind of dealing with that whole piece if if you know 3 out of 10 people are kind of wrestling with, hey, I don’t even I don’t even know that I want to show up to work on you know on this day. Um, there’s there’s some, there’s some questions that we need to we we need to work through with our staff, and just help them understand you know, hey how how do we get to a place where you’re you’re fulfilled and actually loving this, as opposed to you know, just kind of muddling through.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that that’s – totally. And well, and yeah, I’ve unfortunately there have been sad times in my ministry where I’ve made the joke, everybody loves the sausage; nobody likes the sausage factory, right?

Matt Steen — Oh yeah.

Todd Rhoades — Yeah, yeah.

Rich Birch — Like it’s that it’s that idea, right?

Matt Steen — Oh yeah.

Rich Birch — And and and some of that’s just true. Like some of that is normal.

Matt Steen — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Like I was… my my daughter she’s just out, first job’s, been a couple weeks in, she’s working at a great church. It’s a great church. But you know we’ve had a couple conversations where I’m like yeah, that’s why it’s called work. Like it’s, you know, like not all of it is necessarily fun, right? Like it is and that that is an adjustment for sure. She’s doing great, but, you know, it is it can be. Well, there’s a lot of executive pastors listening in who I know are like they’re itching to talk about compensation. Ah, you know, even if we’re, you know, we’re we think about that, you know, we’ve been caught in this trap – do we pay people too much? Are that we’re not paying them enough? Um, you know how do people feel about that? You know what are the dynamics? Todd, what did you… I know you asked some questions around that. What what did you pull kind of out from this conversation on that front?

Todd Rhoades — Yeah, well, it’s really interesting. And what I’m going to give you ah are a couple of our findings overall. Okay?

Rich Birch — Okay.

Todd Rhoades — So this includes all church staff people. What we found though is that the numbers change fairly significantly when you take the senior pastors…

Rich Birch — Ohhhh…

Todd Rhoades — …and the executive pastors out of the mix.

Rich Birch — Okay, okay.

Todd Rhoades — Ah, the numbers the numbers kind of kind of go up. And that makes sense, right? Because the senior pastors and the executive pastors are usually the ones that are kind of setting those those compensation and benefits. So just a couple of findings that we found. Um.

Todd Rhoades — Ah, 58% of church staff are satisfied with their current salary and benefits package. So you know on the positive side, 58%…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Todd Rhoades — …that’s more than half. That’s good.

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Todd Rhoades — But that also means that what, if my math is correct, like 42% are not satisfied…

Matt Steen — Struggling.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Todd Rhoades — …with their current salary and benefits package. And you know, we’re staffing company. We talk to staff people all the time, and that’s one of the things that we hear is that, you know, I I don’t feel like I’m compensated well. Um so so that’s that’s one finding that I think is really significant. The other one I I think is is interesting as well, and again this is a number with everybody included. But the number actually goes up I think it was 64% or something. But ah 59% of church staff say that the annual evaluation process along with the strategy for ah compensation analysis is broken. It needs some improvement. So you take the executive pastors and the senior pastors out, I think that goes up to like 64%.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Todd Rhoades — So that’s a huge number. And again it’s, I get it. It’s it’s tough to schedule out and they’re uncomfortable to do the annual performance reviews. But what you what you get when you don’t do it is employees that feel underappreciated, undervalued and always wonder how they’re doing. Um so ah, just again, we talk about all all throughout this report is maybe some low hanging fruit. It might not be enjoyable or, you know, it’s not something you want to do. But it’s something, it’s just is that’s what the people are telling us is that this is extremely valuable to us. And when you have, you take the 59 number for 59%, you take the 64%, either one is a huge number that says…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Todd Rhoades — …we’re not getting, you know, kind of what we need.

Matt Steen — Need to do something.

Todd Rhoades — Yeah, we need to do something here. Matt, anything you’d add to that one?

Matt Steen — I think I think some of that is plays back to some of the communication struggles that we were talking about earlier, right?

Rich Birch — Oh good.

Matt Steen — And and people want to know, want to be clear about how they’re doing, you know. Are they doing a good job? Are they not? You know some of the I think some of the brokenness of of of the evaluation process, and all that kind of stuff, you know probably feeds into some of these some of these other numbers of people just kind of being on the bubble.

Todd Rhoades — Yep.

Matt Steen — I think that’s probably the thing that, you know, most of the the neutrals, the people that are kind of on the fence, you know, some some of that can be solved pretty easily you know with with a regular conversation around, you know, evaluation and and helping kind of demystify how how how compensation strategy’s done done in your church. And you know, again, it’s it’s awkward because we never like to have, you know, pointed conversations with people about how they’re doing workwise and that kind of stuff. But at the same time, you know, clarity is so awesome. And just the beauty that comes from clarity.

Rich Birch — Yeah…

Todd Rhoades — And if if you want to take it a little bit deeper, so many of these findings are kind of interrelated, as Matt said.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Todd Rhoades — You’ve got kind of compensation, but you’ve got some team dynamic things working in here, and and some communication things. But I mean another one of the findings that we found is that over a third of staff members tell us that they don’t they don’t feel like they’ve got clarity in their own role, you know. So that could be that could be as much as I don’t have a job description.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Todd Rhoades — Ah that could be I had a job description, but everything’s gone haywire since covid, and I’m doing something totally different than my job description. Um, but the whole clarity, lack of clarity by over a third of staff members that say, I I just would like to know what my role is; is that too much to ask? You know?

Rich Birch — Yeah, what’s my… I’d like to know what my job is.

Todd Rhoades — Um you yeah just tell just tell me what game to play.

Rich Birch — I’ll keep showing up, but what am I supposed to do? Yeah, yeah. Wow. Well, and this pushes towards, I know um you know tools like Leader that are trying to provide structured, okay, we’re going to help you with your you know conversations. Or 15five kind of a weekly check-in, you know, those kinds of tools. Man, um and I’ve seen churches use those effectively those are two that I know churches use effectively to try to keep this conversation going so… Because there is the weight of the annual evaluation process can feel super daunting. It’s like the the first time you do it, it’s like, man, we’re going to have to take like a month offs work, and not…

Todd Rhoades — Exactly.

Rich Birch — …have like and do anything else to get all this done. How are we going to do that? And so man if we could shift that out of this kind of big annual thing and more into an ongoing, let’s be constantly giving people feedback.

Matt Steen — That’s it.

Rich Birch — Ah that would be that would be amazing. That, I do find I do find that shocking, to be honest, that 60 almost 60% of church staff say that that process is is seems to be broken or needs improvement. That’s that’s incredible. You baited me here, Todd. You said that ah you said 58% of church staff are satisfied with their current salary and benefits, and you just let a little thing out there about executive pastors and ah, you know senior pastors. Do you have a sense – you might not have the number right in front of you. What did that cohort think about their compensation?

Todd Rhoades — I don’t have those numbers in front of me, but they’re they’re, again, because they’re the ones kind of leading the seat at the table, they seem…

Rich Birch — Setting it.

Todd Rhoades —…to be a little bit more…

Rich Birch — Yes… satisfied.

Todd Rhoades — …um happy with with their… yeah [inaudible].

Matt Steen — The the overall number goes down once we remove once we remove them, in in some of that.

Rich Birch — Okay, I see.

Matt Steen — And and and we see we see a good bit of that through it. You know, where there’s where there’s a general sense of, you know, the the guy that sets the budget is typically fairly happy with [inaudible].

Todd Rhoades — Yeah, exactly.

Rich Birch — Right.

Matt Steen — …with what with what he’s taking home, right? So…

Rich Birch — Right. Yeah, maybe talk about that, Matt, from an just an overall trend there that there. Because that’s even an interesting meta finding that, if what I hear you saying, is there seems to be some evidence that like as senior leaders, we’re more positive about our church than than the people that work for us. Is that what you’re saying, Matt?

Matt Steen — We’re seeing we’re seeing some of that. You know, we’re we’re seeing where where we’ll see you know a number is, you know, 60% satisfied when we have, you know, the senior and the XP included, and it drops to 40 when we pull them out. And so we’re seeing a good bit of of that. Now, it’s not like… I think that’s I think that’s normal. I think that’s that’s that’s natural and in in a lot of organizations where where there is that drop. Part of part of how we’re looking to use this, and I’m… spoiler alert – don’t want to get ahead of us, but part of how we’re looking to use this tool ultimately is to to help us understand, what do our senior leaders, what what does our board think about where our entire staff culture is? And and oh, by the way, where is there a discrepancy between what what our staff really feels and really thinks? Because I mean you we we know you know anybody that’s been in senior leadership, it’s it can be really tough, you know, to to to always be up to speed on what what everybody in your team’s thinking, especially if you got a huge team. And so part of part of what we are seeing is is, I don’t necessarily know that is you know it’s It’s a nefarious thing. I think it’s just one of those deals where, yeah, you know, it’s not uncommon for an executive pastor to think that the annual evaluation process works great because they’re they’re running it, right? But but maybe…

Rich Birch — Yes, it’s a great process.

Matt Steen — It’s a great process. I designed it, you know.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Matt Steen — And and there’s algorithms and stuff, right? And then we we forget that there’s there’s a group of people that need more communication that we haven’t necessarily explained, how does this work? Why does it work that way? And so some of what this I think some of what we’ve highlighted over and over again in this is that there might be a little bit of a drop off in awareness um, between our senior leaders and and our staffers that that tools like this I think can come and help help drive some of the conversation, whether it’s awkward or not. But help us kind of be able to to really kind of hone in and say, hey where where are we not seeing eye to eye on some of this stuff. And so I don’t think that’s I think that’s pretty common organizationally in leadership. But, I think it highlights you know, just just how just how steep that that disconnect may…

Rich Birch — You know, Todd, we have heard ah over the last couple years, there have been new words that have come into our our lexicon in leadership that we had not heard before. “Quiet quitting” is one of them. You know this idea that people are kind of fading. You know this I heard one recently “bare minimum Mondays” – have you heard this?

Todd Rhoades — Yep, yep.

Rich Birch — Or, you know, people that are saying, you know what? I just phone it in on Monday. Um, did did you guys test, I know you tested ah, you know some stuff around, you know, all that speaks to stability, and like are people staying. Are they thinking, you know, should I be worried like is everybody applying to every the big church across town because they’ve got more money? Um, you know what are what did you find in that?

Todd Rhoades — Well let’s let’s talk about optimism here first.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Todd Rhoades — Um and and you know I wish I wish we would have been able to do this assessment the last two years. And what we want to do, our plan is to continue to do this every year so that we have some some base numbers, and some some comparables so we can see how these numbers move.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Todd Rhoades — My guess is that a year ago, and two years ago, the amount of optimism in the church would have been much lower than it is now.

Rich Birch — Right.

Todd Rhoades — Um it seems to it seems just from our work with tons of churches, and you know myriad of candidates, that that it’s getting better. And that that’s good. But what our study showed right now as far as optimism, only about 6 in 10 um, church staff members say that they’re optimistic about their future at the church. So it’s you know it’s over half, but there’s still 40 that are like, hmmm am I optimistic? Um, ah and then we asked ah to kind of take that take that a little farther out is we asked, ah how many of you think that you’re going to be, would I think the way we asked it is, would you be happy if you were in your current role, or at your current church in 3 years? do you expect to be there for 3 years? About 42% said they’re unsure. So about 6 in 10 said yeah I hope to be here in 6 years, or in 3 years. About about 4 in 10 are like, I’m not sure.

Todd Rhoades — Um, and again, Rich, just to kind of tell you how how we look at these. As we kind of put candidates in in kind of the the healthy, and kind of the neutral, and kind of the the unhealthy needs some work. We call them the reds, and the the yellows, and the greens, right? So the the greens are that 60% that man they’re all bought in, they want to be there for 3 years. The neutrals I don’t have the breakdown on that, but the neutrals are those ah are kind of like they can be persuaded. They’re they’re just they’re not all in yet. And those those are the ones that are that are the most reachable, with some of the things that that you can do to make these things better.

Todd Rhoades — And then you’ve got the red. You’ve got the criticals that are, you know, some of them honestly maybe are too far gone. Maybe they’re already doing the…

Rich Birch — Right.

Todd Rhoades — …the nothing Mondays thing and…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Todd Rhoades — …and and you know just the quiet quitting. Um, but but still, there’s there’s a pretty sizable for for a lot of the findings that we have and a lot of questions, there’s a pretty sizable number of reds that, man, if we can if we can kind of ah up our game, and and really kind of figure out where the issues lie, and and attack some of these, and and honestly do some, just dirty work, do some discipleship with our staff.

Rich Birch — It’s not dirty work. That’s funny.

Todd Rhoades — Um, here’s here’s the other here’s the other caveat I’ll just throw and here; this is a freebie. Um, so Matt and Matt and I run ah a staffing company, all right? So, we we pay our mortgages by helping churches find staff people.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Todd Rhoades — That said, what our hope for this for for the findings of this assessment is that we want a healthy church.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Todd Rhoades — And we want healthy staff. Healthy staff create a healthy church. Um.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Todd Rhoades — If if this can help churches to find the issues and to to to deal with the issues, and make things better for their staff, whether they’re the greens, make the greens more green, right? Make make their neutrals into greens. And and make the red, maybe you can get the reds to be neutrals. I don’t know. But if if we can cause church staffs to be healthier and churches to be healthier so that they don’t need us in the future…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Todd Rhoades — …to run a staff search.

Rich Birch — That’d be amazing.

Todd Rhoades — Man, we’re we’re excited about that. It seems kind of awkward to say that as a guy…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Todd Rhoades — …that runs a church staff firm. But with healthy churches healthy churches minimize the the the transition of staff members. It’s just it’s just that simple. And if if this assessment tool can help churches kind of figure out how to do that better, then that’s one of the goals we had for it.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s an interesting kind of just mental, yeah, kind of an interesting mental frame to put put it in. Because I think even in the healthiest of church, there could still be a moment where it’s like hey we need to hire somebody externally…

Todd Rhoades — Sure.

Rich Birch — …because we’re trying to, there’s an area that we’re trying to accelerate. We’re trying to you know we’re trying to… And it’s like, that’s a good reason to hire. Man, that’s amazing. As opposed to the like, man, we’re burning through people. Our people are constantly, you know, leaving to go to other churches. Man, we don’t like that. And I can imagine from your perspective, it’s like those are not great churches to to, you know, to work with. And those are hard, those are hard places to work with. I shouldn’t say not great. Those are difficult um, can be tricky situations to work with. Yeah, interesting.

Todd Rhoades — Yeah, we [inaudible]…

Matt Steen — Yeah, and I think that’s that’s some some of the some of the the hardest, but some of the best work that we get to do, um is come into those churches that have, you know, churned through several people, and really kind of help sit them down and say, Okay, why is this happening, you know?

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Matt Steen — We we let’s let’s see if we can stop that. This this tool I think is going to help help with that. But man, if we can if we can stop that churn, even if it means that I got to go sell umbrellas down on the beach, I’m I’m all for that, because I just I don’t want to see the church get healthy. So.

Todd Rhoades — You do that on the weekends anyway, Matt.

Matt Steen — I do, yeah.

Rich Birch — Love it. Were there any, did you look at any questions specifically around that kind of churn question? And is there a way to kind of benchmark, are people talking to other people? Are there, you know, what what did you find on that front, Todd?

Todd Rhoades — Um, yeah, ah I’ll let Matt talk for a second. I’ll go find the actual percentage, but we found that at least most people are, well, let’s let’s start here. Over over half we asked have you have you seriously considered um leaving your current church role in the past year. And over half, 53%…

Rich Birch — Wow.

Todd Rhoades — …have said, yes I’ve seriously considered it. And over half I’ll I’ll go and look at the at the percentage, I didn’t put it in my notes here. But I’ll go look for it. Um, most most church staff, over (by by most I mean over 50%) would at least consider another offer from another church. Um, so…

Rich Birch — They would they would take the phone call.

Todd Rhoades — …they would they…

Rich Birch — If that church called, they would at least listen. They wouldn’t turn down the like why are you talking to me, you know. They they would listen when the guy calls and says, hey we’re wondering, do you know anybody who might be interested in this kind of role? They they would see through that ruse and listen to the conversation. That’s interesting.

Todd Rhoades — Yeah.

Rich Birch — What do you think about that, Matt?

Matt Steen — Yeah, I… that was that was surprising to me that it was that it was, honestly, that it was that high. Um, but I but it also it also makes sense with some of the other things that we that we’re unearthing here. You know I think we all go through a pay to through phases where I call it “shields down”. You know we where I will listen to that to that conversation. You know, and and I think some of what we’re seeing as we’ve unearthed some of that stuff kind of points to why maybe. You know, maybe there’s some unclarity about what I’m doing. Maybe there’s some uncertainty about whether I’m going to be here in 3 years or not or it. The church is going to be here in 3 years or or not. So I think a lot of that kind of puts us into that shields down type of a type of a mindset. You know, and that’s that’s one of those deals for for us when you know talking to some churches that say, hey, let’s let’s figure out what’s going to help people put their shields up and be so so engaged here that they’re showing up on the day to day. They’re all in they’re not doing, you know, bare bare minimum Monday or or whatever it is. Because most pastors are off on Mondays, you know.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Matt Steen — I don’t even want to know what the acronym is for Tuesday.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Matt Steen — But you know I think there’s some, there’s some simple fixes here. So, Todd, what’d you what did you find?

Todd Rhoades — So it was about, let’s see 50, 56%. So yeah, 56% are open to other opportunities. And that, what we say, is that signals a chance for leadership to to build some partnerships. Ah, just to to understand kind of, kind of why there’s that openness. Um, and…

Rich Birch — That…

Todd Rhoades — …and one thing I will say too is, you know, we’ve we’ve said that there’s greens and yellows and reds. And Matt and I talked to a lot of we talked to a lot of reds that are just really, you know, they have a lot of baggage and are just really working through some things. We talked to a lot of neutrals that are really kind of discerning, should I stay, should I go. But we also talk to some greens and and transition happens in the greens too. It’s possible…

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah.

Todd Rhoades — …to be totally bought in and abs… we talk to these not as often as we talk to the to the yellows and the reds, but we talk to greens all the time. But man, I love my church; I love my job but there’s just something God’s just kind of stirring in my heart. And it just tells me that there’s something else. So transmission can happen all across the board. But what we want to try it and highlight is how do we how do we make the the yellows and the reds um, you know, get a little greener.

Rich Birch — Yeah. Yeah, I love that. You know, I had the privilege of serving a couple founding lead pastors in the executive seat. And one of the interesting dynamics that I tried to work them through is, or we’ll put it this way. There was a consistent surprise when people would transition from the lead pastor, particularly the founding pastor, because they were like why would anyone want to leave this thing? This is like the best thing ever. Like this is like this is like and that’s because it’s their thing. Like they’re you know they’re the startup founder. And they can’t understand why anyone would ever want to go. But butt, you know, multiple times you know had to work that conversation through with those lead pastors. And yeah, there are people who they’re going to transition, and that’s going to be okay. And the flip side of that is no one is as committed as it as a founding pastor. That’s just true. Like they’re the they started it in their living room and they’re they’re fully bought in.

Rich Birch — Well, you know, Todd, this whole time I’ve been listening and I’ve been thinking, Okay so this is interesting at the national level. Ah man, I wish there was a way that I could know what’s going on on my team. I and I wish there was there was some way that we could figure out, you know, to ask some of these similar questions. Do you have a solution for that, sir?

Todd Rhoades — Yes, yes, sir, I do. Is is one of the things that, like you said, I think the the first step is for everybody that’s listening, go grab the free pdf, like like we said. We’re so we’re ah getting ready to release it. But it’s it’s sizable. It will it will, you can use it as a paperweight when you’re done with it.

Todd Rhoades — But if if you’re interested in staff health and staff leadership, um, and you’re kind of geeky about this, you’re gonna this is gonna be interesting reading for you all the way through, I I think. Um, but the next step, and kind of the elephant in the room, is once you read this and you you kind of see all these national stats, if you’re if you’re kind of the key leader in a church just like you said, you’re asking, well these are these are interesting national figures. But I wonder what it’s like at my church?

Rich Birch — Yep, yep.

Todd Rhoades — So what we’re what we’re doing is we’re offering kind of a kind of an upgraded report, a customized, we’re calling it the Local Church Health Staff Report Assessment. So ah, what we’re doing, just really briefly, is, I think it’s gonna be really cool for churches, is first of all, um, we’re going to have the senior leader, whether it’s a senior pastor, whoever whoever the senior leader is, we’re going to have them take kind of a modified assessment. It’s going to be the same questions, but uh, I was telling Matt, it’s almost like the newlywed game. Remember the newlywed game, Bob Eubanks…

Rich Birch — Oh yeah, yes.

Todd Rhoades — …all of that where the, you know, they would ask they would ask the husbands, you know, how would your wife answer this question?

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Todd Rhoades — Well we’re going to ask the pastors, what’s your perception? How do you think your staff is going to answer this question about about salary and benefits? Or about teamwork or team dynamics. How do you think they’re going to answer it? So so we’re going to have a layer of kind of the senior leadership’s um, how how they how they think it’s going. And then what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna ah um, have ah the church give us their their access to their staff. So each staff member will be able to take the assessment. It’s going to be confidential, you know, for the individual, but we’ll aggregate the data. And we’ll we’ll tell them kind of, okay, for each of these 50 areas, um, here’s here’s where your staff actually feel like they are.

Rich Birch — Right.

Todd Rhoades — And we can compare that to where the senior pastor thinks they are.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Todd Rhoades — Ah and and and we can compare that also to the national average. And then optional is we’re gonna allow churches, if they want to they can also have their board members take it. And it’s almost like the senior pastor, how do we feel our staff is doing here?

Rich Birch — That’s great.

Todd Rhoades — So in in that, so so there’s going to be some real interesting findings I think here, not only from the staff level of this is what the reality is, but also where where is leadership blindsided? Where where are there gaps where we think, man, it’s going great. Everybody’s happy with their pay. And we find out that nobody’s happy with their pay.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Todd Rhoades — Ah, but we didn’t know that until we had this. So again, you know you you can look at the the national average, kind of the senior pastor perception, the reality at the local church, and then you can layer on top of that kind of board perceptions as well. But that that will be something that, you know, if you’re if you if you like the the national report, I think the next question is, okay so how are we doing? What’s what’s this look like in my church?

Rich Birch — Yeah, what does that look like. Yeah, love it. So and, friends, listen, can we just have an honest moment for a second. If when you heard Todd say about the newlywed game thing there and you were like, oh, if you winced a little bit. Ah you’re like I’m not sure I want to know. You should lean in and want to know. Like I know there’s no bad information. There’s just information we don’t like. Like how are you going to be able to address these issues unless you get some sort of data on it, right? Like unless you have some sense of where it actually is.

Rich Birch — Man, then… and you’re smart leaders. You’ll be able to address you’ll you’ll see very clearly, okay here are the areas where things that we think are maybe different than what our people actually think. And so um I just love that; I think that’s great. So again, we want to send people to chemistrystaffing.com/staff-health. We’ll put a link to that in the show notes, but we really do want to send people there. That’s that’s fantastic. Matt, what what are you hoping? What’s kind of the heart behind this? What are you, you know, what’s the the drive. What’s the change you’re hoping to see happen in in churches that participate in this.

Matt Steen — I I’m hoping to put us out of a job.

Rich Birch — Love it, love it.

Matt Steen — I mean I mean I mean real really, we never got into this because because we we we thought we wanted to be head hunters. We we just we got into this because we love the local church and we wanna see churches get healthy.

Rich Birch — Yep, yep.

Matt Steen — And if we can if we can foster better communication between senior staff and in in the rest of the team, if we can stabilize and and make churches, you know, stop churning through people so quickly, man how cool is that?

Rich Birch — That’d be amazing.

Matt Steen — How how awesome is that for the kingdom? And so that’s that’s really, if we can do one thing that’s that’s really what I hope to see happen.

Rich Birch — Love it. Well this has been fantastic. Todd, we’re going to give you the last word here. I need you to we’re going to bring it all right back around. Channel your inner Warren Bird. Ah what are you what are you saying to leaders that are listening in today about the report. How do, you know, what what do you want to encourage them with?

Todd Rhoades — If if you are, so I think no matter if you’re a senior leader or if you’re the church custodian or whatever your role is at the church, I think you’re going to find some really interesting findings in this ah report. I would just encourage everybody just go download it. Like I said it’s free.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Todd Rhoades — Um, and and read through it, and we’re open to feedback too. We want to hear feedback. And and ah you know we we we value feedback. So um, looking forward to um to seeing exactly how we can how we can kind of help churches and learn um learn from… Ah you know we learned at the national level. But I think as we start to work with local churches and work through this that we’re going to find all different kinds of things that that, you know, we don’t know what we don’t know but we’re about to find out.

Rich Birch — Yeah, totally. Well thanks so much, guys. Again, that’s chemistrystaffing.com/staff-health. Go there and you know check it out. Again, we’ll have the link in the show notes. But ah, thanks so much – appreciate all the work you guys do for the church. Thanks for being here today.

Matt Steen — Thanks, Rich.

Todd Rhoades — Thanks, Rich.

1 Comment

Leave a Response

Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.