I’ve never met a senior pastor who didn’t have the ability to do an outstanding job leading their staff, but I have met quite a few who didn’t have a clear plan in place for making that happen.
I would like to share with you a very simple framework for coaching your staff that will make your job, and theirs, much easier. I call it 4x4x4.
A 4x4x4 coaching process is when a senior pastor meets with a staff member to help them identify and make progress on the 4 people they are going to meet with and the 4 tasks they are going to accomplish over the next 4 weeks.
Setting up a 4x4x4 Coaching Process
To lead at the next level, every person on our team needs three things in place: responsibility, authority, and coaching.
Responsibility (I need you to tell me what am I responsible for doing)
This is provided when we give our staff members clear, written job descriptions that outline for what they are responsible. In my experience, most senior pastors of churches under 600 do not provide written job descriptions for their staff. This is a mistake but one that is easy to remedy.
Authority (I need you to give me the ability to do my job without your micromanagement)
This is provided when we senior pastors simply let our staff members do their jobs. Often we micromanage staff because we’ve never seen a good role model in action. But more often than not this happens because (a) our staff members don’t have clear job descriptions that outline their responsibilities, or (b) we don’t have a simple coaching process in place that allows us to coach and not dominate, influence and not direct.
Coaching (I need you to help me see how what I’m doing fits into the larger picture of the church’s mission)
A 4x4x4 coaching process allows our staff members to operate independently without our micromanagement, while allowing us to help shape their monthly priorities. It’s the best of both worlds: We get to guide staff at the highest level, and they get to lead without micromanagement — a win/win.
How a 4x4x4 Coaching Process Works
Put 30-Minute Coaching Blocks in Your Schedule
The first step to making this happen is to block off time in your schedule for meeting with individual staff members. In my article “How Senior Pastors Can Schedule Their Week for Maximum Impact,” I argue that staff coaching needs to take place on Tuesday afternoons. For part-time staff members who and can’t meet during the week, this will take place on Sunday afternoons.
I encourage senior pastors I coach to schedule 30-minute meeting blocks, with 15 minutes in between each meeting. A typical Tuesday afternoon would look like this:
1:30-2:00 p.m., 1st Meeting (with Children)
2:15-2:45 p.m., 2nd Meeting (with Youth)
3:00-3:30 p.m., 3rd Meeting (with Adults)
3:45-4:15 p.m., 4th Meeting (with Worship)
4:30-5:00 p.m., 5th Meeting (with Operations/Finance)
Senior pastors should create five “departments” (Children, Youth, Adults, Worship, Operations/Finance) with individual staff leading each of those departments. That means a senior pastor should have no more than five direct reports. All additional staff members need to report to one of those five people. This is critical in helping your staff lead at a higher level and in building infrastructure.
Once you get to 600-700, you should have full-time staff for all five of these areas except Operations/Finance, which will come in the form of an executive pastor around 800-900+. Since you don’t have someone leading the Operations/Finance Department, you’ll lead it, with the assistance of a part-time bookkeeper that you’ll meet with in that fifth time slot.
Initial Meeting at the Beginning of the Month
On the first Tuesday of the month, each staff member will bring to you one sheet of paper listing the 4 people they feel they need to meet with, and the 4 tasks they feel they need to accomplish over the next 4 weeks.
This is your chance to provide feedback, challenge them, and ask them questions. If there’s any hint of being “directive” in your leading style, it is in the few minutes when you discuss what their priorities should be.
The key, as any successful leader knows, is to help them get to the point where they can identify their top priorities. Anyone can “tell” someone what their priorities should be. But leaders help their staff members think for themselves.
At your initial meeting, take time to reiterate the church’s mission, help the staff member view the organization broadly, point out tendencies in their thinking, and challenge “safe” assumptions. Some staff will identify tasks that couldn’t possibly be accomplished in four weeks, let alone one. You’ll have to help those staff members think more tactically. Others will be so focused on the weeds that you’ll have to pull them up and help them think strategically. Coaching staff is both an art and science.
The first few times you meet, you’ll rewrite the 4x4x4 for each staff member, but if you’re doing that after three months, you’re the problem, not them. Pull it out of them. Get them to dream. Get them to take risks and push the envelope.
Initially, you’ll meet every single week, but as each staff member proves their ability to lead themselves, you’ll meet just two times a month, and for some staff, only once a month.
The key is to identify what individual staff members need. Coaching is all about them, not you. The less experienced a staff member is, the more you’ll have to meet.
I’ve found that senior pastors often feel the need to meet more frequently than required because two things aren’t in place: a staff policy manual and an online portal for their 4x4x4 updates. Once these two vital pieces of staff performance are instituted in the staff culture, the need to meet as frequently dissipates.
Staff Policy Manual
Here is a link to our church’s staff policy manual. It outlines every single thing you can think of that a staff member would need or ask: days off, vacation time, what to do about XYZ, etc. If you don’t have one, please use ours and make it better. Seriously, just take it.
Online Communication Portal
Most senior pastors start out by having their staff members write their 4x4x4 on a piece of paper. But as your staff grows, you’ll want to move to digital.
We’ve used this online resource to facilitate our 4x4x4 meetings and have had great success. This allows the staff member to update their 4x4x4 remotely and lets you, the senior pastor, provide real-time feedback on their progress.
The key to creating and maintaining a great staff culture is getting the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus, helping our staff members to sit in the right seats, and then keeping everyone pointed in the same direction.
A 4x4x4 coaching process is one of the tools to make this happen, and it is a vital one for us.