Motivations for work performance in the church

Topic / Leadership

Last week I was talking with Kent Shaffer and he pointed me to this video. It has a lot of implications for the church as a work place, but I’m not sure entirely what those implications are.

Watch the video. What do you think are the implications of this research for working in a church ministry context?

A couple of my initial observations and thoughts:

1. Ministry workers are definitely in the cognitive role, not the purely mechanical role.

2. “Pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table.” If they’re not worried about working other jobs or distracted by trying to make ends meet, performance goes up.

3. Churches who manage their staff is great if they want compliance, but if they want engagement as we do more complicated things, self-direction is better.

4. How many youth workers would thrive under leadership that says, “People probably want to do something creative and interesting, let me just get out of your way?” Sounds risky for many reasons, though, too. Guess leadership has to be willing to give up some control?

5. Personally, I often sense the urge of mastery for some of the same reasons: because it’s fun and because and it’s satisfying.

6. I know most youth workers are motivated in ministry by some of the same reasons the work force is. We’re self-driven to do learn and do a lot of this on our own free time and give away our hard work for free (i.e. this blog!). Challenge, mastery, and making a contribution.

7. Interesting: “The company needs a higher purpose, partially because it makes coming to work better and partly because that’s the way to get better talent.” Does the better “talent” of ministry workers gravitate toward the churches with a high vision because they become frustrated under low vision?

QUESTION: As you watch this video, what implications do you notice for the church?

Posted on October 26, 2010

  • Great Video, thanks for sharing Tim!

  • Interesting video here! Two comments on two of the observations Tim pointed out:

    #2 – I definitely agree with this one right now. In my current position, I have to work another part-time job just to make ends meat for my family. Money seems to always be on my mind. I definitely think my performance would go up if this were not an issue. Mainly because my time would be better spent on ministry versus the other (strictly for money) job.

    #3 – This one I agree with as well. I have only been in ministry for 3 1/2 yrs, all at the same church, all under the same pastor. My pastor (who was once in youth ministry) is very good at letting me have the reigns of my ministry and to do things my way (even though I probably don't do them as good as he could or as he would do them). This has helped me tremendously in growth and has helped push me to get better at what I do.

  • Stepping away from how churches motivate their staff members, what about how we, as youth ministers, motivate our students? We can't pay kids to come to youth group… guilt is hardly a growth inducing motivator… we have no leverage like grades or sitting the bench to compete for our students' time with school and sports… but I wonder if the one thing we do have, is the best motivator anyway.

    We have the capacity to help students gain appropriate levels of autonomy, achieve mastery, AND help them discover the purpose that makes autonomy and mastery worth having!

    It's a lot more work than teaching kids to follow all the church rules, but I'll take engaging students in the mission of Christ over producing compliant students any day.
    "Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church…" (Eph. 4:12 NLT)

    • That's a really good perspective, Mike. I'll have to think through that a bit more…

  • I am experiencing this right now. If I ask my student leaders to accomplish a task they do fine. If I ask them to be creative and solve a problem or to come up with a new way to do something, I get blank stares. The generation we think is most innovative and creative is not (at least not around here).

    This goes to purpose. My work (youth work) is not to grow a big youth group, it's to impact lives. I don't think it's about new techniques but a new expression of purpose. If I make the program the center of thought, (how to make it better, etc) then the goal is way too small and way to easily accomplished because it benefits those within the group (not a bad thing). The challenge is showing our students why and how their participation with the gospel is significant. How is their commitment to Christ making a difference beyond their attendance and their performance record. Some of the behavior we long for our students to exhibit is counteracted and counter intuitive fostered by 6 hours of sitting at a desk learning facts, not solving significant problems or dreaming.

  • So here's a thought that I had while watching this: While I agree in part with the video, what if what the people want to do doesn't fit in with your group? I know students who play Halo 8 hours a day, because they want to master it (heck, i was one of those students before I had a job and a family!), but that skill isn't valuable to the group. Even among my student and adult leaders some seem to be more comfortable with being told what to do, even though they have a passion for students, they want to be given tasks and not involved as much in the creative side of things (Like Paul mentioned above). Maybe I'm looking through too narrow of a lens, but it seems like the big question is how to inject purpose and passion into them.

  • Mike Andrews: Right on. That's an interesting application, and it would be cool to walk down that road a little further.

    I've experienced what's presented in this lecture/video first hand. My past two churches had their pluses and minuses, but the purpose part was just not there. It was stated, but not practiced. In my current church, our lead pastor told me my job description when I was offered the position: "Take our mission and our four core values, and implement them among high school students however you think is best." I love my job for that reason. Of course, there are boundaries, but I have a boss that always reiterates: "We love experiments. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't, and that's okay."

    Tim, thanks for bringing this to our attention. I have a feeling it's going to keep me up tonight scratching my noodle…

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