A habit is an ongoing tendency with a pattern of behavior that is difficult to change. Bad habits can develop in church workplaces like in any other place of employment. I’ve assembled a top-ten list of some common bad work habits among church leaders.
1. Procrastination. It’s harmful at any level, but the effects of this bad habit are compounded at higher leadership levels. If a ministry leader or pastor consistently procrastinates, everyone is forced into a last-minute fiasco. If top leaders don’t plan ahead, then by default, no one plans ahead.
2. Careless communication. Poor grammar and sloppy writing can create subtle doubts about the message you want to communicate. Write in complete sentences. Proof the worship guide. Check press releases for time and location errors. And, please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t chew gum or crunch ice in a meeting.
3. Confusing informal with disrespectful. In my experience, most church staff are on a first-name basis. In church work, a superior may also be a friend. Direct reports in most churches will likely be more informal than formal with you. These informalities are not usually disrespectful.
4. Taking advantage of leeway. For me, one of the most refreshing parts of being called into ministry from the corporate world was flexible hours. I work longer, more intense hours at the church, but I don’t have to be at my desk for specific times. Unfortunately, I’ve seen many workaholic pastors and many lazy pastors. Neither extreme is admirable, but lazy pastors are especially harmful to kingdom work.
5. Refusing to mingle. It’s a sad truth, but you can work at a church and never be among the people.
6. Consistently running late or going over. A person who does not honor time parameters erodes trust. Occasional offenses are forgivable. A pattern of time abuse shows disrespect for others.
7. Staying in a silo. Most midsize to large churches have departments, programs, and separate ministries. Clear distinctions of job responsibilities accompany these silos. The mission killer is usually not the silo. The mission killer is the “it’s not my job” attitude.
8. Acting as the resident contrarian. “Yes” men and women are annoying. People who always believe their ideas are better are doubly annoying.
9. Badmouthing another church. A blog or social media post is tantamount to yelling in a grocery store with a megaphone. Not many people would air their dirty laundry that way. Publicly bashing another church is weak and cowardly.
10. Politicking. Church work requires smoothing edges and rubbing shoulders with the right people. Constant politicking, however, makes others question your motives.
When leaders get into a pattern of long-term bad behaviors, they are often detrimental to the church. But do not confuse a bad day with a bad habit. Consider the whole of a leader. Does a consistent pattern exist? One-off bad behavior may need to be addressed, but it is not a bad habit. If a leader has done something once or twice, it’s not likely a habit.
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