7 Ministry Trends We’ll See in 2017

7 Ministry Trends We'll See in 2017

What are the seven trends that could most likely impact your workplace culture, for better or worse, in 2017? Ready? Let’s go.

1. Chief People Officer positions will be created and get a seat at the strategy table in Christian organizations.

Evidence: Of the hundreds of clients served by BCWI, the churches, ministry organizations and Christian-owned companies that advance their culture further and faster are those with a competent Chief People Officer (human resource leader) sitting at the top leadership table. Examples:

  • Colby Burke, the top HR person at Willow Creek Community Church, reports directly to Senior Pastor Bill Hybels.
  • Chad Carter, Chief People Officer at The Gideons International, reports directly to Chief Executive Officer, Craig Warner.
  • Both Colby and Chad have been instrumental in increasing the health of their organization’s respective cultures.

Warning: Recently, I was working with a president of a toxic workplace. I asked him, “Is your human resources department strong enough to help lead a culture transformation?” He looked down, shook his head and said, “No, they’re low-level administrators. They’re not the ones who are going to help us.” He failed to see the vital need of having a capable HR team leader who’s responsible to create and maintain a productive, healthy culture on a daily basis. As Bill Hybels likes to say, “Every ministry problem is a people problem, and having a highly qualified professional in this role is critical to ministry impact.”

Conclusion: Four years ago, I spoke at a conference of top HR leaders in large churches—and only 40 people attended. This past September, I spoke again at the same conference attended by 200 people. This five-fold increase is proof of more and more Top People Officers now at the leadership table to help ensure their organizations are attracting, hiring, developing, retaining, rewarding and motivating outstanding people.

2. Top talent will become more difficult to acquire as the labor market tightens significantly.

Fact: The shrinking unemployment rate is also evident in the labor market, causing the labor market to tighten. Unemployment decreased from 10 percent in 2009 to the current level of 4.6 percent. I believe it could reach the previous low of 3.9 percent in 2000. For many booming multi-site, mega churches, manpower planning is becoming a key competency. Many organizations can’t prepare enough leaders to take key jobs fast enough, as is the case of large churches with multi-site campus pastor roles.

Outlook: We’re already beginning to see a “war for talent” like we saw in the late ’90s. The employee search business for Christian organizations is booming. You’ve got to know that your best people are getting calls about jobs in other organizations on a regular basis.

Therefore: Employee retention will become an even more critical issue. Nothing will slow your organization down more than high turnover.

Plus…attracting key roles, especially those related to the technology necessary to run a productive ministry, are difficult and becoming harder to find (more about this in Trend #7).

3. Management and leadership training will become critical for the growth of faith-based organizations.

Notice: Leadership development has seen a limited focus since the year 2000, but it’s starting to change because of a couple of major shifts, including this: Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) are moving into supervisory roles and are unprepared. In fact, a Harvard Business Review study found that even though 36 percent of Millennials now have a manager title, very few have participated in leadership development programs.

Recently, BCWI conducted management development training for three Christian organizations, including Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City. We found that this training was very helpful to align each leader’s heart and mind around the role of managing other people. This just underscores what author and business consultant Marcus Buckingham has famously said: “People join organizations, but leave managers.” To retain employees, organizations will need to weave training and development into their organization.

Believe it or not, the critical need for management and leadership training will keep trending to the point that in three years, we’ll be talking about the role of virtual reality in the Christian workplace.

4. The measurement and health of an organization’s culture will continue to become more important.

Realize that, as the labor market tightens, the best source of new top talent will be the friends of their current, top-performing employees. Toxic workplaces will shut down this important source for new talent. I often refer to the virtuous cycle in organizations: Top performers who experience flourishing workplaces will recommend it to their friends who are top performers, which helps propel the organization forward toward greater impact.

An engagement survey is an example of “people analytics,” which can help you predict turnover or retention of employees in key roles and departments. By preventing your top performers from quitting, you can decrease turnover and save significant amounts of money for your organization. If a tight labor market persists, we’ll see referral bonuses for current employees who recommend candidates hired successfully by their organization. This strategy, already at work in the marketplace, will be adopted in Christian organizations in the next several years.

Upside: Measuring the health of your organization’s culture will help you create a flourishing workplace, where you can attract, retain and motivate your top talent to sustainable, high levels of performance.

5. Relationship competency-building will be a continued focus for organizations in 2017.

Many people think of emotional intelligence (or EQ) when it comes to relationship competency building. It’s the ability for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, motivating ourselves, and managing emotions effectively in ourselves and others—certainly a key to effective leadership.

It’s all over the Scriptures: The reason the world will know we love God is because of the way we love one another. Having relational competence helps us do just that—to love our neighbor as ourselves, though forging positive relationships in Christian organizations can be difficult. Tara VanderSande, staff development director at Willow Creek, has said the recent EQ training done with their staff has had a lot to do with improving Willow’s culture. It has given their staff a common language to effectively address people’s emotions. This is particularly helpful when it comes to giving and managing feedback in the workplace. Having tools like this helps managers and individuals communicate more effectively together in pursuit of positive outcomes.

6. Performance feedback systems will grow in importance as Millennials continue to impact the workforce.

Trending downward. Traditional, once-a-year, annual formal feedback systems are dying. Many leaders believe such annual performance reviews don’t really improve an employee’s performance. Millennials desire and expect regular feedback. These younger professionals desire instant feedback, having become accustomed to it from social media, including being liked daily on Facebook.

As a result, many large churches, ministries and Christian-owned businesses are requiring their managers to have one-to-one visits with each of their employees weekly, or even twice a week. Leaders at Gateway Church, based in Dallas/Ft. Worth, regularly invest at least 30 quality minutes with each of their direct reports, who feel compassion and growing sense of accountability.

7. Organizations will leverage a blended, even virtual, workforce.

What’s your gig? The global workforce is already being impacted by the emerging “gig economy,” which involves permanent employees working side-by-side with freelancers on certain facets of a larger project. In the next five years, freelancers will make up 40 percent of the workforce. How might this eye-opening trend, being driven by Millennials, affect your organization? An increasing number of virtual organizations will need to create effective, sustainable long-distance teams faster.