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It’s estimated that by the year 2022, 53% of the U.S. workforce will be remote. For comparison and perspective, just five years ago in 2017, roughly 5.2% of the workforce was remote.

We moved an entire decimal place in just five years. 

Moreover, businesses and churches are discovering that traditional staffing models are becoming less effective – and that a remote workforce can staff churches for greater impact.

In order for pastors to focus on what really only they can do, they need high-caliber resources at their discretion. 

Put simply: We have yet to meet a pastor who went to seminary to learn how to do QuickBooks.

So nearly 11 years ago, we saw an opportunity for us to serve church leaders buried in administrative things that they didn’t need to do – and that they weren’t called to do. 

But it begged – and still begs – the question: How can church leaders slowly evolve from ‘how things have always been done?’

Start With Mindset

BELAY was founded on the belief that we need to delegate, empower, resource, and equip in order to lead – and that we decidedly don’t need to be involved in every decision. Why? Because we need to trust our team. 

Often – especially when a church starts off – the pastor can develop a hero complex, thinking they have to solve every problem and be involved in everything that’s happening in the church. But doing that for too long can cause burnout – and quickly.

Instead, church leaders should adopt a mindset of encouraging their team to not come to them with problems but rather solutions to talk through together, empowering staff to solve problems on their own so they can be the hero.

Think about it in this literal brick-and-mortar context: Think back on when churches had to build Sunday school spaces – costly rectangular buildings with two floors and long hallways filled with doors. But now? Churches have small groups where people meet in homes – and that Sunday school space they had to build is all but obsolete. 

Similarly, there’s a newer – arguably better – way to handle administrative responsibilities for a church where church leaders can really get things done. And in time, this mindset will replicate itself throughout the church as it grows. 

How A Remote Workforce Benefits Churches 

We’ve found that most church leaders don’t realize how administrative tasks pull them out of some of the more creative, ministry, and vision-focused tasks as they answer each email and schedule every appointment. 

But a virtual assistant can construct a church leader’s week around blocks of time where they can really be immersed – uninterrupted and unencumbered – in ministry and not worried that congregants are getting a ‘busy signal’ when trying to reach them. 

How else can a remote workforce help a church? 

(Re-)Focus

It’s a rare breed that can lead a church, cast vision, think big picture, and also handle all of the details and administrative functions; most of us are gifted in one or the other. And most people called to be a church leader have gifts and a heart for casting vision, growing the church, and ministering its people. So while the administrative functions are just as important, with a virtual assistant, church leaders just don’t have to be the one responsible for all of the details and all of the administrative functions.

Volunteers 

In our experience, trying to do all the things, wear all the hats and keep all the things in-house takes the biggest toll on a church’s most invaluable resource: its volunteers. And the collateral damage of trying to do everything? Volunteer fatigue. Many churches are now realizing that they’ve asked volunteers to do something for so long that it’s no longer helping the church advance because they’ve worn out the volunteers that are helping in that capacity.

A virtual workforce, however, can alleviate the burden placed on your impossibly generous volunteers – assuming responsibility for administrative tasks, bookkeeping, and even web design and management – and allowing your volunteers to instead pursue a different church calling or passion.

Accountability

When it comes to accountability, there’s just a huge difference between a volunteer and paying someone to do a job. Accountability is a big deal. As church leaders, you want to hold administrators accountable but when it’s a volunteer, it’s an entirely different dynamic. But staffing provides a different way to approach conversations about expectations, results, and accountability.

Culture

While there are some still of the belief that you have to share a room to create culture, we’ve argued the case that it isn’t restricted to four brick-and-mortar walls. Shared vision, not shared spaces, creates a culture. By instilling a sense of belonging and ensuring they identify with the greater mission and values of the church, your culture can flourish even if your people don’t spend a lot of time together. 

The Yahoo! Case Study

When Yahoo! decided to bring in Marissa Mayer, one of the things that really mattered to her was on-site collaboration – the idea that when everyone is together face-to-face, things get done. And while that has proven true for a lot of tech companies out of Silicon Valley, the problem was the culture that she was walking into had already started to embrace a remote culture. 

There were already plenty of incredibly qualified people working outside the office so when she circled the wagons and brought everybody back in, that only lasted a short time because people simply didn’t want it. 

Why? Because once you have a highly qualified person working from their back porch, they’re ruined forever – and that’s exactly what happened. People left in droves – great talents – after experiencing something as special as remote work.

For a dollars-and-cents perspective, consider that around the time of her arrival, Yahoo! was valued at $104 billion – and then sold to Verizon for only $4 billion. Now, $4 billion is nothing to sneeze at but $100 billion is a sizeable loss, to say the least. Granted, there were other factors contributing to their significantly reduced market valuation but it does put a fine point on the fact that the workforce has bought into a virtual model that reluctant leaders may want to reconsider.

And losing employees to a virtual model is only the beginning.

Once those employees are lost, larger businesses are struggling to hire more leaders. Hiring managers can’t find great people that are willing to come into an office to work 40 hours a week.

Why? Because employees now demand autonomy – and it’s for more reasons than just their wanting to do laundry. The great leaders those hiring managers seek exist, but need workplace flexibility for multiple reasons. Maybe they have an aging parent who needs assistance, maybe they want to participate more in their child’s care, or maybe they’re an introvert and don’t want to be around a lot of people. 

Whatever their reason, ‘how things have always been done’ just doesn’t work for everyone anymore, and likely won’t work for the majority of employees in just a year’s time if forecasts are to be believed.

Let Go & Let Them

We’re often asked, ‘How do you hold people accountable? How do you know they’re putting in their time and getting their job done? How do you keep them motivated?’

The answer is simple: Results. It’s not about hours or processes; it’s about results

And for us at BELAY, we rely on three tenets to achieve those results.

  1. Clarity. You have to be very clear on what the job is, what the job entails, and what the expectations are for it.
  2. Metrics. You have to measure. You have to have some way of tracking the functions of that job and whether your expectations are being met – or not.
  3. Communication. You have to communicate if there are gaps in those expectations. Maybe the training wasn’t good enough in the beginning. Maybe the role was too big for what you hired the person to do. So you have to have accountability layered on top of the trust for someone to do that job. 

When you move your church to a more virtual model, you’re communicating that you trust them to get the job done when you can’t see them. You write good things on their heart. You hold them accountable while telling them, ‘I trust you to get the job done.’ 

And the impact that your trust will have on your congregation, community and Kingdom will be significant, leaving you to do what God has put upon your heart to do: shepherd those He has entrusted to you.