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April 8, 2017

Campus Staff Relationships

By Chris Kouba

I am fortunate to come from a loving, stable family where both of my parents are still married…to one another, no less.  My wife, Hillary, and I work hard to offer the same stability to our four children and do our best to put forth a unified front.  Still, there’s the occasional time when one of my kids approaches me—usually in the kindest manner—and asks permission to do something that is out of the ordinary.  Or maybe it’s not out of the ordinary, but it’s unusual that they would ask me instead of their mother.  9 out of 10 times when I press further it becomes obvious that child has asked their mother and not received the answer they sought.  Or they have come straight to me thinking I will more likely say yes, and when questioned by their mother they will hide behind my naïve permission. 

A United Front

It’s a classic move: playing Mom against Dad.  And home is not the only place it happens.  The same can easily happen in a multisite environment.  Sometimes staff members want something done, or a policy changed, or an initiative championed.  They go between the campus pastor and their global report, angling to see who might best accomplish their agenda.  It’s the reality of the multisite matrix: having two bosses.  Or more.

One of the greatest gifts a campus pastor can give to his staff is to build strong relationships with the global staff, so he can serve as a help and encouragement when tension arises from the complexities of a multisite church organizational chart.  When the relationship between a campus pastor and the global leaders are strong it allows for a unified front, and helps foster accountability, encouragement and development towards a campus staff member.

Conversely, no matter the size of the campus staff or the health of a campus pastor’s global relationships it is vital for the campus pastor to have a good working relationship with the staff members at his campus; on his team.  Before I outline some basic ways to accomplish a good working relationship with your team let me assert a very important principal.  The first 90 days of a working relationship are critical.  You have either laid groundwork in the first 90 days that you will have to overcome or groundwork that you can build upon…and it may be different, depending on the individual team member.  That’s why having a game plan, and being intentional is best.  Here are three principles to help you get started:


A campus pastor’s first job is to hire his staff team.  If he walks into a situation where a staff is already in place he will need to work hard to make immediate connections with staff members.  This can happen through meetings, small group vision meetings, personal lunches and learning about their families. Connection will be easier to accomplish when a campus pastor seeks to learn what type of praise and encouragement staff members prefer.  I have new staff fill out a questionnaire called “Staff Favorites”.  It asks them to list everything from their favorite Sonic drink to the best way to bless their family.  And then, as occasions arise I know how to make them feel special.


A campus pastor must be deliberate about creating a culture of encouragement and accessibility.  The chain of command should always be respected, but staff members should feel like they can come to their pastor on a personal level.  Campus pastors should know what is going on with their staff, what they are passionate about and pray for them.  Additionally, the culture of a campus should be one of unity.  It should be apparent the campus pastor is rooting for them to succeed.  I take time at each meeting to celebrate “wins”.  It’s a time when anybody can give a shout-out to another team member, or another ministry area that did something well.


I love technology.  I am all about time management hacks, which are largely reliant on non-verbal communication methods.  However, the church and the church staff need to keep conversation alive. A campus pastor should maintain a healthy balance of sending emails and walking down the hall for a face-to-face conversation.  Like the rumored million dollar deals that close in casual conversations on the golf course, having regular conversations with team members as you pass in the hallway goes a long way in facilitating connections and creating a healthy culture.

The role of campus pastor is very unique, and comes with a unique set of challenges.  Putting in the time to build healthy relationships within your global context and, particularly, your campus context will be essential to success.

Do you have what it takes to be a campus pastor? How does this role differ from a church planter? Or from a senior pastor? Learn from our research-based and practitioner-tested scope and sequence to develop campus pastors in our course, Essential Campus Pastoring.



Chris Kouba

Chris Kouba is the Lead Pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church North Campus and has been a part of all campuses of Prestonwood, one of the largest churches in the country. He is a graduate of Baylor University, received his Master’s from Dallas Theological Seminary, and his doctorate from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He serves as an adjunct faculty member of Southern Seminary teaching leadership to doctoral students. He is passionate about the local church and seeing it reach his full potential of influence. He is married to Hillary and has four children, Katelyn, Mackenzie, Hudson, and Griffin.


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