28 min read

Transcript: Practical Tools for Developing Character and Competence in Your Staff

Flourishing Culture Leadership Podcast

“Practical Tools for Developing Character and Competence in Your Staff”

July 10, 2023

Craig Walker

Intro: When it comes to hiring, we believe a person's character is the most important selection criteria. So how does an organization build both character and competence into their people to flourish? Well, listen in to today’s episode number 345 of the Flourishing Culture Leadership Podcast, as we have an engaging conversation with a large-church leader on that very topic.

Welcome: Welcome to the Flourishing Culture Leadership Podcast, your home for open, honest, and insightful conversations to help develop your leadership, your team, and build a flourishing workplace culture.

Al Lopus: Hello, I'm Al Lopus, the co-founder of the Best Christian Workplaces and author of the award-winning book Road to Flourishing: Eight Keys to Boost Employee Engagement and Well-Being. And I'm passionate about helping Christian leaders, like you, create engaged, flourishing workplaces.

I'm delighted to welcome Craig Walker to the Flourishing Culture Leadership Podcast. Craig is the human resources director at NewSpring Church, a thriving church with 14 locations across the state of South Carolina. Throughout our conversation, you'll hear Craig talk about transforming human resources into a strategic and proactive ministry partner, leadership practices, and values that build high levels of trust, how NewSpring builds character and integrity into leadership, and the importance of leaders going first.

I think you're going to love this interview with Craig, but before we dive in, this episode is brought to you by the Best Christian Workplaces Employee Engagement Survey. You can sign up today to discover the health of your organization's culture. This fall would be a wonderful time to listen to your employees with our easy-to-administer online Engagement Survey by going to workplaces.org. That’s www.workplaces.org. And being a certified best Christian workplace improves your ability to attract more talented employees and keep them longer.

And by BCW’s new leadership and group coaching, we help you transform your leadership effectiveness with stakeholder-based coaching processes. Learn more by going to workplaces.org/coaching. Check it out today.

Well, also I want to say hello to our new listeners, and thanks for joining us as we honor your investment of time by creating valuable episodes like this.

But let me tell you a little bit more about Craig Walker. Craig has been in his human-resources role for three years now at NewSpring Church in Anderson, South Carolina. Prior to his role, he had other key roles, including in their guest services and operations area. He's a Clemson grad and is driven and motivated with passion for problem solving and maximizing team performance. Craig is the culture champion as NewSpring has built a very healthy employee culture into its DNA, having participated in our Engagement Survey since 2014.

So here's my conversation with Craig Walker.

Craig, welcome to the podcast.

Craig Walker: Thanks, Al. I'm excited to be here today.

Al: And we're looking forward to our conversation.

And, you know, Craig, you've had several roles at NewSpring Church before you became the human-resources director, so what is it about serving in this role in this season that really makes you excited about your work?

Craig: Yeah. I mean, I think the thing that gets me excited every day is it's just God lets us do this.

Al: Mm-hmm.

Craig: I mean, it's amazing to think that He can do anything that we're doing by Himself, but He still chose you; He chose me; He chooses everyone else in His kingdom to do it. But when I specifically think about human resources, you know, I think about the way it's kind of viewed in church world often and the world. It's quite often simply looked at as an administrative function. But I think, like, what if it was more than that? So for me, I get really excited about this idea of how do we transform H.R. from an administrative function to a strategic business partner, a strategic ministry partner, so that people aren't avoiding coming and talking to me or coming and talking to my team, but they're actually like, “Ooh, hey, I've got a problem. I want to go talk to H.R. because they add so much value to the conversation.” I just believe that if human resources is actually proactively resourcing humans, to use one of your words, we're going to flourish; our culture’s going to flourish; our companies, our churches are going to flourish; and the Kingdom’s going to advance.

Al: And Craig, you've had several roles at NewSpring. Just give us an example of your background that then led you into human resources.

Craig: Yeah. Actually, I've had the pleasure of doing a couple of different areas. So when I first came on, I was the project manager for our guest services in kind of our headquarters’ office, just helping coordinate all the products and ordering and kind of process things that go into making sure our guest experience is phenomenal. For the five years after that, I had the privilege of working with our leadership team as one of the executive assistants to our lead pastor of operations. And then my wife and I actually had the opportunity to move to Atlanta for a year, and both served on staff at Passion City Church. I was the finance director there before we moved back to South Carolina to be closer to family and came back on as the H.R. director.

Al: Wow. That's a great background and a varied background. So customer experience, finance, H.R., what a great combination.

Well, NewSpring has been participating in the Best Christian Workplace Institute Employee Engagement Survey for several years, as I mentioned. And you've got a large staff, and you've got 14 different locations. You're distributed across the state, I know. And one area that really has been high in recent years in the results has been inspirational leadership. That's one of our eight keys. Your staff has a high level of trust in your leaders, and that's really one of the foundation points that we've discovered, and they put Christ first, and they manage well, three key things. So these scores are above average with other large churches. What are some of the key leadership values and practices at NewSpring that create this high level of trust in leadership? I know our leaders are interested in hearing your thoughts.

Craig: Yeah. Well, trust, especially trust in leadership, is never something that we've just arrived at and we’re, like, “Okay, cool. We're here. We can stop now.” We've always got to be working on it. I mean, honestly, we are constantly messing it up. We're miscommunicating, breaking trust here, things like that. But we're always going to work to restore that trust and try to improve. And for us, one of the biggest things we've realized lately is that often getting staff to trust leadership starts the other way around. It starts with your leadership trusting your staff.

Three ways that we've practically played that out has been leading in team, transparency, and then using the BCWI Survey. So a few years ago we actually transitioned our senior leadership team to a team. It's flat, nobody is—you know, we don't have a senior pastor. It's five guys that lead in team. And since then, we've seen that trickle down throughout our organization to teaching in team, team decision making, and that team decision making has been huge in building trust because you have more people in the process as you're having conversations and making decisions.

I’m thinking a practical example of that, a week or two ago at our last all staff, we rolled out new church values to our staff. And, historically, this is something that—your leadership team goes away. They're going to pray about it. They're going to work together. They might bring in another person or two. And they're going to come back and say, “Hey, here's our new church values.”

But this time, because of that team mentality, there's been around 40 people at all levels of the organization involved. And for us that's, like, 15% of our staff that's been involved in helping craft and cultivate and hear from the Lord on what our new church values are. And that's where we really see team bring out the best ideas. And our staff has trust in leadership because now they know they have had a voice into the process, and they also understand why any decisions were made, and so they can help carry that out with the rest of the staff.

The second part, I would say, is this idea of transparency. And the biggest example I can think about that is our leadership team meets on a weekly basis, and out of every single one of those meetings, they have notes. And so what they do to lead with transparency is they're going to share the full notes with everybody that reports to them. So we're talking about all of our campus pastors, all our support directors. There's 30 or 40 people that are getting these notes. And it has everything that they talked about and in detail. And they've given us the responsibility to determine what is appropriate, what isn't, what can our teams handle, what do they need to know, rather than at the leadership level limiting the information that's coming out. And that's a huge trust builder at all levels in the organization.

And then the final one was the BCWI Survey. You know, like you said, we've been partnering with you guys for a long time, and getting that anonymous feedback is so valuable because it gives all of our staff the freedom to say anything that they feel like they need to say, anything the Lord impresses on them. And we can look at the areas that we're winning with our culture, and we can come back and say, “Hey, guys, thank you. This is you. This is what you've done.” And it's going to be a huge encouragement.

But in some of the areas that maybe we’re not as high as we'd want to be or there's been some in the write-ins and feedback, it gives us, “Hey, we hear you. Here's what we're doing about it.” And then as they see us actually do what we say, that's going to build that gap; that’s going to build that trust with our staff.

Al: Yeah. Well. Yeah. We've seen that over and over, Craig, as well. You know, having that anonymous voice, everybody knows in a leadership role that the higher you are in leadership, the less you really know what's going on because people are kind of spinning the conversation based on the leader above that they're communicating to. And so getting that direct front-line, anonymous feedback is trust building. Yeah, I love that.

Craig: Yeah. And, Al, I'd say it's like they're not even intentionally spinning it. It's just the natural filter we have. “Oh, I don't think my boss needs to know this,”—

Al: Right.

Craig: —or “I don't think they need to know that.” It's not intentional. It's not malicious—

Al: Right.

Craig: —in most cases. But I would say even, like, partnering with BCWI year over year, like year one, you're just proving to your staff it's actually anonymous.

Al: Mm-hmm, yeah.

Craig: Year two, three, that's when you're really going to start to see that power of consistency and trends and building confidence in your teams that it truly is anonymous and they can say whatever the Lord impresses on them to say.

Al: Yeah, yeah. And, of course, you continue to build trust by acting on the results, don't you, Craig?

Craig: Oh, yeah. You have to.

Al: Yeah.

Well, you know, as you look at developing existing leaders and growing new leaders for your organization, how would you define a leader of high character? I mean, you know, again, the Survey results show high-character competencies. So how do you go about helping your leaders and your staff grow in the qualities of character and integrity?

Craig: Yeah. So we go straight to Psalm 78:72 when we look at how are we going to define a leader, a leader of high character. And that verse says that, “And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.” And the key to this verse is it's both. It's integrity and skill. I'm sure everybody can think back on their career about the time they had a boss who was high integrity, but maybe not the skillful hands. And you loved them. They were great. They loved the Lord. They were super nice. But there may have been some frustrations on how much you're actually accomplishing.

Or the flip side, you have the boss that is, like, skillful hands all day. They're producing excellent work. It's high quantities. But that integrity of heart isn't there, and you maybe have a trail of, you know, people you've burned in your wake, or there's going to be a moral failure at some point. So they're not going to create something that's going to last. And neither of those is good stewardship for the talents and the resources and things that God has given us to do. And so when you see both of those paired together, when you have integrity and skill, that's when you get to see the Kingdom impact of skillful hands, but then also a Kingdom impact that lasts because of the integrity of heart.

Al: Yeah.

Craig: And so we want to help our staff. We don't want to talk about it and say, “Hey, here's a Bible verse. Go forth and be great.” We're going to be proactive in our approach with talking about this on a regular basis. So we have regular one on ones with all of our staff. Sometimes that’s weekly; sometimes it's biweekly, just depending on teams’ flow. And so in those, they're going to talk about, “Hey, what's your time with the Lord look like? What are the things you said yes to? Are you doing that? Are you meeting all the goals that you set out?”

And then we're also going to train on it. And so we have four all staffs a year, where we bring in all of our staff from across the state together. And there are some teachings, but we also have classes. So the last all staff we had, we kind of had it split up. We had two classes on integrity of heart, so there was a class on how do you use prayer in ministry? And then there was a financial-integrity class. We are teaching FPU to our staff, Financial Peace University. And on skillful-hand side, that day we did a class, I mean, nuts and bolts, practical. How do you run a great meeting? And then how do you develop leaders?

And so being proactive in teaching and talking about what it looks like to have skillful hands and integrity of heart is really, really important, but where it really comes to play is when somebody doesn't. So when you have a staff member or a leader or a volunteer, there is a breach of character or a breach of integrity. How our leaders respond in those moments is critical—

Al: Yeah.

Craig: —because we all have the policy-and-procedure manual. I’m H.R. We've got that, right? We have a staff-restoration policy. So any of our staff can look in our manual and see, if there is a breach of these things, here's how we process through that. But as a leader, if we haven't done the work to create a psychologically and emotionally safe place for our employees to come to us to have these conversations, because they know we're not just going to try to walk them right off staff because they sinned. They know that, hey, we're going to walk with them to restoration, to healing, to wholeness. That's when they're actually going to be able to come forward and have conversations to grow everybody's character.

Now, you know, depending on what it was, the end result of restoration may still be off staff. We have to be realistic of what happened, but that's why it's so important for us as leaders, especially in the church world, to realize, like, we're never beyond needing Jesus and the finished work of the cross.

Al: This is such a relevant and important topic, Craig. No question about it. It causes me to think about this.

So in your one on ones, you actually have a process where you're asking people about their relationship with God. You're encouraging them to spend time with God, to build their Christian character, in a sense. So that's a really positive action step. And then restoration, that's a conversation itself, what a restoration, staff-restoration plan might look like. And again, you know, we all understand it will depend on the act itself. But I love the idea that, you know, that's part of the discussion. Okay, how are we going to walk with you through restoration? Yeah.

Craig: Yeah. And I think that the one on one and having those conversations, being intentionally engaged in people's lives, not just for what they do, but for who they are—

Al: Yeah.

Craig: —builds that trust, builds that equity with them so that when they come and when something does go wrong, we have the ability to speak into it, to pastor them through it. And so if we do have to walk them through a restoration process, it's not like this is the first time we've had a pastoral conversation with them.

Al: Right.

Craig: But that restoration process is key because we have to protect the integrity of the ministry. But at the end of the day, that’s Jesus’s responsibility. He’s called us to be the pastors in the middle of that. And so we get the honor and the privilege of helping them move towards healing, but if they aren’t willing to tell us about it, we never have that opportunity.

Al: Yeah. And I love your training, too. You mentioned training on a quarterly basis to at least identify what integrity of heart looks like. So that brings that to the forefront of your staff at the same time. Yeah, that's fantastic.

Well, here at BCWI, we've been paying attention to workplace trends during the pandemic. And as we emerge, NewSpring saw some of your employee-engagement scores go up, even in the pandemic. In November 2020, more than six months into the pandemic, we saw that result, in your case. So did you change anything in your practices during that time to make sure that your staff felt connected and cared for? And how are you carrying some of these practices going forward, Craig?

Craig: Yeah. And I think, you know, a lot of churches had that same initial experience during the pandemic, and it's played out differently depending on where you are. But you're looking around, you’re like, “We've got these buildings. We have these staff. We have all these normal ministry opportunities, and we can't do any of it. Like, now what? We're all stuck at home. We can't go anywhere.” And for us, it was really, really cool to see our staff, like, locally at each one of our campuses, but then also as a global staff come together and say, “Okay, we know we're still called. Jesus is still the hope of the world. Like, we are still called to bring that hope to people. What does that look like in this season?” And so that kind of became this rallying cry, like, what needs to shift? What needs to change?

And through that, we kind of determined three areas we're going to focus on. And so for us, that was pulling off an excellent Sunday experience. We called it NewSpring at Home, giving people the opportunity to have church in their house, with their family, so that they still had that community. The other, second one would be care packages, support for our frontline workers. And it's really making sure that these people who are going out and literally putting their lives on the line to save others, that they're feeling cared for, appreciated by everybody. And then developing an online connect class, which for us is similar to, like, a membership. But it’s this idea of how do you come and understand what it is, get involved, get connected to other people, and get connected to opportunities.

And the unique thing we saw was having these just, like, two or three really simple-but-clear focuses was this major rallying cry for our staff of, like, “Okay, I know what we're going after. There's a whole lot that's uncertain in the world right now, but I know what we're going after.”

The other part of the pandemic really highlighted the importance and appropriately elevated the conversations around mental and emotional health. And we saw that with our staff as well as, you know, everybody's working remotely, so you're doing a lot more check ins. You're doing a lot more short one on ones. “Hey, how's work going? But hey, how are you? Like, how is life going right now?” And so that kind of picked up the pace of those conversations. And we realized those are two of the big things that we want to carry forward and have been able to carry forward into 2022.

And so for us, looking at, it’s like, what are the clear goals, the clear focus points that we have that we can all rally around no matter what job we're in? And then how do we continue to appropriately elevate the conversations around mental and emotional health? And so our leadership team spent some time early or, I guess, late 2021 and was just seeking the Lord for, like, hey, what are we going after next year? And so they came back and brought before the rest of the staff team, you know, we have two specific goals: for leadership development and debt reduction. And so with two goals, we now know, no matter what role you are in on staff or volunteer, like, that's what we're going after, and gives us a lens for the events we're holding, the conversations we're having, any decision that we're making. And to just really help give you some clarifying framework.

For the mental and emotional health, we want to make sure that our people have the resources at their disposal to get what they need when they need it. So like, you know, we talked about one on ones earlier. Those are still a key component, but we want to make sure that they've got it outside of just that initial relationship. And so we've had a budget for a long time where we pay for professional counseling for our staff when they need it. They're still having to bring that to us, get permission and all that sort of stuff. So we wanted to have another option, and we got connected with a partner called Full Strength Network. And through them we're actually able to provide counseling or coaching—so kind of counseling, looking back; coaching, looking forward—for all of our staff, their spouses, and their 13- to 17-year-old dependents. And so we rolled this out as a benefit for all of our staff, that the church pays for. And through that rollout, it allows us to continue the conversation and continue to elevate appropriately the importance of mental and emotional health.

Al: You're really talking about the core, isn't it? Love your neighbor. Well, really, it's love your staff. I think of one of my favorite verses, 1 Peter 5:2, where leaders are encouraged to shepherd the flock that God has entrusted to them. And you’ve got a flock of staff, hundreds of staff, and the fact that you're not only having one on ones with them each week or every other week, but you're really paying attention to their emotional health and, as necessary, helping them with counseling. Especially at this time, we hear so much, and we're going to hear a lot more about the mental or emotional health issues that came as a result of COVID. But, you know, just having the church be an example for the rest of the world of how to deal with these issues is just a great story. Yeah, thanks, Craig.

Al: I trust you’re enjoying our podcast today. We’ll be right back after an important word for leaders.

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Al: And now we're back with Craig Walker at NewSpring Church.

Well, you know, sometimes in church life and working together on teams, we've got to work through, well, disagreements. You probably don't have any of those there.

Craig: No, no, no, no.

Al: Yeah. Or situations where people are offended or even hurt, you know? Yeah, that happens, and it happens in church. And unfortunately, we don't address those things as much as we should. But, you know, NewSpring has added even some customer questions in their Survey about these topics. So how do you encourage healthy interactions and relationships in your staff and church community, considering disagreements and conflict?

Craig: So for us is actually one of our church values, or it falls right under one of our church values. And the way we say it is pursuing uncommon unity.

Al: Mm.

Craig: We want to invite everyone everywhere into peace with God, which leads to peace with one another.

Al: Yeah.

Craig: And we know that's going to start with our staff. And we believe that so fully that we want it to be central to how we operate. And so we put, you know, pursuing uncommon unity along with our other church values, it's on everyone's job description. And everybody signed their job description every year so you're reminded of, you know, I’ve got my job description, what I do, but then also our church values, how we go about doing it. But putting it on a piece of paper, making them sign it, look at it once a year is not going to help resolve conflict or navigate any of these conversations. And so we realize that leaders, you've got to go first. You have to model the behavior that you want to see, because if people don't ever see it modeled, then they're not going to know what is appropriate.

And so an example we have recently here, we had a video all-staff meeting earlier this year. So this is broadcast from our Anderson campus. Everybody at every campus is watching. And one of our lead pastors invites another staff member up on stage to help highlight how this staff member navigated one of these hard conversations with that lead pastor really, really well. And so the staff member was able to get up and talk about how they spent a lot of time in prayer, how they sought counsel from their staff and a few other trusted advisors. They weren't going out gossiping;—

Al: Right.

Craig: —they’re finding a few trusted counselors that they could talk to. Then they even wrote out what they wanted to talk about and sent it as an email. And all this is happening before the person’s even talked with the lead pastor about the disagreement. There's tons of—bathed in prayer, bathed in wisdom before that conversation happens. And then they were able to share with our staff how, when they did go have that conversation with the lead pastor, how that lead pastor responded, not defensively, but with repentance and humility. And they didn’t go into all the details of this is what they did, and this was the conflict, and all that. Like, that's not necessarily helpful. But just talking about the process of, how do you navigate that conversation? how do you do it prayerfully? how do you do it honoring one another? gives people, one, the freedom to know, “Hey, we want you to have these conversations because we're taking time to highlight it,” but, also, here's an example of how that can be done really, really well.

I think the other key is, you know, you can model it, and then you can train on it, too. So we went through a class a couple of weeks ago, where it was kind of teaching from the core concepts and principles from the book Thanks for the Feedback, which is by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen.

Al: Yeah.

Craig: And then we’re going to do kind of like a book club on that one over the next couple of months as well. So we're just trying to expose as many of our staff to these healthy paradigms for how you have those type of conversations, because if we're not showing people how to do it, we're not modeling it, we're not teaching on it, it's not going to happen. We’d love to assume, just because you're a leader, whether it's in church world or in the business world, “Okay. You're in a leadership role. You should know how to have hard conversations,” but if we don't train people on it, we can't have that as an expectation. So don't assume they're going to know, or assume that they're just going to. And then we just know that once our staff gets that, they are then going to be able to model that with their volunteers, who can then model it in their homes, who can then model it in their businesses. And it’s going to be something they'll just be able to flood out into the cities that we're in.

Al: Wow. You know, Craig, I just can't tell you how much we can all learn, can't we? I mean, we've all had conflict with leaders, and we express that to them, and they react negatively. They consider it hurtful. There's just a whole variety of reactions that we've experienced, all of us, at one time or another. But yeah, Christians should be the ones really setting the example here.

Craig: Absolutely.

Al: And I love, first of all, that you have the pursue uncommon unity as a value for the church. And then, as you say, leaders go first, and to model behavior, to train on that behavior, as I think of Jesus’s last prayer about how He’s praying for the unity of believers. That's such an important part of His view of how He wants the body of Christ to be. Yep. Really great, great conversation.

So as I mentioned, you have a large staff, with oh, gosh, hundreds, maybe probably thousands of volunteers, who serve throughout the church. And, you know, of course, in H.R., you're responsible for the staff team. But there's some common values and practices that are shared between staff and volunteers at NewSpring to create a really positive culture. So tell us a little bit about that.

Craig: Yeah. And, Al, like, thank you, thank the world for volunteers. I mean, they come in every single week. They’re pouring their heart out, whether it's student ministry, kids’ ministry, Sunday. But then they're also taking that same Kingdom mentality back into their homes, the communities, the businesses. And that's really where we're going to see the Kingdom advance. And so it is. It's so important to have a common set of values that is being trained into everybody so that we can see that Kingdom advancement.

And that's where I think the church has a leg up on anybody else in the world, because no matter what you call it, whether it's vision, mission, values, whatever terminology your church uses, you know, it creates this alignment for what you're going after, whether you're on staff or you're a volunteer. We have a common purpose, a common unity. Obviously, it's the Great Commission and growing disciples at the end of the day. But how that looks in your local context can be a little different.

When it comes to practically, like, how do we make sure that stays in alignment between our staff and our volunteers? there's probably really three areas, I think, that are unique. And so, one, we team meetings, one on ones, and then operating in team.

And so team meetings, I was, like, great for community building, casting vision, sharing a lot of information, things like that. And that, honestly, for us, doesn't matter whether that's, you know, my H.R. team, when I get together with them; or when I get together with the operations team, which is my boss’s teams, the team that I'm on; or a volunteer team with the student ministry, kids’ ministry or whatever your volunteer role is on a Sunday. And those are great opportunities for all of those, and we want to leverage those and have those on a regular basis.

We also invite a lot of our people who are volunteers, but they're maybe in, like, a leadership volunteer role, and we invite them to come to our all-staff meetings. And so they're hearing the same information the same time the rest of the staff is, and that's just helping, again, build trust, that we're building trust from our leadership. Our staff are also building trust from our leadership, out to the volunteers. And so they can hear that information, and then they can champion it, as we are.

For the one on ones, we talked a little bit about that with our staff already—

Al: Yeah.

Craig: —but we want to see that carried beyond because we know the value in having intentional and safe places to talk. And so our goal is to set up structures and systems so that our staff is having one on ones, but then all of our volunteers are getting that same intentional time. Now, the rhythms may be different depending on what their schedule is, but they have somebody that's intentionally investing in them. Now, that might be a staff member or it might be, you know, another leadership volunteer because, you know, we're here to equip the saints. We want to do ministry with them, not for them, so we’re going to bring them into the fold. But just having that safe space for the volunteers, for the staff, for everybody is so, so important.

And then the operating in team, I mean, this is really where rubber meets the road. We can have a team meeting, and we can talk about culture. We can have a one on one, and we can talk about culture. But when we as leaders actually get out and serve our team, or serve with our team, side by side, or bring our team together and make a team decision, that's what's actually going to allow us as the leader to, first, live out all the values that we're talking about, but then, also, celebrate it when we see those same values lived out in our volunteers, in our staff. And as we see those things and we can celebrate, then that will continue to reproduce that culture and sustain it over the long haul.

Al: Yeah, gosh. You know, I think about volunteers, and you're talking about investing, aren't you, in volunteers? I mean, this is an investment of time. It's an investment of volunteer leaders, to have team meetings. You know, again, by team meetings, you're bringing everybody together and kind of getting that common vision. Then, one on ones, and then, you know, really operating in team. Boy, I love that idea.

You know, Craig, it should go without saying that we're talking about character of leaders in a church context. And of course, the spiritual component is a big part of that, isn't it? And sometimes our focus on leadership in the church just looks like leadership in a marketplace or a secular context. But talk about spiritual leadership and the importance of God's redeeming power and growing leaders of character, regardless of their role. I mean, that’s one of the things that, it's different about a Christian organization, why Christian tools, like our Engagement Survey or the 360, is including that spiritual dimension. Tell us a little bit more about the importance of that.

Craig: Yeah, Al. I think you nailed it with the question. You know, it's spiritual leadership, regardless of their role. So this isn't even just a church conversation. You know, this is a Kingdom thing. As Christians, as followers of Christ, it doesn't matter where our paycheck comes from. We are His ambassador. And so the way we lead, the way we do things, the integrity we have, all of that should look different because we're trying to reflect Christ to the world. And so we go back to Psalm 78:72, “And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.” If we're honest, like, the business world does a really great job at a lot of the skillful-hands things.

Al: Right.

Craig: And there's a lot of stuff that we should learn from them and leverage that in the church world, leverage that in any of our, you know, religious organizations. But Jesus is our standard for integrity. And that means we've got to look at Him and His Word, not the world, not even our own power, our own strength, to grow our character. I love Galatians 3:3. It says, “Are you so foolish? Have you begun by the spirit and now you're being perfected by the flesh?” So the Spirit wants to perfect us, but the way the Spirit's going to do that and make that Christ-like leader to that Christ-like character is through an everyday relationship with Jesus. So are you prioritizing your time in the Word daily? What's your prayer life look like? Are you fasting? What about generosity? Weekly Sabbath? You know, there's all these spiritual disciplines that get talked about, and oftentimes we can say, “Oh, well, it's just discipline for discipline’s sake.” It’s not. These are all biblical principles and ways that God wants to operate through the Spirit to transform us into the image of Christ. And as we do that, all of this leadership character, this inspiration, this trust, like, all of that's going to rise to the surface. And at that point, it doesn't matter whether you're a senior pastor, a staff member, a volunteer; go to the business side of things, CEO, employee, a leader in the community somewhere, or leading in your own home. When you allow the Spirit to transform you and give you that godly character to make you more like Christ, you know, that transformation is going to make you a leader that people want to follow.

Al: Amen and amen, Craig. That's a great way of communicating it, that's for sure. And I believe, you know, godly character in the marketplace is as attractive as it is in a spiritual Christian setting as well. You know, it works because God is the One that created humans, right?

Well, you know, some of our listeners might be thinking that they don't have all the resources that NewSpring Church has. You know, you've got a large staff. You've got multiple sites. How would you encourage people in smaller organizations to shepherd their staff and leadership in ways that don't necessarily cost money, but create an atmosphere of inspiration and engagement on their staff team?

Craig: Yeah. I mean, the first thing I'd say is just be encouraged. You’re doing exactly what Jesus did, exactly what Jesus did. When He was here, He didn't have a big organization. He had disciples. He didn't have a lot of worldly resources, but He leveraged the same resource that we all have: time.

Al: Yeah.

Craig: And you look at how much time He spent investing in the disciples because He knew that they were going to go and do a lot greater things. He even said it. “You’re going to do greater things than I have.”

Al: Yeah.

Craig: So when you think about your staff, how are you investing your time? Are you having one on ones with them? And not the one on one that's like, “Hey, here's the ten things I need to get you to do this week,” but a one on one that actually serves them, that meets their needs, that's helping grow their integrity of heart, their skillful hands. When you look at the to-dos on your list, what are some things that you've done historically as a leader that you could do in team, that you could bring somebody else in, that you could help delegate and develop other leaders? Or from the transparency standpoint, have you got some information? Where can you take the risk this week of oversharing with your staff to be the leader that extends trust first? Beyond that, it's 2022, which means there is free resources everywhere.

Al: Yeah.

Craig: So you could start listening to podcasts. There's tons of great leadership podcasts out there. Listen to those with your team. Do a book study with your team. Watch sermons from other churches with your team. If you need church-specific resources, newspringnetwork.com has a lot of free resources; open.life.church has a ton of free resources as well, all out there and available for you to grow yourself, grow your teams. And if you can get a small budget together, Full Strength Network is a great option because on top of the counseling side that they offer, they also offer leadership coaching. And so I've been going through that for the last, probably, like, nine months, and it has been so helpful.

Al: Hm. Yeah, I like the idea of a book study. There’s a new book out, Craig.

Craig: Oh, tell me about it.

Al: Yeah. Road to Flourishing. But, no, that’s really helpful.

So, Craig, we've learned so much. Thanks. This has been a great conversation, that just goes back, I think about going back, really, to the bedrock that exists in any organization that really makes it flourishing. And that's the level of trust, and how the great job you're doing at NewSpring as a team and how you start off in order to have high levels of trust, you have to, first of all, trust your staff. You have to, then, in your example, you're operating in team leadership. So it's not autocratic in any sense. It's a teamwork leadership model. It's you practice transparency. You get anonymous feedback through an independent employee-engagement survey. You participate, you have wide participation in church activities like creating your values. I mean, those are just great examples. So I appreciate so much, yeah. The way you've talked about developing character and how it's intentional. You have one on ones, you train on it, you follow through, you've followed through in the pandemic actually, and really focused on how can you meet your employees’ needs, especially around this issue of emotional and mental health and at the same time having very clear goals as to how people can make a difference in the organization and what you're trying to accomplish. You've great stories about conflict, and the pursuing uncommon unity is one of your values. And then, of course, how to work with volunteers and encourage volunteers and to develop volunteers for Kingdom purposes. This has just been a great conversation.

You know, Craig, is there anything you'd like to add that we've talked about?

Craig: Yeah. You know, we hit on a lot of things for leaders to do, a lot of takeaways, but I think it’s also important to balance that and remember why God has us here in the first place, like, why are we in the role we’re in, in this season, in the first place? And Isaiah 43:10 says, “’You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord. ‘And my servant whom I have chosen.’” It’s like, God chose you, Al. God chose me. God chose every person listening to this podcast to be in the seat that you're in, in this season, for a very specific reason. And so why? Is it to do a lot of great things? No, that's not a reason. It's probably the byproduct. Is it to build a great Kingdom business? Not the reason. Probably a byproduct. But God says it's so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. That’s it. Like, God put us where we are, in the role that we're in, in the season that we're in, because He knew this is exactly the place in this moment that we needed to be in to learn the most about Him. And as we get to know Him more, know His character more, that's going to overflow into everything that we talked about today. It’s going to overflow into your leadership character. It’s going to overflow into trust. It's going to overflow into inspiration because that's just who God is.

Al: Thanks, Craig. Well, and Craig, let me ask you, if anybody wanted to reach out and connect with you, how can they do that?

Craig: Yeah. I’d love to serve anybody in any way we can. The best way would be just to email me, and it’s craig.walker@newspring.cc.

Al: That’s great.

Well, Craig, I want to thank you for your contributions today. And most of all, I appreciate your commitment to helping people grow and thrive through the local church, to help create inspirational leadership, to help build Christian character in leaders. This has just been a great conversation, so thanks for taking your time out of your day and speaking into the lives of so many listeners.

Craig: Thanks, Al. It’s been an honor.

Al: Thanks so much for listening to my conversation with Craig. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. You can find ways to connect with him and links to everything we discussed in the show notes and transcripts at workplaces.org/podcast.

And finally, leaders, if you want to improve your leadership, expand your organization's impact for good, and see greater faithfulness in our broader culture, help us achieve our goal to see a thousand flourishing workplaces in the year 2030. That's a thousand flourishing Christian-led workplaces in the year 2030. To help, please share this podcast with another leader or launch a project in your organization to discover and improve the health of your workplace culture. If you're interested in learning more, email me at al@workplaces.org, or go to workplaces.org to request a sample report.

Outro: The Flourishing Culture Leadership Podcast is sponsored by Best Christian Workplaces. If you need support building a flourishing workplace culture, please visit workplaces.org for more information.

We'll see you again next week for more valuable content to help you develop strong leaders and build a flourishing workplace culture.

Al: You're not going to want to miss next week as I talk with pastor, author, and mission entrepreneur Dave Ferguson, founder of Community Christian Church in the Chicago area and leader of the Exponential Conference, about how inspirational leaders also multiply leaders.