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Boost Employee Retention

retention Mar 22, 2023

People who choose to work in ministries or churches get up and go to work every day because they are making a difference. These are smart people using their talents and expertise to make the world a better place. While most ministries are known for underpaying and overworking their employees, they compensate by focusing on the people they serve and the impact they have. 

Research shows that many smart and talented people are attracted to this sense of mission. It’s not the dollar they work for, it's the difference. This is the reason they get out of bed every single day. They could make more money – but instead they see compensation broader than the dollar. It’s the legacy, the teamwork, the impact that shapes their picture of compensation. 

However, research also shows that retention is a bigger issue than you might expect. Mission is enough to draw in smart, competent, and energized people. But, it isn’t always enough to keep them. When it comes to leaving their jobs, employees in nonprofit agencies report that working conditions and career advancement are contributing factors along with pay.

This is good news! Money is a factor – but it isn’t the only factor. In fact, even your experience in the workforce will tell you that too little pay will cause turnover . . . but overcompensating doesn’t offset unacceptable working conditions and the opportunity to do what you love every day. There is an opportunity here for greater retention in our organizations – ways to keep the smart and talented people focused on achieving mission. What can leaders and managers in ministries and churches do to stop the turnover and keep talented people engaged in the mission of the organization? 


The tangible pay and benefits for the work you do, plus all the perks of the job above and beyond the paycheck. I get that some of you reading this blog don’t have the authority to change anybody’s pay. However, compensation is more than the paycheck. There is worth that can be expressed beyond the wages. Are their tools and tech that make the job easier? Can you partner with other nonprofits to offer shared health and wellness benefits? How about a local business who will offer discounted services to your people? Many nonprofits I work with have the advantage of offering flexible schedules or tele-commuting. Think about how to set up regular practices that work for the team and demonstrate value to the individual. 


Workplace conditions are the number one reason people leave an organization. It has been said that people don’t leave their job, they leave their manager.  So, number one tip. Don’t be that manager. We must work on relationships at work. If communication is breaking down, conflict goes unresolved, poor performance is not addressed, and good performance is not rewarded then it will erode trust. We often focus on the mission – because it is so important! We see this relationship stuff as a distraction. Left unattended it will become more than a distraction. So, get equipped, dive in and deal with the complaints, get the feedback, help people feel valued, connect their work to mission, and most of all treat everyone fairly and with respect. 


This is a tricky one for many of you because your ministry or church is fairly small and there isn’t a “ladder” to climb. However, we can’t ignore career development. People who are drawn to missional work are the same people who want to learn and grow. It’s part of why they love what they do. Find out the strengths of the team and capitalize on them to achieve the mission with clear roles driven by strengths. Get a plan in place for each team member on how you will help them grow in their strengths. It will accelerate the mission if you get everyone on the team working at their best toward your goal. It takes an investment – but the payoff is HUGE. Leverage the volunteer capacity of your board, leaders in the congregation or partner up with another ministry to equip your staff with the tools they need to excel.

My final word

Don’t underestimate the small things. It’s the small things working together to become big things. It’s called momentum. Start the momentum with just one new thing today.

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