Do You Budget for Morale?

Cheerful man holding dollar bills

Typical ministry budgets include allocations for general operational expenses, curriculum, supplies, training and travel. What about morale? According to Brad Bird, Pixar guru and director of famed films including The Incredibles and Ratatouille, morale affects budget significantly. He states, “The most significant impact on a movie’s budget, although it’s not even in the budget, is employee moral. When morale is low, every dollar spent yields only 25 cents of value. Conversely, in an environment of high morale, each dollar invested produces three dollars of value.” (Haygreeva, Rao, Robert Sutton, and Allan P. Webb, “Innovation Lessons from Pixar: An Interview with Oscar-Winning Director Brad Bird,”McKinsey Quarterly, April 2008)

As church leaders, we can learn from Pixar’s powerhouse by intentionally boosting morale to maximize ministry resources—both human and financial. To enhance your team’s morale, create an environment of play. Encourage people to try new approaches and ideas.  Applaud and learn from failures by giving awards for the biggest Oops.  Turn recruiting efforts into a game where for every new recruit, the team wins a point or a perk.  Once a certain amount of points have been attained, celebrate at exciting place such as local eatery, ice creamery or neon bowling alley.  When teams play together, they stay together.

Creating new learning opportunities can also boost morale. Set up exciting lunch and learn sessions for your team. To define the topic du jour, assess your team’s learning needs using a survey or a brief personal interview. Try these questions to identify core learning trends “If you had only one hour for training this year, would you like to learn?” and “What is one skill that is missing from your ministry or leadership toolkit? Once you’ve determined your topic, bring in an outside expert facilitate to lead your lunchtime learning. We’re never prophets and our own land!

Pick a restaurant or caterer to provide your meal. If possible, connect the type of food to the topic at hand. For example, if the topic is spiritual transformation serve fondue and compare how transformation occurs in people and in food; or if you’re exploring how to build bridges to your community serve food that requires building like a burrito or baked potato bar. Compare and contrast building the food to building bridges to the community.  Use the dessert time to make the learning applicable for your team by using the 3-2-1 wrap up. Have participants name 3 new things they’ve learned, two things they’ll put into practice, and one question they have.   During this fun meal, your team has developed their skills and  deepened relationships with each other.

Finally, don’t wait until annual review time to give feedback to your team. Feedback given annually has little effect on the behaviors and outcomes demonstrated throughout the year, causes undue stress on your team, and decreases morale.  Increase morale by providing periodic feedback on your team’s progress to help them achieve maximum results. Point out what your team members are doing well and how their work furthers the mission of the church.  Use this time to inspire and challenge people to take risks and innovate in their respective areas. Jumpstart team members’ thinking by using the creative prompt “What if we?” Incremental feedback allows the team to make changes as ministry happens instead of after the fact saving the team time and money.

Making these investments in the morale of your team demonstrates their value to you and increases members’ value to your team. Be sure to include them in your budget!

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