Building Strong Teams

bridge logoSome notes from my Bridge training session on Christian Leadership.

How can we create a culture in our team of encouragement and honour? How can we grow and develop our team? And how do we handle the disappointments and stresses?

Introduction: The vital importance of raising up other leaders

Leadership in the New Testament is always a ‘plural’ rather than a purely individual enterprise. (Acts 1: 21, Acts 14:23).

When someone casts a compelling vision and gets people excited about it, they’re going to have to build great teams to support that vision. You simply can’t build a prevailing church unless you build great teams.

Once you decide what type of team you’re going to build, you look for people’s experience and passion. You look for people who want to get involved and you challenge them. You try to align people by their own gifts so they are doing a part of the vision that excites them and breathes energy into them.

I have never seen a church reach its full redemptive potential unless there were fired-up people doing the work of God in teams. All Willow Creek really is is a big church made up of thousands of little teams, with leaders, with a focus, with a purpose, and people who are fired up to work together. (Bill Hybels)

In doing so we are being faithful to the example set by Jesus; much of his own ministry was concerned with the raising up and developing, releasing and equipping of other leaders. (Mark 1:16-20; Luke 6:12-16; 9:1-6; 10:1-20; 24:44-49)

Recruiting a Team

Most teams will not be made up of many (if any) full time paid staff. We only bring in paid staff from ‘outside’ if we are completely unable to resource a ministry from within (either because the suitable person cannot be found, or because the suitable person does not have sufficient time to give).

There are many benefits in using those who emerge from within our own church. We need to think creatively about recruiting people for leadership roles.

Types of people we might also recruit: • Early retired • the downwardly mobile • Interns/Gap Year assistants.

Identifying leadership potential

Look in particular for people who:

• Are people of influence; others are affected by them in a positive way;

• Demonstrate character first and skills/gifting second. It is easier to teach skills to a person of character than to change the character of a gifted but awkward person;

• Have a servant heart;

• Love people – leaders exist for people and not vice versa.

• Danger signs to watch out for

• People who lack grace even though they may be very gifted;

• People who crave position or a role;

• Pushy people;

• Those who do not related well to other people Leaders never lead in the abstract, they lead people!

Bill Hybels talks about the importance of the three "C’s" of team leadership – Character, Competence and Chemistry.

The challenges and frustrations of inheriting people whom you would not ideally choose yourself.

Work with them, show them your heart and vision and give them every opportunity to get on board and to grow with it.

Expect God to change some of them and to develop them (cf. Jesus and his own disciples)

Easy in: Easy out. Work at helpful ways of letting them go.

The Role of Leader

Key emphases in your own ministry should be:

Equipping others (which means laying down less essential tasks; particularly difficult for those with a strong people-pleasing tendency!)

Delegating responsibility with accountability (empowering others). We need to be prepared for some things to be done less well in the short term.

Encouraging and affirming other leaders (and sorting out your own ownership issues). We must rejoice in the success of others rather than be threatened by it.

Supervising, overseeing, and managing other leaders and workers. This will include helping them develop vision for their own areas of ministry; working with others to help them set goals; providing regular, appropriate and on-going training for all leaders and potential leaders.

Celebrate what you want to reproduce.

Raise the bar – people want to take a pride in what they do.

Engage people with their calling/passion.

Say thanks, affirm ministry, get stories. People want to be wanted.

Celebrate milestones.

Say yes whenever possible – refer on finance and staff time

If a horse is dead – dismount!

Create a culture of encouragement and honour

Put into your diary one to one meetings with each of the people who are in your team (say every term). At these meetings you can:

  • Review the progress of the work since your last meeting
  • Work with them to develop specific vision for their ministry, set goals and objectives, and think and plan strategically for the short and longer term future.
  • Discuss practical details, resource needs etc to do with their ministry area. In this you are acting as a resource person, but never ever taking back from them overall responsibility for their ministry area.
  • Encourage, affirm, and support them in the exercise of their responsibility, helping them to reflect on encouraging and challenging situations they have encountered.
  • Encourage them in their own walk with God and ensure that they are being sustained for the demands of leadership.
  • Pray with them and for them.

Growing and developing the Team

Arrange regular meetings at a time and place which is convenient for everyone. As well as ‘practical business’ these meetings should include worship and ministry to one another, mutual accountability for ministry areas, encouragement, visioning etc.

  • Team building events (meals, away days, workforce banquet, etc.) are also vitally important.
  • Create a culture of talking about the team’s ministry
  • Give people scope to operate as a team; value contributions, hear from God together

Teams function well when there is cultivated an environment of:

  • Trust
  • Honesty
  • Vulnerability of leadership
  • Encouragement and affirmation
  • Understanding and acceptance of diversity
  • Generosity and Forgiveness
  • Clarity of Purpose
  • Accountability and Support
  • Fun

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