Thursday, September 20, 2007

Keys to Team Ministry

(Author's note: While this article does not pertain primarily to women in ministry, it does have merit in the "egalitarian" view. Team ministry is a component that some place in the same category as women in ministry.)

“TEAMWORK makes the DREAM work!” This statement is one that I have relied heavily upon and love to quote! As a matter of fact it has become a mantra for Craig and me when working in a team-based ministry. Without a healthy, functioning team the dream will not become all it was intended.

It seems that upon every success Craig and I have ever celebrated there was someone who approached one or both of us, heaping accolades and Atta’ boys.” This is some thing that neither one of us really care for. It isn’t because we are afraid to accept a compliment rather it stems from the fact that Craig and I operate as a team that leads a team to the victory at hand.

There is such a need for the Body of Christ to understand the necessity and components of true team ministry. When we realize how much more effective and powerful we can become when we embrace the team ministry concept there will be no stopping us.

How do we get there? I have shared five keys below to achieving true team ministry in the church. These keys are not “law” but they contain powerful concepts that Craig and I have been blessed to experience and execute.

1.) No “I” in TEAM

True team ministry involves mutual and shared authority. Craig and I have met and worked with many ministers and staffers who seem to forget that the TEAM has the same goal. The competitive nature in these individuals takes away from the overall “power” of the team. These people become “energy zappers.” Meetings become a dreaded event because it is all about how “I” can out perform everyone else. Eventually a power struggle erupts and the common goal shared by the TEAM gets back burner-ed. Competition with one another concerning power should be stopped out immediately. TEAMs achieve much more when each learns to value and accept the input of the other.

2.) Pick Up the BALL

True TEAM ministry involves mutual responsibility. One of my own personal pet peeves is not when a ball is dropped but when it is allowed to roll around and around without the immediate attention of other TEAM members.

Here is a hypothetical example of such an occurrence:

Team member Bob heads up the Building and Grounds department. He does a great job leading his “sub-team” and is a valued asset to the ministry. On the way into Sunday morning service, Team member Ida sees two soda cans lying on the ground. She quickly finds Team member Bob and begins complaining about the soda cans. Following the service she sends an email to Team member Pastor and cc’s the entire TEAM about her findings.

Obviously Team member Bob or someone on his sub-team had dropped the ball, innocently I am sure. However, my question is, “Why didn’t Team member Ida pick up the ball? Why didn’t she take care of the soda cans?

Now some would say, “Well, it was Bob’s responsibility. He needed to be taught a lesson and see where his team was coming up short.” I disagree because at the very moment Bob was isolated and pointed out, he was also cut out of the team.

When a valued player on a basketball team has an “off night,” the only way the TEAM will win is if the other players rally together, stand in the gap and take care of business. Now this does not mean trample all over the effort of fellow TEAM members because you believe you can do a better job. Instead applaud accomplishments, offer assistance and execute together.

Christopher Avery writes, "Becoming skilled at doing more with others may be the single most important thing you can do" to increase your value - regardless of your level of authority.

TEAMs recognize that the each aspect of ministry is not just the charge of a single individual who may have been assigned to a specific area, but equally belongs to the entire TEAM. The days of “pass the buck” are over. True TEAMs cover one another and pick up the ball whenever necessary.

3.) Kill Pride

"Dependent on Him, the whole body-- its various parts closely fitting and firmly adhering to one another-- grows by the aid of every contributory link, with power proportioned to the need of each individual part, so as to build itself up in a spirit of love." Ephesians 4:16

This is a difficult one for many in TEAM ministry. While education and training is critical for effective ministry, the danger is that we can equate training and biblical knowledge with spirituality. If TEAM members view other TEAM members as untrained and uneducated in spiritual leadership or less experienced or that everything is MY way or NO way a rift is established that undermines effectively working together as a TEAM.

When TEAM members fail to understand and value one another, tensions arise. For there to be teamwork, it is vital that the all TEAM members learn to value the spiritual insight and sensitivity of each other.

When the pastor or other TEAM members constantly says "no" to any new idea or proposal, the teamwork begins to waver. TEAM members should remain open to new ideas and be willing to openly evaluate change. People who are inflexible and prideful refuse to accept any opinion or proposal that is not in full agreement with their personal concept and/or convictions.

Effective teams are built upon openness and willingness. It never hurt anyone to be open to an idea and evaluate ideas by actually hearing others before formulating their decisions. TEAM members, pastors included (I have been there!) need to be willing to "agree to disagree" and willing to support issues and proposals even if they are not in full agreement.

Embrace and Accept One Another Warts and All!

"There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all" 1st Corinthians 12:4-7

I hate the word outsider! The intention behind the word is not one of affection, it is meant to “cast out.” Craig and I briefly pastored a church in a rural area where we ran into a lot of resistance to TEAM ministry. I remember vividly seeking the guidance and wisdom of one of the overseers and being called an “outsider” at least five times. It was painful and a slap in the face. We didn’t stay there long because we quickly learned that if the overseers and board viewed us as outsiders the congregation would begin to question us as leaders.

The same is true in TEAM ministry, if TEAM members fail to embrace and accept one another the congregation will not see a unified front. It is critical that the TEAM sets an example for the congregation.

Some reasons a lack of acceptance may occur is because:

· Frequent turnover in TEAM members

Unfortunately there are a number of churches that experience frequent turnover in their staff. This can cause a “let’s see how long they last” attitude which breeds nothing but an “I’ll show them” attitude and no one wins.

TEAMs need to rise to the occasion and embrace and accept new TEAM members so the new TEAM member will begin to “gel” with the rest of the TEAM.

· Cultural differences

I remember being told as a child that “not everyone thinks like you.” As I grew I found that is very true! I also learned that is the beauty of life! We are all different! Cultural differences will exist between TEAM members. As TEAM members come from different cultural settings (such as from the city to the county or from one geographic region to another) they may discover that people are reluctant to accept him/her.

Remembering that not everyone thinks like you, looks, or acts like you is a good rule of thumb. By learning to embrace and accept one another warts and all (the good, bad, and ugly) the TEAM will be strengthened and more unified.

Become Allies

"My brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier" Philippians 2:25

Something very few people know about Craig and I is that we worked on a ministry team fulltime without compensation and with a few benefits for an extended period of time. However, we were loyal and faithful to a fault. I worked a secular job and also ministered with Craig on the road whenever possible to make ends meet and when Craig and I got home we worked our other “job” for the church. We loved our pastors, the team we were on, and our church. If anything was needed we were there! We were connected and valued.

A mistake many TEAM members make is in how they view their role on the TEAM. Many see themselves as a “hiring-ling,” a mere laborer who is paid to do a job and go home. However, by changing that dynamic from “hiring-ling” to someone who has embraced the vision because of their love of the church a brand new TEAM will emerge.

Hiring-lings have nothing vested in their work as a Ministry TEAM. If they are treated as someone hired to punch a timecard that is what will be received. However, when TEAM members embrace the vision of the house and are given access to feel connected and valued they become allies!

Ministry is all about warfare and I warfare you need all of the allies you can get! I don’t know about you but I’ll take an ally who will fight with me for the vision at hand any day over the guy who was hired to run errands and fill in where needed! I want someone who is vested in what I am vested in, someone who will give their life for the vision at hand. That is an ally!

Order and organization are necessary in the church and in TEAM ministry. Believe me I am all about it, but when we begin to see our TEAM members as “allocations” we have deemed them “hiring-lings.”

These keys aren’t “gospel” but they have certainly been tried and tested. When we truly understand the importance and impact of TEAM ministry the flow of our churches and ministries will change. God loves TEAMwork! He called a TEAM of disciples and HE is part of a TEAM (Father, Son & Holy Spirit)!

In closing, I’d like to encourage every pastor or elder to examine their TEAMs. It is an established fact that healthy churches are operating with healthy, unified teams. Put an end to power struggles and experience the value and importance of shared authority. While all TEAM members have different functions and roles within the church, they also recognize that only by working together can they lead the church in the fulfillment of its destiny in Christ!

Rev. Tara D. Sloan, co-founder Equal Time

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow...insightful :)