Leading Ministry Teams: Part 2
By Kevin E. Lawson and Orbelina Equizabal, Biola University
Continuing from Part 1 in this series, Lawson and Eguizabal evaluate current research on team ministries and present practical implications for churches and organizations.
This article reviews the recent research efforts exploring what makes teams effective, and how to determine when to work as a team and when other approaches might be better. It examines the results of several case studies of church ministry teams and closes with 13 implications for those in ministry leadership roles who are considering a team approach.
Discussion and Implications for Team Leadership in the Church
This review of these two major research efforts on team effectiveness and the biblical themes that resonate with this research has great implications for church and parachurch ministry contexts. Most of our ministry efforts involve groups of people working together toward common goals. Using Katzenbach and Smith’s (2001) perspective on types of work groups and Lafasto and Larson’s (2001) discussion of effective team leaders as a beginning foundation, we offer these reflections and suggestions for improving ministry team effectiveness.
1. Know When To Be a Team and When Not To
Those in church ministry need to resist “team-fever” and consider the best ways to structure their ministry groups. While all groups need effective group fundamentals, it is not always necessary to try to function as a team. Rather than worrying about being a “team” or team building, more attention should be given to clarifying goals, priorities, responsibilities, standards of performance, and how a group will work together toward their goals.
2. Goal Maintenance and the Fostering of Unified Commitment
One of the critical tasks of a ministry group leader is to help their group members maintain a clear focus on the goals over time by keeping them clear and avoiding contextual political issues that can divert attention and energy from the main task. They also need to find ways to revisit and renew the goals with group members, helping to renew a unified commitment. This can be done through rewards and affirmation for work that contributes to goal accomplishment, revisiting the needs you are addressing, and celebrating small successes on the way toward the ultimate goal.
3. Developing a Collaborative Climate
Team leaders build a collaborative climate by fostering safe communication within the group and not tolerating when this is violated. Private conversations with those who violate this kind of communication standard allow the values of the group to be reviewed, reaffirmed, and warnings given regarding further violation. Group members must not undermine the collaborative climate by their behaviors, whether in group settings or when they are apart.
4. Team Morale Maintenance
Team leaders build confidence by their positive attitude, helping the group achieve small results and affirming them, keeping the team informed of progress, showing trust by delegating important tasks to others, and accentuating the positive within the group. Group members will at times be discouraged, have doubts about the ability of the group to achieve their goals, and see the problems more clearly than the opportunities. Team leaders help renew hope, focus on God’s grace and provision, and help group members see what has been accomplished, not just what remains to be done.
5. Drawing on Others’ Strengths
Team leaders demonstrate sufficient technical know-how for their own responsibilities, but also get help from others on the team when they need it. A commitment to God’s glory and His kingdom goals, and recognizing God’s gifting of others, allows a leader to not always be in charge or in control of all aspects of the work of the group. This requires humility and a passion for the achievement of the goals of the group, no matter who gets the credit. When this is modeled by the leader, it encourages others in the group to give of themselves and to use their strengths to their fullest.
6. Priority Setting
Team leaders set priorities and do not dilute their group’s energy with too many efforts. As situations change, they update their team members on changes in priorities as needed. This helps focus energy, and clarify the critical goals that need to be achieved, allowing group members to determine what they need to do now and what can wait until later. When leaders allow too many goals to accumulate without differentiating their priority, they create a situation in which group members may feel overwhelmed, drained because there is no sense of accomplishment or progress.
7. Team Member Assessment and Development
Team leaders need to oversee and assess the performance of team members and address problems when someone is not doing his or her job. They help team members by setting specific objectives, giving constructive feedback, helping create support for personal and professional development, and rewarding results. Leaders must recognize that there will always be a need to help team members develop on the job, learn new skills, try out new responsibilities, and receive feedback on how they handle new challenges.
8. Foster External Support—in the Church and from God
Mutual support among group members is critical to accomplish the goals. Team leaders also need to identify the resources that group members need to get things done, and to provide them with such resources, for example: a place to meet and to work, equipment, financial resources, and people in positions of authority who will support their decision-making. But above all, Christian leaders need to lead their teams to look for God’s support as the ultimate source of power and authority. It is He who approves and prospers the work in His kingdom, and who can say “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
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About The Authors:
Orbelina Eguizabal (Ph.D., Talbot School of Theology) serves as Professor of Christian Education at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, in La Mirada, CA. E-mail: Orbelina.Eguizabal@biola.edu
Kevin E. Lawson (Ed.D., University of Maine Graduate School) serves as Professor of Christian Education and Director of the Ph.D. and Ed.D. Programs in Educational Studies at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, in La Mirada, CA. E-mail: Kevin.Lawson@biola.edu
Leading a Ministry Team, Part 1 is taken from the Christian Education Journal, CEJ: Series 3, Vol. 6, No. 2. Copyright 2009; p 250-264. All rights reserved. Permission granted by Christian Education Journal.
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