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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

16 Feb '13

Ministry teams that work, or don't

Posted by T.J. Addington in ministry teams, team
Ministry teams are great - when they work. Sometimes, however, they don't but they never seem to die once established. We are often far more careless in the ministry world on the building and leadership and mission of teams than we would be in the secular world. Just because someone has a great idea or wants to start or lead a team is not enough to let them do so. As you consider ministry teams in your context here are some issues to think through.

Do you have a good leader?
Whether we like it or not a team rises or falls on whether the one who leads it can actually lead. The definition of a leader is that when they look behind them someone is following! Good leaders can build team, inspire vision, implement strategy and ensure that the team is actually effective. Even with the best idea, until one has a good leader, don't start a ministry team.

Does the ministry team have a plan?
Good intentions are just that. What matters is that the intentions can be translated into a workable plan that meets real needs. Asking for an annual ministry plan from a team is just smart leadership. It forces them to think carefully about what they are going to do so that they accomplish their objectives. No plan, no team!

Is the ministry in sync with the overall ministry?
Churches, especially, are notorious for adding a hodgepodge of ministries without any real alignment. The ministry of the team ought to complement and be in sync with the overall ministry of the church or organization. All arrows need to be pointed in the same direction for a ministry to be most effective. Asking the question, how does your particular ministry complement the ministry of the organization is an important one.

What spells success for the ministry team?
If a team cannot define success they don't have a plan! Even in ministry we need to know what success looks like. I have seen many teams spin their wheels for long periods of time not really accomplishing anything. If there is a definition of success, they have a target to shoot for and you have a way to evaluate their effectiveness. That should be done at least annually.

What is your exit strategy?
Sunset clauses are great things. It is one thing to start a ministry team, quite another to close one down! It is helpful to have a written policy for how teams and ministries are evaluated and how you can disband them when their usefulness is no longer there, when energy lags, or when good leadership is not available. Having the liberty to shut down a ministry team is as important for leaders as the liberty to start them.

How do you celebrate success?
When teams work hard and accomplish something significant, how do you hold them up, thank them, celebrate their accomplishments and encourage them? We are often great at guilting people into serving and not so great at thanking them for their service. Faithful and effective team members need to be encouraged and thanked.

What is your plan for recruiting new team members?
There is a natural cycle of ministry, rest and ministry again. People often cannot serve forever. Yet it is often hard for them to take a break or move on to something new because there is a shortage of help. One of the functions of a team leader is to ensure that there are new people waiting in the wings or being recruited so that others can take a rest.

What do you do when a team leader hijacks the team?
This happens. You get a strong leader who has his or her own agenda and suddenly the team is doing its own thing but is not in sync or accountable to the leadership of the organization. Spelling out leader responsibilities ahead of time (there should be a document) gives you the opportunity to pull people back into alignment if they try to go on their own. Or to remove them if necessary from leadership.

Healthy ministry teams drive God's agenda in numerous way. Getting it right so they work make a huge difference.