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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.

02 Nov '12

Why ministry teams actually do matter!

Posted by T.J. Addington in ministry teams
I am a great proponent of teams in ministry. I lead through a senior team in ReachGlobal, sit on the senior team of the EFCA and we organize all of ReachGlobal's personnel in teams. This is not leadership by committee but leading through team.

Here is how we define a team: A high-impact team is a group of missionally aligned and healthy individuals working strategically together under good leadership toward common objectives, with accountability for results.

It is interesting to me that the New Testament has a lot to say about teams. When Jesus picked His disciples it was a team of 12. When the first missionaries were sent it was a team of two. When church leadership was established it was a team of overseers or elders. When there was a ministry need in the early church a team of Deacons was established.  Is there in fact a theology for ministry teams? I believe that there is.

Ministry teams reflect the theology of the gifting that God gives to each one of us. We are given specific gifts which means we lack other gifts. It is in the complementary use of those gifts that we make the best decisions and get the best results. I have leadership gifts but don't do process or details well. I need someone who does the details well and someone else who is process oriented to name just two of my many deficits. In team, though we find the complementary gifts that are so important.

I am convinced that the current emphasis on healthy teams in the workplace is simply a reflection of the way that God uniquely gifted us in specific areas and that the theology of God given gifts - which means we need one another - is being played out in the secular arena as we learn more about strengths and weaknesses. 

Doing ministry in a team setting is harder than doing it alone in some ways. It means that we have to interact and cooperate with others. Even Paul and Barnabas could not make that happen early in their career.  While there are certainly people who are not compatible with us it is also true that having to cooperate with others is one of the means that God uses to grow us. Even Paul seems to have realized that he was wrong about John Mark as he speaks fondly of him later in life.

I have found that ministering in a healthy team setting forces me to grow because I must listen to other points of view, agree to group decisions and be flexible with my own desires. In fact, it is the inability of certain people to bend their will to common decisions that is the nemesis of many teams (think church boards). 

Working in team is a great counterbalance to our natural autonomous nature that simply wants to do our own thing. It is a check against our pride and our tendency to make rash decisions. I have been saved from many potentially unwise decisions through my interactions with trusted team mates. It is very rare for me to deal with any difficult situation by myself. It is in the wisdom of several trusted counselors that the best decisions are made.

One of the prerequisites for those who lead through team is a degree of humility. Even as a leader I must submit my will to the team I have brought around me. They are loyal and cooperative but in choosing to lead through team all of us including myself are subject to the group process. I am both the team leader and a member of the team. It is not what I decide but what we decide together. This is a good thing for leaders as healthy leaders must be able and willing to follow as well as to lead. Which is why unhealthy leaders don't lead through team but choose autonomy.