Monday, February 22, 2016

Building Teams to Build the Body

Some of my best memories involve teamwork. I remember building an underground fort in my neighborhood with a couple of friends. One summer my little league baseball team took home the championship trophy. In high school I earned the position of setter on our varsity volleyball team. During college I ran cross country and enjoyed pushing my teammates through grueling workouts. 

I’ve acted on several theatrical casts, worked on many group projects, and volunteered with various service groups. I have always thrived on teams.

And then I became a solo pastor.

My job description included everything from event planning to counseling to preaching to discipleship to vision-casting to community service to web design to communication to assimilation to visitation to dedicating babies (their parents, really) and blessing potlucks. I felt the crushing weight of unrealistic expectations thrust upon my shoulders. My seminary training equipped me for two of my forty tasks; my skills covered another two. For our church to flourish, I would need help.

No church can survive on the efforts of a single person. God sets us into spiritual community for mutual encouragement and shared ministry. Vocational leaders and the congregation serve a common purpose. We are members of the body for the building of the body (Ephesians 4:11-16). Teamwork is an outgrowth of our redemption. Or, as Peterson writes, "The underlying and all-encompassing oneness that is church flows from the underlying and all-encompassing oneness that is God." (Practice Resurrection, 176)

The beauty of teamwork—no matter how formal or informal, enduring or ad hoc—is the opportunity to add our giftedness to a larger effort. On a team we can apply our strengths to a cause and trust our teammates to supply their complementary talents. A well-composed team joins together diverse gifts, passions, perspectives, and competencies to provide a better product. Moreover, teamwork fits the biblical metaphors of body, building, and battalion (1 Cor. 12; Eph. 2:20-22; 6:10-18).

Teamwork has its hurdles. People often seem short on trust, time, and clarity. A team without trust will not function well (See Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team pp. 195-201). Of course, developing trust requires time. If people on a team only gather to plan, plot, and evaluate, the team dynamic never grows beyond functional. The best teams not only complement one another's capabilities, but also enjoy camaraderie (See Osborne’s Sticky Teams, pp. 139-147 and Collins’ Good to Great, pp. 41-64).  
  • TRUST applied: I spend regular time with my elders outside our formal meetings to nurture casual friendship with one another. How do your teams spend time together informally?


The frequency of a team's meetings depends on scope and depth of the ministry. Generally, a monthly meeting suffices to cover business. However, weekly or biweekly communication can keep team momentum alive.
  • TIME applied: Our newly formed global ministry team (GMT) meets twice a year, prior to our two major GMT events. Evaluate the frequency and impact of your teams and their meetings.

Clarity is crucial for success in teamwork. Having an assigned role for each person can be helpful. Not everyone can play point guard or percussion. Diverse roles round out the group, making the sum of the parts greater than individual efforts. The team leader keeps people on topic, tied to vision, and engaged. Specifying action steps maintains accountability. A ministry action plan (MAP) specifies the various roles and goals for the year.
  •  CLARITY applied: A new leader for our women’s ministry team has cast vision, collected feedback, and collaborated with several others on the team; other roles include retreat planning, curriculum, and hospitality. What tools or resources do you use to provide clarity for your teams?


Teamwork is essential to equipping churches. It expands the capacity of pastoral leaders, networks believers in the local congregation, and contributes to the overall growth of the body. More importantly, teamwork gives witness to the remarkable redemption of Jesus, who calls us to service and mutual submission until we all attain “the full measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13, NIV). 


Additional Quotations on Teamwork & Ministry

Efficient, high performing teams create a level of camaraderie. It isn’t necessary that all teammates become the best of friends, but a level of respect and appreciation will characterize teams that are truly maximizing their output. (Dungy, Mentor-Leader, 140)

The word equipping immediately assumes a team model… Once you begin to look in Scripture for the guidelines and images of what Christ had in mind for his body, you will be struck by how often the pictures are corporate, not individual. Individuals have certain significant roles in the body, but no individual is the body…. We are meant to be a team. (Mallory, The Equipping Church, 22)

Members of good-to-great teams tended to become and remain friends for life… They enjoyed each other and actually looked forward to meetings… Their experiences went beyond just mutual respect (which they certainly had), to lasting comradeship … if we spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect—people we really enjoy being on the bus with and who will never disappoint us—the we will almost certainly have a great life, no matter where the bus goes.  (Collins, Good to Great, 62)

Few things are more beautiful to God than seeing his people serve and work together in a united rhythm. It’s like a symphony to His ears. That’s how we are created to function. God designed us to need each other. To reach our communities, much less the world, we need every ministry doing its part and every congregation excitedly doing church as a team. (Cordeiro, Doing Church as a Team, 19-20).

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