Building a healthy church leadership team is essential for success. Team dynamics vary from group to group, but two constants characterise every team. The first constant is the team focus on results, and the second is the team focus on relationships. These dual factors give us an insight into every team. Of course, the team leader has a big part to play in this too. Knowing whether a leader is relationship-orientated or outcome-orientated is the first clue. Combining the leadership style with the team dynamic can lead us to one of four possible team styles:
How do we avoid the negative cultures shown in the above chart? It starts with having the right people in the right roles – although this does assume the mission and vision of the team is established. As you think about the teams you lead, the teams you are building, and the teams you are planning, I want to share some thoughts to help you build a healthy church leadership team, whether that is an eldership team, a church board, or one of your church ministry teams. Here are some considerations for you to get the right people in the right roles in your church leadership team.
Consider the individuals of the team
Forgive me for stating the obvious, but teams are comprised of people. Unique, different, diverse individuals. Healthy people contribute healthy thinking to a team and unhealthy people contribute ‘unhealth’ to the team environment. So it’s a good idea to consider how healthy the members are if you are assessing or planning a team. I review eight key competencies when working through this process of team assessment with leaders. The eight criteria, which are all biblical, are:
Assessing these eight areas identifies any discipleship needs the team member may have, empowering the team leader to immediately identify key development steps they can use bring growth and encouragement.
Consider the health of the team
Looking at the health of individual leaders is one thing, but applying that principle to a team is another thing entirely. But team health is a thing and can be better or for worse. For example, Patrick Lencioni wrote the classic book ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team’ to explore this concept of team health. Unsure why your team isn’t functioning well? A good starting point is to apply the same eight criteria outlined in my earlier point to the entire team and see where there are gaps or shortfalls in key areas.
This information, again, easily allows a team leader to focus on the correct areas to see what requires turnaround and what needs training.
Consider the performance of the church leadership team
Individual and team health certainly contribute to a teams performance but they aren’t the only factors. Internal factors such as team relationships, expectations and experiences also shape it, and external factors such as leadership or management style contribute as well. Measuring a church leadership teams culture to see what can be affecting it is essential:
Each of these areas is potentially a springboard for success, or a deadweight that will slow or stop your team’s efforts. Checking in and monitoring each of them will make all the difference to the performance of your team. Some are observable, and some require dialogue and feedback from your team.
Consider the balance of the team
Balanced teams are healthier than imbalanced teams. Imbalanced teams will be narrow-minded in their perspectives and insights. Different thinkers bring diversity and variety to discussions and decision-making. In my work serving churches, it’s not uncommon for me to sit with teams and see that the leader has inadvertently recruited carbon copies of themselves, in terms of people with similar giftings, skillsets and even personality. That just forms an echo-chamber and will only get you so far!
Elsewhere I’ve written about different leadership styles. When we think about balanced perspectives, do you know what leadership styles are represented on your team? If the team is heavily influenced by a single style, what could it be lacking? When your team lacks initiating drive you should wonder how many action-orientated leaders do you have? If it lacks innovation, does it lack visionaries? When the team looks to organise and administrate all the time, is it heavily methodical in leadership style? If people are cared for and supported but there is no forward momentum, is it too relationally wired?
Knowing your team means knowing the balance of your team, and helps show you what steps might be necessary to address any imbalance.
Consider the approach of the church leadership team
Different people approach projects in different ways. Having expectations of someone to act in a certain way when they aren’t wired that way just leads to frustration for you and them. Knowing your team’s innate preference gives you the keys to lead or manage them effectively. There are four approaches to activity that people have:
As an example, knowing you have a team that is Orchestrator-heavy means your leadership needs to be more about steering and focusing, as opposed to directing. Anticipators need to plan, so you would lead them by giving them information. Integrators need teams and people, and Incorporators want time to reflect and assess new options. Leading others does include an element of adaptation towards the people you are looking to lead. Knowing your team approach helps you to do that.
Consider the values of the team
This is a big one. All of us have values that shape our thinking. If we want to lead well, we need to understand that our team will also have values of their own that are just as valid as ours. These values will be different to your church values, by the way. Don’t assume your church values are more influential than their personal values! Each individual on your team interprets situations through the filter of their values, and these values influence decision making and perceptions.
Frustration and tension exist on teams often because of a culture clash – meaning, competing or opposing values. For example, one person wants to act immediately, the other wants to wait. One person wants to take the time to fix something, another wants to discard it and begin again. You get the point. So what value differences could be in and amongst your team that you need to be aware of?
Values shape an individuals leadership style and the interaction with two of our leadership styles reveals a lot about us. Here are a few examples that might sound familiar:
Everyone on your team understands information in different ways. Do you know who to draw from? Do you know who your innovative Ideators are? Your ‘root of the matter’ Clarifiers? The insightful Innovators? Your hands-on Appliers?
Each of your team will naturally gravitate towards a role and express themselves out of that role. Do you know your social and inspirational Communicators? Your bold and commanding Directors? Who on your team are the supportive Connectors or observant Thinkers? Knowing this allows you to maximise each person accordingly.
Do you know how your team approaches decision-making? Not knowing can be a huge source of conflict and frustration in a team. The Executors on your team have strategies and goals in mind as they decide what to do, whereas Concluders weight and assess all the options. Experimenters throw caution to the wind and take risks whilst Ethicists will only make decisions that line up with their personal principles.
Do you know what the worldview and outlook of your team members are? This affects what their goals are – and how they interpret and understand the goals of the team. Idealists on your team have big visions and want people to join them, whilst Helpers look to support others. Rationalists discern the best course of action and Diligents look to stabilise and steady proceedings.
Do you know your team members approach to getting things done is? This gives insight into their motivation, which is essential knowledge when leading or managing them. Dreamers are a constant source of creativity, Developers strategically steer towards their goals, Doers are reliable and responsible, and Transformers are spontaneous risk-takers.
How familiar are you with how each team member prefers to function when part of a team? Administrators bring stability and organisation, Drivers generate momentum and impetus, Unifiers foster teamwork and harmony, and Fixers ask challenging questions and troubleshoot.
Consider the energy of the team
Finally, knowing the energy of your team members allows you to manage and lead them effectively on an individual basis. By ‘energy’, I am referring to the combination of their personality, wiring and drivers. Each person on your team correlates with one of eight energy types that give a general indication of their wiring. This energy preference tells you what they are best suited to, not suited to, and helps you see what individuals contribute and bring to the team. It also gives you an insight into any relational dynamics as you can see as peoples different energy types interact with one another.
Each energy type has strengths and weaknesses. Knowing these empower you to lead a strong and healthy church leadership team.
Building A Healthy Church Leadership Team
A healthy church team is dependent on healthy individuals, balance, performance, energy, values and approach. If a leader knows these things about their team, they can lead that team to its fullest potential.
I use all these considerations when I work with church leaders in helping them discover more about the uniqueness of their teams. To find out more about how I can help leaders like you, click here to contact me.
Here are some examples of how other leaders have experienced my help with their teams:
“Just one day with Anthony will totally revolutionise your thinking as a church leader or leadership team. His understanding of church health, structure and strategic planning were so insightful. I was amazed at how quickly he identified our needs and how he was able to give us both the tools and the understanding that we needed to increase our church health as well as our strength as a leadership team. His Leadership Leanings assessment brought amazing insight into our team dynamics, which are really important to understand – particularly the effect different individuals can have on a team, its culture and ultimately performance.”
“After meeting with Anthony for one day, my leadership team is more focused and on the same page. We are still assimilating all that we learned but I can honestly say that his consulting is already proving to be invaluable.”
This post is part of a series looking at Building A Healthy Church Leadership Structure. You can read other posts in this series here:
- The theology of healthy church structure
- What are church elders?
- What are deacons?
- Building A Healthy Church Leadership Team
- Fivefold ministry and church government
- The importance of organic church structure