How To Forge Men’s Team Unity
By Alan Kraft
When I look at our men’s ministry team, I’m struck by our diversity — bald heads and gray heads, Hispanics and Anglos, introverts and extroverts, married and single — and amazed by our spirit of unity.
Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:3, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace,” have always made me think of a roaring blaze, which if left unattended will soon become embers but with regular stoking will provide consistent warmth. Over the years here’s what I’ve discovered about fueling four strategic areas of opportunity related to building our men’s ministry staff relationships.
I tend to be a very driven, goal-oriented leader who gets jazzed at the thought of bigger and better ministry initiatives and challenges, but I’ve learned that a relentless pace over time can deplete the soul of our ministry staff and begin to undermine our team’s unity.
One way to combat this is to provide your staff with a margin of time to experience God. For us this means that during our monthly all-staff meeting, I take 30 to 45 minutes to lead our staff in an experience of slowing down to connect with God. I may have them quietly rest in God’s presence as an instrumental CD is played or prayerfully listen as a Scripture is read multiple times. Sometimes we pray together. Other times we share stories of God’s work in our lives or of what we sense God is saying to us.
The challenge for us agenda-driven leaders is that because this doesn’t feel very “productive,” we’re easily tempted to fill meetings with ministry training DVDs, cognitive-heavy Bible studies, or vision casting. While these all have their place in other contexts, sometimes what our staff needs most is breathing room to connect with God in meaningful ways.
A second opportunity we have is in the area of relational oneness. In the mist of a unity struggle at the church in Philippi, Paul urged the people to be “one in spirit and purpose” and to “stand firm in one spirit” (Philippians 1:27; 2:2). He’s describing a unity of spirit in which relational conflicts are acknowledged and dealt with rather than driven underground and allowed to poison our staff and our churches. I find that even the most spiritually mature people tend to avoid dealing with conflict, so we as leaders must be tenacious about this, urging honesty from every staff member and modeling it in our own relationships.
A few years ago I said some things in a staff meeting that unintentionally undermined the authority of my executive pastor. Thankfully, he came directly to me after the meeting and said, “We have to talk.” He proceeded to explain how hurtful my words had been. I quickly apologized, not only to him but also to our staff the next time we met. That apology increased our team’s sense of unity as we experienced the power of reconciliation.
One of the most significant lessons learned in my years as a pastor is the extent to which staff structure impacts unity. When our ministry staff was three to five people, it was relatively easy to stay connected and feel unified. But when the team grew larger, I found myself in the midst of increasing communication breakdowns and staff frustrations at being in meeting where agenda items were irrelevant to their ministry areas. Not only that, but I also wasn’t able to care for our staff in any consistent way.
In order to build unity, we had to reorganize our staff structure. We began developing smaller ministry teams within our larger staff team and organized these by departments. Smaller teams were able to drill down more specifically on a unified vision for their areas, as well as build deeper relational connections. The leaders of these teams became part of a smaller executive team for higher-level decision making. We then adjusted the focus of our biweekly, all-ministry staff meeting so it was relevant to everyone.
While this departmental approach helped significantly, it’s not without its own challenges. Recently we realized that two of these departments — adult ministries and outreach — were experiencing frustration because of overlapping responsibilities and lack of communication. We’re in the process of tweaking our meeting structure to enable regular interaction between these two teams.
Never underestimate the unifying power of organized (and even disorganized) silliness, whether it’s loading up the staff team for a surprise run to Dairy Queen, bringing Twizzlers candy and Oreo cookies to a staff meting, or celebrating staff birthdays with playfulness and goofy cards. There’s unbelievable unifying power in laughing and having fun together. The key is creating an environment where this is allowed and encouraged. If you’re anything like me and tend to be fairly serious about the mission at hand, ask for help from those on your staff who are more lighthearted. Let them periodically plan a surprising, fun activity during a staff meeting.
Keeping the fire of unity ablaze within our men’s ministry teams, regardless of the size of our churches, is an incredibly significant privilege that God has entrusted to us as leaders. We have the unique responsibility and opportunity to continually stoke the flame, so everyone experiences its warmth.
This article “How To Forge Men’s Team Unity” by Alan Kraft is excerpted from Rev! magazine, Nov/Dec 2007.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”