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3 Teams That Are Critical To Church Growth 28-8

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Team Works

Team Works
By Dave Stone

Key teamwork principles to help your ministry ride the waves of change

When the waters are rough and a change of direction is required, you quickly realize the need for a team effort. A collection of individuals, each of whom is looking out for #1, won’t survive turns like these. That’s why thriving organizations are committed to moving everyone in the same direction, regardless of the cost or consequences. Some may disagree with the process or the plan, but there comes a time when everyone must buy in. Teamwork is accelerated when you burn your bridges and everyone is committed to the cause.

We live in an era of transition. In the midst of quick changes of direction in the church and in business, teamwork is even more important. How can today’s Christian leader foster teamwork? Let’s explore several important requirements for effective teamwork in a church or another Christian organization.

Requirement 1: Recruit Diverse People

Electing the team is almost as important as choosing the leader. Teamwork is important, but don’t misunderstand me; you still need quality people with a strong leader who brings the team together. Bob Shank says, “Ignorance to the twelfth power does not become leadership.” He’s right. You could bring a bunch of duds together, who all get along, and have no leadership at all!

And a humble church leader surrounded by variously gifted individuals will always beat a talented, egotistical Lone Ranger over the long haul. So when you assemble your team, look for volunteers or staff members who are strong in areas in which you’re weak. Part of the reason for the disciples’ success in conveying the gospel message was just this type of diversity.

Christ assembled a diverse group that brought a wide range of gifts to the table. Matthew’s position as a despised tax collector gave him a connection with lost, worldly people. Andrew’s humility modeled the truth that knowing Jesus is more important than being known. Living in the shadow of his brother, Simon Peter, didn’t prevent Andrew from being a team player. James and John were the renegades. Knowing their rebellious natures, you probably wouldn’t trust them if they volunteered to serve in your church parking lot. But Jesus picked these two to proclaim the good news. Jesus always sees people for who they can become rather than for who they are.

What goes through your mind when you’re looking for servant leaders to fill positions? When I need to add to our team at church, I put “a servant’s heart” at the top of my list of requirements. Faithfulness to the mission of the organization is a close second. Of course, I look for God-given gifts in the area of our specific needs as well.

Early in my ministry I was interviewed for a position at a church in Illinois. I’ll never forget the final question I was asked by the senior pastor: “Is there anything or anyone that you love more than Jesus?”

“No,” I said. Then I honestly added, “But a lot of times I allow him to slip into second or third place.”

What a great question for any potential leadership team member to consider! Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). When assembling your leadership team, look for gifts that are distinctive, but remember that a passion for Christ should be the common denominator.

Many Christian leaders fall prey to the “mirror syndrome” — hiring or enlisting people with personalities similar to their own. Be sure to evaluate carefully. You may be subliminally drawn to individuals because they remind you of yourself. By hiring them you may duplicate your gifts rather than gain new ones that complement your own. Diversity and variety help to cover all the bases.

H.S. Vigeveno’s book 13 Men Who Changed the World includes a chapter dealing with Andrew. The title of the chapter is “He Used What He Had.” This reminds me of a time I preached a revival in Mississippi. On the first day, only one person showed up to pray for the revival with the evangelist. His name was Sidney, and he was about 40 years old. He was developmentally disabled, walked with a profound limp, and could barely speak intelligibly. But Sidney loved to pray and to serve.

I stayed next door at the preacher’s house. Each night I would sit out on the front porch and look over my sermon, and about 30 minutes before the service, I’d hear the distinctive sound of Sidney entering the church. He’d limp up the front steps, unlock all the doors, and go around to turn on all the lights. Each night, after the service was over and everyone had left, he made his way around the sanctuary, turning off the lights and locking the doors. Then he’d head home until the next service.

I can’t tell you how much that man’s example touched me. Somebody might say, “He really didn’t do that much.” On the contrary, he did all that he could. Like Andrew, he used what he had. Whenever I hear a sermon on servanthood, I think about Sidney. I have a strong feeling that I’ll get to see him again. When we’re at heaven’s door waiting to go in, I think God may say, “Hey, Sidney, would you help me open these gates and turn on the lights?” It really doesn’t matter if you assemble a group of five-talent individuals or several one-talent or two-talent people. What matters is that, whatever talents they have, whether they’re small or great, they lay them at the feet of Jesus.

The Lord can use any of us to help grow his church. So remember that diversity and teamwork go hand in hand.

Requirement 2: Communicate The Plan

When 10 water-skiers are following the same boat, the driver is the leader by default. Where he leads, we will follow. We appreciate his wisdom and thoughtfulness in communicating his plan to all of us through sign language. You see, many a good plan has bitten the dust because it wasn’t effectively communicated. Leaders can’t expect others to read their minds or to have long-term recall of a plan they previously unveiled. There must be an opportunity for give and take.

“Over-communication” and an excellent listening ear are two attributes of a great leader. Recently my kindergarten-age son came home and burst into tears. He told us he had gotten into trouble in the hallway at school for something he didn’t do. My wife, Beth, asked him, “Samuel, did you try to explain to the teacher what you were doing?”

He said, “I tried, but she wouldn’t let me explain.” My son learned at a young age how all of us feel when our voices aren’t heard. If our opinions don’t seem important to those in power, our lives can be very frustrating.

We’ve all been there, and Samuel will face the problem numerous times throughout his lifetime. Leaders must not forget how it feels to be left out or to have no input. This may seem obvious, yet, if assured confidentiality, many church staff members and volunteers would emphatically state that they have been left out of the loop. They don’t feel privy to what others know. Whether they really are being excluded isn’t the issue; if they feel left out of the process, we need to find ways to make them feel included.

Like it or not, perception is reality. If communication isn’t perceived to be flowing to every team member, then the entire group will begin to sink. This is true for volunteers as well as lay leaders. Volunteers must know they’re on the inside and be given as much information as possible so they can fulfill their particular responsibilities.

Try to set up channels that’ll facilitate communication — an email reporting on the board meeting, a weekly meeting, or an open appointment at the same time each week, for example. Information is empowering. Talk to your staff and volunteers on a regular basis. Keeping them informed shows that you trust them and have confidence in them.

In fact, the number one complaint of both the staff and volunteers in any church or organization may be a lack of communication. Those in the know are often oblivious to the fact that those outside the circle want feedback. Those “outsiders” may feel they aren’t given a chance to share their opinions. And the perception of ostracism always leads to division. You know you’re in trouble when you hear statements such as these:

* “I never know what’s going on around here.”
* “They don’t even bother to get our input anymore.”
* “It’s so embarrassing when I hear things from my volunteers that no one bothered to tell me.”

No one is exempt from being uninformed at one time or another. Toughen up if that offends you; there’s no getting around it. The goal, though, is to arrange for informative communication to be the norm rather than the exception. I must admit that this is not my forte. It has taken me years to realize that I may devise an excellent plan, but if I don’t share it with my team — regularly, and in great detail — it’s impossible for them to embrace it.

Err on the side of more communication, not less. (Don’t confuse this with micromanagement, by which you suffocate your staff or volunteers by constantly looking over their shoulders.) Inclusion goes a long way toward building a team because the knowledge of basic, everyday, non confidential information helps establish rock-solid loyalty. John Maxwell says, “I’m convinced that the surest way to establish a sense of ownership among your constituency is to involve them in the creative process, all along the way. You might be able to reach a goal faster on your own, but when you get there you will be just that — on your own. Slow down and take your people along.”

Be certain that your co-laborers understand how you communicate. For example, as we added more women to our staff, we realized we had to alter the tenor of our staff meetings. Our guys bonded by picking on one another and by hurling heavy doses of sarcasm across the room. The women on our staff felt that the men were too brutal with one another. (Now we’ve struck a happy medium — we just pick on the women. Not!) For the sake of teamwork and unity in the body of Christ we’ve eased up. Through time and reflection, we’ve learned that we probably did cross the line of good-natured kidding and that, as a result, teamwork wasn’t enhanced.

The Christian leader who wants effective teamwork will share vision and plans rather than attempt to force them through. Ideas will be refined by the experience and wisdom of others. As a result, the entire team will get the credit. And if this group is truly God-honoring, the Lord will receive the glory.

Requirement 3: Encourage The Participants

Freely given encouragement breathes life into individuals and organizations. You might be surprised that the recipient of your encouraging voice mail messages listens to those messages again and again. Stop by someone’s cubicle and you may see a thank you note prominently displayed, a little message you scribbled three weeks ago with little thought. I dare you to block out 20 minutes a week simply to encourage your team members! The benefits will astound you.

All of these seemingly insignificant acts of encouragement help create an environment in which teamwork flourishes. That teamwork is so important when you face a radical change of direction. A sincere high-five goes a long way with your staff and volunteers. Successful leaders don’t resemble dictators. Russell H. Ewing said, “A boss creates fear, a leader confidence. A boss fixes blame, a leader corrects mistakes. A boss knows all, a leader asks questions. A boss makes work drudgery, a leader makes it interesting. A boss is interested in himself or herself, a leader is interested in the group.”

In fact, the leader’s responsibility isn’t to police the masses, looking for mistakes. Rather, good leaders create an environment in which people have the latitude to suggest different methods and to think outside the box. If an idea fails, it fails — but it’s important that team members have the freedom to fail and to learn from the experience.

I heard of a teenager whose first job was working as a delivery boy for a florist. One day the boy was to deliver two sets of flowers. One set was for a funeral home, and the other was for a big church that had relocated to a larger sanctuary.

The florist knew there was a problem when he received a phone call from an irate minister. The preacher said, “We’ve got a beautiful new sanctuary with a basket of flowers up front that says, ‘Rest in Peace.’ ”

“You think you’ve got problems!” the florist replied. “Somewhere in this city there’s a nice bouquet of flowers sitting beside a casket with a sign that says, ‘Good luck in your new location!’ ”

Allow your team members to make mistakes, and encourage them to learn from those mistakes. Encourage the creativity of your staff and volunteers by giving them opportunities to brainstorm and “mindmap.” Look for ways to add to your ministry’s effectiveness rather than merely continuing the same old programs year in and year out. This is what leadership guru Jim Collins refers to as “the genius of the ‘and,’ rather than the tyranny of the ‘or.’ ”

Encouragement can be given publicly or privately. Both types are needed. Type A personalities long for public encouragement. Type B personalities appreciate encouragement more if it’s given privately. But regardless of a teammate’s temperament, either type of praise is appreciated and essential for building a team.

Part of the benefit that flows from special projects and events is the appreciation you gain for other ministries and volunteers. For example, when Bible-college students spent the weekend at our church for a ministry conference I directed, the women’s circles provided housing for them. I was encouraged by their hospitality. When the Fellowship of Christian Athletes held a fund-raising auction, the student leaders stepped up to the plate. I was encouraged by their attention to details and gift of administration. When our church put together a “friend weekend,” the members of our children’s ministries department took ownership of the event as if it were their own. I was encouraged by their creativity and desire to promote the weekend to all ages. When our church presents an Easter pageant or a Christmas program, I’m always encouraged by the servants’ hearts of the members of the facilities team. They go beyond the call of duty, working late on behalf of the other ministries and Christ.

So no matter how busy you are, always remember that navigating the rough waters requires an occasional boost of encouragement. Take time to give it in large doses.

Requirement 4: Instill Unity Of Purpose

The Apostle Paul knew that a division among Christians is a poor witness that can paralyze the power of the church. The size of the ministry doesn’t matter; division is just as deadly in a church of 80 as it is in a church of 8,000. Paul minces no words when he says, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). In other words, don’t step on others.

When 180-degree changes loom ahead, stick together and hold on. Remind others why you’re doing what you’re doing. Tie the change in with your mission or vision statement. In Romans 12:18 Paul says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Paul went to great pains to encourage teamwork within the body of believers. But the apostle also left the door open since, in rare cases, unity of purpose may be impossible.

Do your best, but realize that in some situations people may need to be released from certain responsibilities and redirected to areas in which harmony comes more naturally. Those times are stressful, but I’ve found that, in the long run, such prayerfully considered decisions have been vindicated. It may take such a measure to improve the teamwork of the whole organization.

Because you work in a church or a parachurch organization doesn’t mean that relationships will always be peaches and cream. Personality conflicts will arise; contrasting styles won’t always mesh. Someone has put it this way:

“To live above with the saints I love, Oh, that will be glory! But to dwell below, With the saints I know — Now that’s a different story!”

Decide early in your ministry that you won’t allow Satan to divide your staff members or volunteers. A lost world desperately needs the message of Christ. Your team must model his love and spirit of unity.

Finally, I must remind you that some leaders seek name recognition or personal glory, and that’s a devastating barrier to unity. Others, though, have a genuine kingdom consciousness. They care about their staff members. They treat their volunteers with respect. Those leaders have the big picture in mind, so they set their sights on building a true team. Banker Walter Wriston, who writes for the Harvard Business Review, says, “The person who figures out how to harness the collective genius of the people in his or her organization is going to blow the competition away.”

This idea goes deeper than just spending time together as co-laborers, because there’s a difference between “union” and “unity.” If you tie two cats together by their tails you’ll have union — but you probably won’t have unity. True Christian unity is based upon being “in Christ,” sharing together in the life of the Son who dwells in all of you. That’s more than a social relationship, and it goes even deeper than a spirit of collegiality or even deep friendship. So after assembling your team and communicating the plan, you must aim the members of your team in the direction of their main purpose, which is to bring glory to their Savior.

With Teamwork, It’s Possible!

Several years ago, at the Calgary Stampede in Canada, something unusual happened during a pulling contest. This particular contest is designed to determine which horse can pull the greatest weight. The winning horse pulled a little over 9,000 pounds, while the second-place horse managed to drag a little under 9,000 pounds. Afterward, the two owners decided to give the crowd a demonstration of teamwork. They harnessed the two horses to see how much they could pull together. To the crowd’s surprise, it wasn’t 18,000 pounds. It was 27,000!

What a lesson for the onlookers! Teamwork allows us to accomplish so much more than we might ever dream possible. There is strength in numbers. When you run smack-dab into a wave that you yourself may have helped create, know that you’re not alone. And know that it’s better to have a rough ride through the transitions — as a team — than to sink slowly in defeat.

This article “Team Works” by Dave Stone is excerpted from Keeping Your Head Above Water (Group Publishing, Inc.).

Posted in AIS File Library, MM - Men's Ministry0 Comments

Working With A Team

Working With A Team
Paul Borthwick

When the writer of the Book of Proverbs observed “many counselors bring success” (Prov. 15:22, TLB ), he made a very important observation for effective, long-term youth ministry. We can’t do it alone. The diversity of our students, the demands of leadership, and the need for quality one-on-one ministry forces us to build a team of associates who will lead the youth ministry with us.

Scripture exhorts us to realize the importance of teamwork. Consider the Old Testament example of Moses. With all of his responsibilities related to leading the people of Israel, he was overwhelmed. When his pagan father-in-law, Jethro, observed his counseling from sunup to sundown, Jethro made one basic observation: “You can’t do it alone. The thing you are doing isn’t good” (Exod. 18:18). Jethro knew that Moses was headed on a fast track to burnout. The remedy that Jethro taught was basic delegation—leadership through a group of associate leaders.

The New Testament’s most powerful example of team leadership is Jesus with his twelve disciples. By spending a good portion of his active ministry training these men (most scholars estimate that he spent over fifty percent of his active ministry with just his chosen twelve), Jesus prepared them for the future preaching of the gospel. His example of discipleship was simple: I am going to train you so that you can carry out a broader and more extensive ministry than I could alone.

The model of Jesus overlaps the biblical teaching on spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12.
The body has many different members, all of whom are equipped with a variety of spiritual abilities so that the whole body can benefit. If we understand and believe in the body of Christ, we must acknowledge that there is no room for the “Lone-Ranger” mentality that kills leaders in youth ministry. We must work alongside others for the building up of the whole body of Christ.

When I first assumed youth ministry leadership, I entered with a self-centered and haughty attitude: “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” My attitude was quickly changed as I got into the mainstream of the youth ministry. The teaching of Scripture changed my perspective theologically, but my personal helplessness changed my thinking practically. I realized that Jethro was right: I couldn’t do it alone. The quantity and diversity of our students required me to recruit others to work alongside me. I needed other members of the body of Christ to complement and supplement my gifts and leadership.

The result was a team-oriented philosophy of ministry that has since undergirded everything that we have undertaken in the youth ministry. Simply stated, we arrived at the conclusion that the work of Christ must be done by a team of interdependent people. Such a team frees everyone to do a particular job to his or her fullest capability. We didn’t need superstars; we needed each other.

CHOOSING A TEAM

The nature of youth work—diverse students, multiple needs, and broad-ranging responsibilities demands a team, but whom do we recruit? A frequent frustration of many leaders is that those who are willing are often ill-equipped or wrongly motivated (like suspicious parents who want to join the staff team to keep an eye on their own children). On the other hand, the most capable people are people in demand; we may not be able to get them to join our ministry because they already are serving in a dozen other locations.

Nevertheless, we need a team. And we need to match volunteer leaders with the needs and opportunities of our ministries; the junior high staff leader may need more patience or different gifts from the leader of the college-age group. When matching people to needs, however, we must look for at least six basic qualities:

1. Love for Christ. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus reminds us that a student, after he is fully trained, will become like his teacher (Luke 6:40). Our students will become like those whom we recruit to lead them. If we desire to produce students who love Jesus Christ, we had better recruit leaders with that same quality.

When I first met Ted, I said to myself, “Now here is a guy that I would like to recruit for our youth team.” He was tall, handsome, successful, and popular. He had a solid testimony, and I would dream about the number of students he could influence for Christ. I recruited Ted, but I made a big mistake. He did have a great conversion testimony, but that was all. Ted loved Ted much more than he loved Jesus Christ, and he wanted the youth group members to love Ted almost as much as he did. He attracted students—the egocentric, the insecure, and the idol-worshipers—and I found myself wishing I knew how to fire him. I realized that I went after the wrong qualities, and I got burned in the process.

On the other hand, Betty was a wise recruit. She didn’t have an overwhelming personality, but her primary strength was her love for the Lord. Her example enabled her to be one of the strongest disciples in our ministry.

2. Love for students. Each of us will meet people who will be open to joining the youth team, but they will express their hesitancy after they start spending time with students. One person put it this way to me: “Paul, I love the Lord, and I know that he wants to reach these students, but these gum-smacking, hair-twisting, loud-mouthed ninth-grade girls are simply too much for me.”

What she was saying was not a confession of some great sinful attitude. She was simply admitting that she was not quite ready to work with these students. She had a hard time loving them, and she knew that her performance would be affected.

Although “love for teenagers” isn’t listed in any of the biblical lists of spiritual gifts, I do believe that it is a God-given ability. Actually, I believe that the desire to love teenagers is God-given, and when this desire is cultivated, we are able to pour ourselves L to students who might drive other people crazy.

Love for students has made Walt a very effective member of our youth team. He isn’t outspoken or necessarily good-looking, athletic, or popular. He just loves students. He goes out of his way t sit with them. He knows how to draw them out and get them to trust him. And Walt is a happily married father of two, so I know isn’t reaching out to teens because of some psychological need in himself. He genuinely loves teenagers, and he is a great example to the rest of our team.

3. Willingness to grow. The first two qualities might lead us to wonder if there is anyone who can qualify for the volunteer leadership team. Actually we can find many qualified people if we are willing to accept those who haven’t arrived yet but are willing to grow.

In practical terms, I would rather recruit a young Christian who says “I want to grow in the Lord by serving others” than an older, more mature Christian who acts as if he or she has it all together. I would rather recruit someone who says, “I am not sure that I can love teenagers, but I am willing to work at it” than a person who acts as if he or she has all the answers for youth ministry.

We were approached once by a young couple who came to “offer their expertise in youth ministry.” As we talked with them, they bragged about their years of involvement as youth sponsors at another church, their intense knowledge of youth culture, and their desire to help us in our ministry. I never found out whether or not they were experts. I thanked them and said, in effect, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” Even if they were experts, their attitudes told me that they were not the type who would condescend to the rest of us so that we could grow alongside them.

4. Willingness to make a commitment. Although the longevity and endurance of the youth leader is important to the success of the youth ministry, the commitment of the lay leaders is likewise critical. Students take a long time to open up and to trust the adults who work with them, so high turnover in the volunteer team will hinder the ministry.
It’s not unreasonable to require volunteers to commit at least one year to the youth ministry team. Those who commit themselves for a longer period will experience deeper and more significant results in the students they are working with.

People often are hesitant to make a commitment, especially to such an unknown commodity as youth. How can we help them? In our ministry, we recommend that people join the youth team for one month before making a full commitment. We have found that this enables people to observe the youth ministry without the pressure of a commitment.

Over the course of this month, our new recruits are placed with some seasoned veterans. This lets the new person see effectiveness in action, and it gives the new person the time to find out if he or she is qualified to work with teenagers. It also gives us the chance to see if the person falls into the “willing-but-not-able” category. At the end of the month, we decide. We have been blessed by God’s leading. Each person who has made the commitment has met with the approval of the other staff. Each person who was considered unqualified for youth work has come to that conclusion before the staff has had to refuse him or her.

5. Flexibility. If people want us to predict exactly how teenagers will behave, perhaps they shouldn’t join the youth team. People must be willing to understand that teenagers defy generalization, and as a result, teenagers are an enigma even to those who call themselves youth experts.

A healthy volunteer team is also flexible about the tasks assigned to them. A Sunday school teacher must at times be willing to take a pie in the face. The music leader must be willing to help with the administration of the retreat weekend or the formation of the youth budget. Recognizing our various spiritual gifts doesn’t mean that we become such specialists that we refuse to serve where needed.

6. A sense of humor. If someone is going to join the youth team, he or she must be able to laugh, especially at himself or herself. Issues like baldness, fat stomachs, or physical shortcomings will cause joking among our image-conscious teenagers, and if we don’t learn to laugh at ourselves, we surely will be hurt.

The dynamic of being able to laugh at oneself also will be needed in the process of growth on the team. When we work with other members of the volunteer team, we will learn much about ourselves. Our selfishness or stubbornness or pride will surface, and in healthy team situations, these weaknesses will be confronted. To achieve maximum growth, we must be willing to laugh at ourselves and say, “You are right; I am that way. Please help me change.”

Laughter is also important because it provides an important bridge to our students. Laughter disarms people, and it relaxes us to relate to each other with greater openness. My friend Scott is a Hell’s-Angels-type biker. One day he came into the church office with his all-black outfit and his bulging muscles rippling out of his sleeveless T-shirt, revealing his many tattoos. One of the secretaries stared quite conspicuously at him. The moment was tense until little four-year-old Aaron, the son of another minister, quipped, “Hey mister, why do you use crayons on your arms?” Everyone laughed. The tension was broken through humor.

BUILDING THE TEAM

Our youth ministry staff has adopted a motto about the growth on our volunteer junior high and senior high teams; we say, “A healthy staff team begets a healthy youth ministry.” Leadership experts would call this the “trickle down” theory. If the leaders are growing and feel competent, the whole organization benefits.

This growth of the leadership team, however, doesn’t come accidentally or automatically. It occurs when we as team leaders commit ourselves to building the team qualitatively and quantitatively.

Qualitative growth requires us to become trainers. Whatever we know about youth work must be imparted to others. We may not feel like experts, but we can at least stay one step ahead of our volunteer partners in ministry. Our co-workers will look to us for spiritual and ministry direction, and we must be ready to offer it.

Qualitative growth requires us to become disciples. Time with our volunteer staff to insure their spiritual health or to encourage them in their ministry is time well spent for the benefit of the whole youth group.

Qualitative growth requires us to become nurturers. Like us, the volunteer team needs to grow as adults; they need to be wrestling with God at work in their own lives so that they can feel like healthy adults. If they feel content that they are growing, they will feel more equipped to give themselves away to the youth.

As leaders, we also must work for quantitative growth. Although the members on the team can help in contacting others, we still have the greater responsibility to act as recruiters. We have to work to see the team size increase. One leader for every six or eight students is ideal, although many youth groups are forced to get by with one leader to every ten or twelve.

Such quantitative growth will require us to plan ahead, get visibility at church or in other church groups from which volunteers may come, and share with others how they may be used in the ministry. Quantitative growth becomes simpler, however, if the qualitative growth is of a consistently high caliber. If the staff team is growing and dynamic, others will want to join in the effort for their own growth as well as for the ministry to the students.

PROBLEMS WITH TEAM MINISTRY

You often may feel that it is easier to do the work all alone rather than deal with the problems of working with a team.

1. Conflicts within the teams. One thing we can be sure of: every person who joins the youth leadership team will be a sinner, including us. As a result, we must carefully maintain relationships if the team is to stay healthy. If we are not careful, we may find that

* one staff member is particularly successful with his or her students and others who are struggling with their own small groups or in their leadership get jealous.
* romantic relationships arise between various members of the team, and those who are left out feel left out.
* staff members disagree with standards of discipline or they feel uncomfortable with the youth group’s stance on issues like rock music or drinking or dancing.
* some staff members disagree with the group’s goals; they may complain, “Why do we have to deal with all this `caring-for-each-other’ stuff; why can’t we just get on with ministry to the kids?”
* staff members may pull practical jokes on each other and hurt one of the participants.
* Conflicts do occur, and the only guaranteed way to avoid them is to dismantle the team. However, the better solution is to anticipate these conflicts before they occur. Talk to the volunteers about the conflicts, addressing them as a positive challenge for growth rather than a trap to avoid. When the conflicts do occur, address them directly with the team members involved. In my earliest youth ministry days, I used to think that problems would go away or that time would heal wounds. I learned that time infects wounds, and it is better to dress the wound early than to let it fester.

2. Conflicts over use of time. As soon as we recruit a team, we have two groups of people needing our time and attention: the youth and the leadership team. We will find ourselves faced with the perpetual question, “With whom do I spend my time? Which group is my priority?”

The answer is both. We need to invest ourselves in leaders so that they, in turn, can invest themselves in students, but we also need to spend good time with students so that we can develop our abilities to work with teenagers. Set aside regular time to invest in each group. Let your leadership team know that youth activities and youth retreats are student times; during these activities your priority is to minister to students. But also schedule staff retreats, monthly staff training days, and occasional staff socials to devote your full attention to the needs of your staff.

3. Conflicts over authority. When people join the leadership team, they automatically will be called upon to exercise some authority. It could be disciplining a student or answering questions related to a tough Scripture passage. Their age and position give them natural authority.

Conflicts emerge when co-workers differ over how the author ity should be used. Some will want to give dogmatic answers to every tough question, while others may want to leave these questions unanswered. When discipline issues arise, staff—like parents can differ on the degree or severity of the punishment.

As leaders, we must intervene in these situations, taking authority even over co-leaders. As team leaders, we will need to make the ultimate decisions, even when the team members don’t agree with us unanimously.

4. Conflicts about our perceived role. As other team members assume visible roles, people from the church may question our leadership, wondering why we aren’t up front all of the time. It’s always easiest to be a one-person show, but visibility isn’t our priority. We perhaps can avert some criticism by explaining the team ministry philosophy to the leaders to whom we report; if they understand what we are doing, they can defend us against criticism. (If they disagree with the team ministry concept, we may need to consider looking for a new job.)

A TALE OF YOUTH MINISTRY

Once upon a time, a talented young man came to the youth ministry of Amalgamated Community Church. He could sing, teach, lead games, and win students to Jesus Christ. The youth group at Amalgamated grew and grew, and the talented young man just kept on giving himself to his youth group. From morning to night he would counsel, plan, meet with students on campus, and call kids just to let them know he cared. (No one was quite sure if he was single or married, but most assumed that he was single because he never seemed to go home except to sleep.)

The young man’s talents carried him for a long time, but he soon grew lonely. He spent all his time caring for students, but he began to wonder if anyone cared about him. But although he was discouraged, he kept on meeting with students, planning meetings, and scheduling activities.

Then one day a bratty junior high boy came to the talented young man. The talented young man knew that this bratty boy was not a Christian, but the boy came to youth activities and listened.

The bratty boy said to the talented young man, “In my advanced managerial training symposium for eighth graders, we are studying the principles of delegation, and it is statistically proven that executives who refuse to delegate dramatically increase the likelihood of their own attrition.”

The talented young man didn’t understand all these big words, so the bratty boy explained them to the young man: “You can’t do it alone. If you teach mutual interdependence of the parts of the body of Christ, then why do you act alone all of the time? Are you the returned Christ? Or are you just ignorant of your need for others?”

The talented young man started to understand, but his face revealed that the bratty boy’s ideas were still too complex. The bratty boy grew impatient: “In short . . . before you plan one more day in youth ministry, get some people to help you!”

Finally the talented young man understood, and he began to recruit a team. The team included an intelligent man who reached out to the bratty boy. As the relationship between the intelligent man and the bratty boy grew, the bratty boy became a Christian. When he was a man, he became the executive director of the Amalgamated Community Church Management Workshop.

The talented young man became a talented old man, but he served the youth ministry at Amalgamated Community Church for forty years because of the effective team that worked with him. He even worked with the bratty young son of the executive director of the Church Management Workshop, but he did it through his youth leadership team.
And they all lived happily ever after.

The above article, “Working With A Team” was written by Paul Borthwick. The article was excerpted from chapter eight in Borthwick’s book, Organizing Your Youth Ministry.

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.

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.”

Posted in AIS File Library, YMGE - Youth Ministry0 Comments


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