Without a doubt working with a supportive team of people is a great blessing. Not all leaders however are that fortunate. Sometimes this failure comes about through a lack of wisdom, wrong motives or immaturity of those within the team.
A well known Christian leader in the West once said to me, “Don’t have expectations of people and you won’t be disappointed”. This is not a cynical statement but the reality of working in a team. You will be let down so learn to cope with that. Unfortunately we ourselves are very likely to let the Lord and others down even if we don’t recognize it at the time! There are many who have walked away from Christian responsibility because of disappointed expectations in others. Paul himself said, “You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me” (2 Tim 1:15). Betrayal can be one of the hardest things to cope with. Release them from your judgment and press on in freedom.
Here are some hints for good team building.
‘As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said. Matthew 4:18,19. He saw Levi….sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “follow me” Jesus told him. Mark 2:14
The disciples certainly were a diverse group, so different from their leader and yet they became Jesus’ close friends. They walked the roads together for three and a half years. This very different group of people shared their lives together as a team. At the end they all betrayed Jesus, one badly. Yet a little while later, apart from Judas, through the Holy Spirit they changed the world!
- Always pray hard when building a team that God will lead you to the right person(s) and when the team is formed do pray often together. Pray before discussion on issues.
- Try and get to know the potential team member well before you appoint them to a position. Make their position clear to them. For instance you can normally increase their responsibility as time goes on, but it is hard to decrease it without them losing face and causing distress.
- Don’t appoint ‘yes’ people, who always agree with you. That will limit your effectiveness.
- Always provide a good job description and find regular ways for accountability. If you are a highly structured person accept that your team member may be more relaxed. It’s okay.
- Recognise that testimonials may be biased. Read between the lines in a reference. Connecting with a previous employer is useful.
- Choose people with a different gifting and personality to yourself and don’t feel threatened by them. To select people just like yourself is too boring and too limiting and others can see that. This adds to your challenge of uniting the team but the extra effort reaps good rewards.
- When looking to appoint an Elder or someone in a significant position I will consult with others and then invite the person to work with the team for about three months before confirming the invitation if it proves a good choice. That way you get to know whether they have the same spirit as yourself and how they relate to others. This approach has never failed me over the years.
- If you are not the leader learn to be a good follower so that if you are in a position of authority in time others will have a good attitude to you. You reap what you sow.
- If you can’t arrive at a decision you are discussing, delay making it until there is team unity. God’s timing is important and He doesn’t rush things. People will trust you more if they see you are willing to wait and lay down your desires.
- Empower and release team members for ministry and don’t control them. From my experience they will nearly always remain loyal to you when this happens. N. T. Wright liked this definition of leadership ‘creating the conditions within which others thrive’.
- Working hard at maintaining good relationships within the team is the basis of effective ministry. Try not to be too intense in running team meetings and create an encouraging, happy and God centred atmosphere. Always speak of the people you lead with respect.
- If you want ethnic or social integration in your work, staff the team for cultural diversity.
- Be discerning as to what you share with the team. They are not there to carry your burdens. With wisdom however share your vulnerabilities. This models how to walk humbly.
- Do learn to listen and please don’t do all the talking! Take an interest in them and their families and interests. They too have burdens to carry that you may know nothing about.
- A team member’s spouse is often in a powerless position and need lots of grace from God to cope. They are not to control their partner or the organization although there may be opportunities for them to share their wisdom in a sensitive way.
- Genuinely value and thank the team members in front of others. Love your team. Don’t show favouritism and avoid any look of wrong behaviour especially with the opposite sex.
- True success of your ministry is often evaluated several years after you leave it. Train your team well.
‘Team work makes the dream work” by John Maxwell
‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable” by Patrick Lencioni
‘The Tortoise usually wins” by Brian Harris