What Makes Effective Teams?

Team Unity Recap

We’ve completed our series on cultivating team unity!

Here at Heroic Life Discipleship we are passionate about equipping people involved in ministry to lead according to truth and principles laid out in Scripture. This series has focused on children’s ministry, but the principles can be applied in any situation.

We thought it’d be fun to give a quick recap of the series, so here goes.

The Problem

We’ve seen a pattern, specifically in children’s ministry, that working as a leader or volunteer can be difficult, exhausting, and thankless. This wears people down and burns them out. In general they’d just rather not be involved, and leadership can get desperate to find volunteers.

Our desire is to reverse this cycle by coming alongside ministries to help you create team cultures that foster three things:

  • Commitment
  • Community
  • Trust

In an environment where these things thrive, people will be excited about working with your team, they’ll be committed through hard times, they’ll form deep and meaningful relationships, and they’ll trust each other and their leaders. Most importantly, though, the ministry will be exponentially more effective, and God will be glorified as we are conformed into His image in these areas.

Let’s dive into things by talking about three different areas of commitment in which to grow.

Commitment Through Vision

As a leader or leadership team, it’s essential to provide high-level clarity for your team so they know why they’re doing what they do. We do this by crafting a clear and compelling vision statement for the ministry that gives the deep “why” behind it all. This needs to be clear, easily understood, and something your team can get behind and be excited about.

When you have vision and values like this in place, it provides clarity and direction for every aspect of your ministry. Each decision should be filtered through this paradigm; every action should be rooted in it.

Commitment Through Communication

Creating clarity and excellence in communication is absolutely critical to a healthy team. There are two areas where this is especially important:

Making Decisions

As you make decisions, involve your team in the process. Ask questions, get their input, and listen to them. Talk through the issues they bring up or questions they ask—even if you decide against what they want, the fact that they were seriously included in the decision gives them ownership in the team.

After the decision is made, think through people who might be impacted and communicate three things to them:

  1. What decision was made
  2. How you envision it impacting them
  3. Why you made the decision

This final point is of vital importance. If people don’t understand why you made a decision, they won’t be behind your decision.

Giving and Receiving Feedback

The people in the best position to give you feedback have the most to lose by giving it. If you allow them to remain silent, you’re missing out on some of the greatest learning opportunities you could have as a leader. So humbly seek their feedback and criticism. Listen carefully to their perspective, discuss the issues with them, and when you’re in the wrong, change.

This doesn’t happen automatically, so as leaders we need to intentionally encourage a culture that fosters this kind of healthy communication.

Commitment Through Service

Jesus has set the example for how to lead: He served and laid down His life for us all. As leaders, this is our call—not to take advantage of our position but to serve our team and lay down our lives for them. This is Christ’s call for us (see Matthew 20:25-28).

The fact is, your people are the most important part of your ministry, not your ministry objectives. It seems counterintuitive, but when you serve your people, empower them, get behind them, build them up, and help them grow, the goals of your ministry will be taken care of too. But if you remain singularly fixed on your goals to the exclusion of helping your people, both your people and the fruit of your ministry will suffer.

You can’t ask someone to lay down their life for your vision if you aren’t laying down your life for them.

Community

If you can cultivate a community where people know and care for each other, you’ve gone a long way in solidifying the strength and longevity of your team. Here are three ways that you as a leader can grow your team in this direction:

Care for your people

One of the most significant ways to show you care is to build real, deep relationship with your team. Get to know them, especially outside the context of “work.” Know their joys, their struggles, where they’re at, and how to come alongside them and build them up in the Lord. You will be amazed at how significant it is when you make time for this. I’d venture to guess that those leaders you remember as the ones who impacted and loved you most are the ones who spent time with you.

Spend time together

In addition to getting to know people outside the “work” environment, spending intentional time together in your team context will also build community. Hold regular team alignment meetings to keep everyone on the same page and abreast of what each other is doing. Use this time to cultivate discussion and openness between people.

Pray together

Finally, prayer is absolutely vital to the health and success of your team. Spend regular and frequent time in prayer as a team for one another and for the ministry; then as a leader spend more time alone in prayer for the same things. Time with each other and time with the Lord will build deep ties within your team.

Trust

Trust is the fabric that holds a team together. It all starts with you as a leader taking the vulnerable place first and choosing to trust and place confidence in your team. When people see that you’re willing to let go and allow them to freely fulfill their roles, they will likely not only perform better, but also in turn grow in respect and trust for you.

Then you need to live worthy of their trust. Lead with consistency and absolute integrity. When they see you time after time lay down your life selflessly and humbly, provide vision and clarity, make the hard decisions, stand up for them, and care for them through thick and thin, you will win unshakable loyalty. Furthermore, your people will begin to follow your example, and your entire team will evolve into a healthy, high-trust organization.

It’s our hope and prayer that these short articles have been a source of help and inspiration for you. We’re cheering you on—keep leading with full dependence on Christ.

In closing, here are a couple questions to spur discussion. Feel free to comment below, or join the conversation on Facebook:

  • First, when you’ve served in ministry, what were some of your best experiences, and why? What made them so good?
  • Second, if you are in a position of ministry leadership, think about the things that are currently challenging for you or your ministry. Is there anything in the blog posts or in this video that you think you could use to move forward in overcoming these challenges?

If you missed any of our posts on team unity, check out the series below.

  1. What Will Make People Love Working With Your Ministry?
  2. Creating a Culture of Commitment Through Vision
  3. Creating a Culture of Commitment Through Communication
  4. Creating a Culture of Commitment by Serving Your People
  5. Creating a Culture of Community

Michael has served as Director of Heroic Life Discipleship since the ministry began in 2012. He is passionate about effective discipleship, and desires to inspire others to seek after Christ with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Michael enjoys reading, travel, music, volleyball, ice hockey, and hiking.

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