Note: This article is excerpted from our training tool Develop Your Ministry Team.
As we lead our teams of small-group coaches and leaders, it’s always important to keep the idea of “team” at the center. We can choose to let them be just a group of individuals―each carrying out their own tasks and checking in with us as needed―or, we can choose to develop them as a team. Creating a true team-based culture will make everyone more effective, help build strong friendships between team members, help you as the coach or director invest in them better, and make doing ministry together much more fun!
We see the idea of team development play out repeatedly in Jesus’ ministry. He was never out just “doing the work of ministry” with his disciples. Instead, he was always investing in them and focusing on the relationships they had with him and with each other. We read stories throughout the Gospels of Jesus attending weddings with the disciples, grilling fish on the beach with them, going on sailing trips together, hanging out in people’s homes together, attending parties together, spending time with large crowds, small groups, and even children, and lots more. Jesus is a brilliant model for us!
So how do we intentionally create strong teams with the groups of people we are leading? Since we are all wired uniquely as leaders―and so are they― there is no single, magical formula to accomplish this. There are many practical applications, however, that you can try in order to determine what works best with your team.
One great way to develop your team beyond the requisite tasks is to go on a learning journey together. There are endless options of excellent books you could choose to read together as a team, and then discuss in team meetings. You can choose books specifically about small-group ministry (e.g., The Seven Deadly Sins of Small Group Ministry), or about leadership in general (e.g., Next Generation Leader), or ones that spur spiritual growth (e.g., The Life You’ve Always Wanted), or even just ones that offer a unique spiritual perspective (e.g., Blue Like Jazz).
I recently chose to lead my team through an Enneagram self-assessment study together with an accompanying book, The Road Back to You, which walks the reader through understanding each of nine interconnected personality types. We covered this book over a few months in our meetings, and it dramatically helped each team member understand how God wired them and the other team members. This knowledge has added invaluably to our team chemistry while creating healthy dynamics as we solve problems and lead together.
If you don’t want to take on an entire book, you can also look for helpful online articles, blog posts, and even TED Talks. Send these to your team to review prior to your next meeting, so you can discuss, debate, and digest them together. Consistently giving your team resources like these is already an incredible investment in their personal development. Adding the dynamic of discussing and applying these concepts and ideals as a team makes it even more impactful.
When you make your team fun, you also make it irresistible. Others will want to join your team, and those on it will not want to leave. Having fun together keeps everyone energized for the hard work of ministry―and it further demonstrates you care more about them as people than simply getting tasks done.
So what’s the best way to play together as a team? That will be up to you to discover. You understand the unique dynamics, interests, and passions of your team. You know what opportunities are available where you live. With teams I have led, we have enjoyed going to the movie theater, miniature golf, and go-karts. We’ve also had parties at my house, gone to arcades, organized picnics, and more. Have fun with it!