We can determine people’s gifts, abilities, and interests by wisely choosing one of these three ways. The first is to use a gifts assessment tool. These can be valuable, but they are usually not relational, and I believe they can pigeonhole people. I think better, more organic ways exist to discover gifts in a small group. Another way is simply to ask, “What do you enjoy doing? How can you help lead this group? What have you found is your gift? What do other people say you do well?”
My favorite way, however, to discover gifts is to watch as you live in community together. As the group gets to know one another, people’s gifts will start to become obvious―usually to everyone but the person with the gift! Take time at a meeting to affirm each other’s gifts. The group tells each person, in turn, what his or her gift is and why each person is an essential part of the team.
As people’s gifts become obvious, find ways to utilize them. People can play numerous roles―everything from timekeeper and tension reliever to social planner, service coordinator, and prayer leader.
Practice Teamwork Drills
I have loved coaching kid’s sports teams, especially basketball. One of the most rewarding parts of coaching for me is taking a rag-tag group of kids who don’t know one another at the beginning of a season and turning them into a team―a team that works together as one, each using his or her unique abilities for the good of the whole. A team that wins―because five are better than one. It takes a lot of effort to build this teamwork―lots of drills and time spent together, both in and outside of practices and games. I love the way Coach John Wooden said it years ago, and I still share this quote with my teams: “It takes 10 hands to score a basket.”
Building a productive team as a small group is much the same. It takes intentional effort, both inside and outside group meeting times―team-building drills, such as these, can further strengthen your group into a team:
• Go on a camping or hiking trip together and give each person a specific assignment.
• Play a game such as volleyball, paintball, or a role-playing game against another group.
• Participate in a shared work experience or serving opportunity.
• Identify a common “enemy” or challenge together.
Remove the Obstacles to Teamwork
The biggest obstacle to building a team is a leader who will not, or cannot, share. In my years of ministry, I have discovered three main obstacles:
- The Heart. Some leaders have difficulty handing off responsibilities to others. It is either a lack of trust or a need to control, but either way, this attitude asphyxiates the group.
- The Habits. Some leaders simply have not learned to share leadership. When they were asked to lead, they thought it was their job to do everything, so they do. They lead by habit.