Here are some of the characteristics that make a team work well:
- Common life – knowing each other, being committed to each other
- Common purpose – the glory of God
- Clear common direction and strategy – clear goals
- Opportunity for creative contribution from all according to their gifting
- Strong view on relational togetherness rather than separateness
- Ownership and active participation in the team rather than consumerism and passive receipt of the team (we not they)
- Understanding of each others’ gifts, temperaments, strengths and weaknesses
- Clear accountabilities
All of which have an obvious bearing on the question: what makes a good team-building leader? The characteristics of a good team-developing leader are a corollary of the characteristics of a good team. In our case it is a corollary of the purpose of the church and the reason God acts. We are building teams for building a biblical church, we need to have a clear view about what a biblical, God-glorifying church is.
One crucial point is that leader’s role is not the same as the role of every other member of the team. Definition is crucial. Many pastors who used to being a sole pastor who subsequently come into a team situation for the first time can find it difficult (and can be difficult to work with) because they tend to-self-define the role around what they can already do, or have already experienced. I have met team leading pastors who variously saw themselves as evangelist in chief, leader as pastoral carer for team, leader as external liaison outside the church, leader as team theologian and preacher.
There was a place for all those but they didn’t all tend to be strong team-building leaders because that wasn’t where they gave their energies. Or they thought they were giving their energies to team-building because they assumed that a team is built by doing ehat they already did well: giving it good theology, a strong lead in evangelism, etc. Actually the danger was that people just played to their own strengths and defined the team like them.
Leaders tend to attract teams – and churches – who are somewhat like them. Leaders can assume that everyone else will fall into their way of doing things. I have worked recently with one leader in a team situation who had no previous experience, who assumed that the way it would work is that he would run everything and the team would act as a consulting and reporting body for him.
Leaders don’t always have to lead the same way. Facilitative leaders in Ephesians 4 include a variety of different ministries and gifts, but all with the goal of facilitation of the ministries of others. Team facilitation leadership is about playing to the strengths of everyone else, and the team as a whole. A team is not mere a collection of autonomous individuals, it is more than that. This kind of leader doesn't do everything. They exercise a limited but unique ministry for everyone else. They:
- Invite the team
- Define the purpose of the team
- Love the team
- Organise the team – right people in right places to maximise contributions
- Focus the team – clarifies plans, goals and methods
- Facilitate the life of the team – helping communication, resourcing, providing spiritual nurture, rewarding, helping mourn team failure constructively
- Evaluate and review the team
Team life doesn’t just create capacity to do more things, it creates emotional and spiritual capacity to continue loving God, loving leading and loving the church when the demands are arduous. They help you pray. They keep you earthed. You can go into some church meetings feeling sick because you know you have to introduce something that many won’t like. If you do it on your own you carry all the emotional fallout on your own. If you have brothers and sisters at your back you carry it together. Putting your shoulder to a great boulder on your own yet again is the most dispiriting thing in the world. Putting your shoulder to it with one, two, five others may still be difficult but it doesn’t sap your spirit.
What are you looking for in your team? How do you want to disciple your team? You are after people for whom the glory of God being magnified in the church is – or will clearly become – their consuming passion
Facilitative leadership is transforming leadership. We are looking for gospel transformation in people’s lives by giving them the opportunity God wants them to have to participate in his team for his purposes. We are looking for gospel transformation in the world as the church fulfils its purpose, which it won’t do if it isn’t functioning as a team. Facilitative leaders are key linchpins to produce a people transformed by the gospel, to mould them into a team shaped by the gospel, for doing the task of the gospel together.