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The Teaming Church
Ministry in the Age of Collaboration
By Robert C. Crosby
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2012 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
The Day Your Group Becomes a Team
The purpose of a team is to make the strengths of each person effective and his or her weaknesses irrelevant.—Peter Drucker
Something happens when a group turns into a team. Something not always easy to put into words, but undeniable and unmistakable once experienced. When a group becomes supercharged with a compelling challenge, opportunity, or even an obstacle, for that matter, team spirit can take over in amazing ways.
Americans moved from a group of people into a forming team the moment George W. Bush borrowed the firefighter's bullhorn at Ground Zero and rallied a nation to action together following the tragic events of 9/11. In that moment, regardless of political persuasion, Americans recognized that the country had been brutally attacked. A need was deeply felt. Amidst that need a leader's voice pierced the silence and read the mood of the masses, bringing a sudden sense of urgency and clarity, of resolve and focus. As a result, a teaming spirit emerged in the souls of Americans. Immediately, and for a time, differences melted away and a common cause forged into a new sense of community, resolve, and teamwork. America became focused; no longer a nation divided, now a team with a mission. If only for a while, the combination of a shared challenge and a shared resolve, understood and called out by a team leader, helped to turn a group in to a team.
In forming great teams, one key ingredient is present: a goal. Not just any goal, but a compelling and clear goal. I like to think of it as the team's "carrot." The carrot is the clear, enticing, and compelling goal, the so- wonderful-you-can-almost-taste-it goal that is set out before all of the team members.
When we move from just a group of people and become a team, our smaller, personal visions and dreams are overtaken by great, corporate goals and a common mission. Sometimes this transformation can start to happen in an unexpected moment of crisis. In these cases the challenges and goals can quickly and suddenly become quite clear and compelling. More challenging is the intentional process of turning a group into a team within organizations who are perhaps not in an immediate crisis but simply groups of people in need of vision, focus, and direction.
One reason teaming churches and teaming leaders are so needed today is because our world is so rapidly changing—arguably more than at any other time in history. In North America, for example, history thus far could arguably be divided into four periods:
The Agricultural Age (1776–1889)
The Industrial Age (1890–1989)
The Informational Age (1990–2010)
The Present Age? (2011–??)
In order to thrive in The Agricultural Age, you had to know how to cultivate. To succeed or even to get by in life, most people had to play a part in growing some kind of produce or livestock.
Success in The Industrial Age involved knowing how to create or sell a product. As factories and industries emerged, numerous products were invented and mass- produced.
In The Informational Age, however, tables have changed significantly. Information itself, long held in the private and controlling grasp of proletariats, has now become the chief commodity. New, better, and faster means of technology have emerged to make information more engaging and accessible. Because of this the essential skill has been communication.
But now, it appears that we are moving into yet another age of history. This time, however, globalism has increased the effect. Much of the world is experiencing this change. We are moving out of one age and into another. Can you sense it?
We now live in a new flatter world. At a time when we are not just connected by technology, we are hyperconnected by social networks. As some have suggested, you could call it The Imaginational Age. This new period is significantly changing the systems by which we live, work, and share information, and in some ways is creating entirely new systems. It will require us to use parts of our brains that perhaps have been otherwise disengaged. It will call for new depths of imagination.
Now before you accuse me of getting all Disney on you with the word "imaginational," hear me out. We now live in an age and environment of such rapid change and opportunity that no one mind and no sole person can effectively and independently navigate the challenges and the opportunities we face. It now takes a team, a collaborative blending of ideas, intuition, and inspirations. Our world, and the opportunities and problems we face, have become increasingly complex. They require teaming efforts, ideas, and strategies as never before. In yesterday's world you could have gotten along by your ability to cultivate, create, or communicate. Many did, but no longer. In order to succeed in The Imaginational Age there is a new essential skill you will need. With it, you and your church will be at a significant advantage. Without it, you will be limited. The new essential is that you will have to know how to collaborate.
The time for teams and teaming in leadership is not coming—it is here. It has arrived. The question is, have you? People in churches, businesses, and other organizations are no longer responding the way they used to toward hierarchical maneuverings and manipulations. They are tired of being pushed; they instead want to be drawn and inspired with the sense that they are a part of something greater than themselves, that they have a share in building the kingdom of God.
The Defined Team
Teams have existed in various forms and manners throughout history. Trey Thoelcke said it well:
People have always worked in collaborative units—either for the camaraderie and social interactions with others, or for the benefits of their diverse points of view, support, and skills. There have always been tasks too great for one person to tackle alone, such as early tribes hunting large animals, or tasks that require people with different skills and talents to compete, such as playing a Mozart symphony, building a space capsule, or constructing a modern house. Teams are a fundamental unit of organizing people to meet new challenges and achieve results.
Here are a few terms we need to define:
team—After considering several alternatives, I developed the following definition for the purposes of this book: a ministry team is a small number of Christ-followers with complementary skills who are committed to common purposes, performance goals, and approaches for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.
teambuilding—This term represents equipping Christians into ministry teams. This incorporates effective collaboration between Christian workers, both paid staff and volunteers, and involves clear communication, empowerment, mutual accountability, trust, and selflessness.
teaming—This term, contained in the title, is both a verb and an adjective. As a verb, teaming describes efforts made to work as a team or team player. For example, a group of volunteers "teaming toward their goal" is endeavoring to do so in an intentional, collaborative manner, as opposed to an independent approach. Additionally, the term is used as an adjective to describe an individual or organization committed to a teambuilding approach. Thus, the "teaming church" is a church focused on accomplishing its mission and work by incorporating people into teams rather than through groups of individuals. Also, the "teaming pastor" or "teaming deacon" is one who is committed to accomplishing ministry in a collaborative, rather than individualistic, manner.
Great Goals Equal Great Teams
You cannot have a great team without a great goal. It is simply impossible. As Christian leaders and pastors we sometimes think that if we simply bring a group of believers together and talk about being a great team, we will automatically become one. It is not so. My recommendation is, don't try it. Merely calling a group your team will not turn it into one. Don't just call your group a team; treat them like a team. Don't just teach about honor; practice it. To become a great team, you must have great love for your team members, but you also must have a great goal and effectively hold that goal over the team, encouraging and challenging them toward it.
The Teaming Church Principle #2: A Deeply Challenging Goal
Great goals are the motivators that draw on our God-given desires and potentials. This is true for individuals, but more so for a team. The goal or the carrot is the motivation of a great team. It is the second teaming essential: to become a great team your group must have a deeply challenging goal, a creatively empowering leader, and a collaborative, biblically honoring community.
Another Fatal Team Error
One mistake that causes a team to wither or simply fall apart is to be underchallenged. A lack of challenge drains the soul of a team. There are perhaps few things more frustrating than being on a team that does not know where it is going, that does not jointly feel the stretch of getting there, that is unaware of what challenges and opportunities it faces, and how well it is doing at reaching its goals.
Someone has said that the church today is over taught and underchallenged. This is certainly not true everywhere, but it is piercingly true in far too many churches and church groups. Christianity as we know it today is too often a series of gatherings of people filled with good words instead of vibrant teams and communities full of good works. Yes, we still need pastors and leaders today who will study their Bibles in depth and bring a Word from the Lord, but we also need leaders and teams who will study their communities and the times in which they live and bring a compelling goal from the throne of God that will call together (and to action) a team of believers.
To review and move ahead, here are the first two teaming errors:
Fatal Teaming Error #1: When a team is undervalued.
Fatal Teaming Error #2: When a team is underchallenged.
One of the most important questions for a teaming leader is: Is my team sufficiently challenged? If they are, then their gifts and capacities are being stretched and utilized. If they are not, then the team is, at least in some ways, probably languishing. Atrophy is setting in. But, exactly what causes a team to feel underchallenged?
A team feels underchallenged when the goals of the team are unclear.
A team feels underchallenged when their team leader fails to tap their best ideas and creativity.
A team feels underchallenged when goals are not measured and reviewed frequently.
A team feels underchallenged when team meetings are long, one-sided, and predictable.
A team feels underchallenged when conflicts and differences are left unresolved.
But, what does it take for team leaders to truly challenge their teams to rise to their full potential? And, perhaps more important, what does it take for the team members to challenge one another toward full performance in attitude and accomplishment?
The Blue Angels
One high-performance team known across the country is the Navy Blue Angels. This team of aviators performs aerial acrobatics with their F/A-18 Hornet aircraft. One of the pilots interviewed about the team's high-risk skill and teamwork was asked the question, "What is your goal when you are up there in the air?" He said, "Our goal is to fly perfectly as one. We don't always get it completely perfect, but we strive to always get as close to actually flying as one unit as we possibly can."
What a great goal for a team: "to get as close to flying as one as possible," and in particular for a church or ministry team (even for married couples, for that matter). It was Jesus who set the tone for the teams that would follow him when he prayed for us to his Heavenly Father: "That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me"(John 17:21 NIV).
Group Turned Team
When your group becomes a true team you will find that they move from one perspective or orientation to an entirely different one. As the compelling challenge of a great goal emerges, people's ideas emerge (and merge) as well as their talents and passions. The culture changes. Something electric occurs. The atmosphere takes on new life. A group turns team and, as it does, the people within it thrive and move:
From me to us
From several to one
From rigid to nimble
From self-will to team-will
From frustrated to focused
From leading to team leading
From empowered to empowering
From controlling to collaborating
From several paths to a common path
From a group of individuals to a team of team players
"Committee" Is a Curse Word
Have you ever seen the popular sign that says, "For God so loved the word that he did not send a committee"? That is cute and funny, but it is also true. Jesus did not come to set up a bureaucracy but to call a team of twelve people around him, to train them, and to send them out as a team to turn the world right side up!
One of the first recommendations I have for a church determined to live and act as a teaming church is: if at all possible, get rid of the word "committee." I know that in some cases this may require a change in the verbiage of your church constitution and in some cases it is not possible, but here's my rationale. Many people have come to view committees in churches, and often in businesses and government, as the surefire way to kill any good idea. Unfortunately, they often see a committee as something you "sit" on instead of "serve" with. So, if your congregation and constitution will support it—change from the word committee to teams or action groups. Or, at least, start to informally refer to the committee as a team. If you cannot officially lose the C word, at least determine that you are going to train your committees how to function like true teams. The church will thank you for it.
In what ways do functional committees and vibrant teams tend to differ? Too often, while:
Committees talk about doing things,
Teams actually get things done;
Committees seek to hear every voice,
Teams seek to become one voice;
Committees share their opinions,
Teams share their lives;
Committees have a chairman,
Teams have a coach-leader-facilitator;
Committees take notes,
Teams measure results;
Committees talk about issues,
Teams strategize for results;
(Just one more. Sorry, I couldn't resist sharing this one.)
The world champion Boston Celtics (sorry if you're not a fan—I am!) have a tradition that they say helped them win another championship a few years ago. When they break (on the count of three) as a team, they shout, "Ubuntu!"
The word Ubuntu hails from Africa and is rich in meaning and significance. Ubuntu is a classical African ethic that, in essence, states and believes: "I am what I am because of who we all are." Or, in other words, my sense of identity is directly connected and related to the community (or team) of which I am a part. Running counter to modern ideas of rugged individualism, Ubuntu challenges the individual to place a deep value on the strength and significance of community.
Desmond Tutu, retired Anglican bishop of Capetown, South Africa, drafted an explanation of Ubuntu in his book:
A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.
Teaming Is a Mind-Set
People who become great team members and leaders possess a teaming mind-set. The teaming mind-set follows the pattern of Philippians 2, which says "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Phil 2:4 ESV). Taking on a teaming mind-set, then, involves obeying the call of Christ to "deny themselves" (Luke 9:23). It requires living life, serving God, working in the church with an attitude that says, "It's not about me!"
Here's an important related statement I posted on Facebook: "There are two kinds of people who walk into a room: those who walk in and say 'Here I am!' and those who walk in and say, 'There YOU are!'"
Excerpted from The Teaming Church by Robert C. Crosby. Copyright © 2012 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Preface: Once Upon a Team-A Story 5
Introduction: The Circles Jesus Drew 11
Part I Draw Your Circle-Creating a Team 19
Once Upon a Team-Scene Two 21
Chapter 1 The Day Your Group Becomes a Team 25
Chapter 2 The Team Tour: Great Teams and Teaming Players 36
A Teaming Leader Interview, Medium-Size Church: Joe Lyons 48
Chapter 3 The DNA of a Winning Team 51
A Teaming Leader Interview, Medium-Size Church: Murphy Matheny 61
Chapter 4 The Carrot: Teaming Motivation 64
Once Upon a Team-Scene Three 73
Part II Teach Your Team to Draw Circles-The Teaming Technique 79
Chapter 5 Turning Groups into Teams 81
Chapter 6 Teaming Leadership 92
A Teaming Leader Interview, Large Church: Jeff Sellers 104
Chapter 7 Essential Skills of Teaming Leaders: Unleashing Team Brilliance 106
Once Upon a Team-Scene Four 119
Part III Circle Thinking-A Teaming Mind-Set 127
Chapter 8 The Divine Team 129
A Teaming Leader Interview, Megachurch: Rod Loy 139
Chapter 9 Teaming Models and Metaphors: The Images That Help Us Draw Better Circles 143
A Teaming Leader Interview, Multi-Campus Church: Craig Groeschel 151
Chapter 10 Creating Circles Where People Can Thrive: A Teaming Culture 155
A Teaming Leader Interview, Veteran: Tommy Barnett 165
Once Upon a Team-Final Scene 171