Building effective teams

Committee 1 gathers monthly – more or less – to maintain one of the church’s ministries. It has a dedicated core group, plus some other participants that drift in and out. The meetings tend to be needlessly long and rehash a lot of the same issues each time. Action items are unevenly distributed, and implementation is hit-or-miss.

Committee 2 gathers monthly to carry out one of the church’s ministries. The members are clear on their task and have spent time agreeing on how to accomplish it. Before beginning their work each time, they revisit the covenant they created that guides how they interact with one another. Sometimes there are differences of opinion during discussion times, but each committee member makes an effort to understand where others are coming from. At the end of each meeting, the chair ensures everyone is on the same page about the action items, point people, and timelines they’ve agreed on.

What’s the difference between the two committees? Committee 1 is a group, a loose collection of individuals who share an orbital pattern. Committee 2, by contrast, is a team. In teams the members share a purpose, a grasp on the process for accomplishing it, and responsibility for seeing it through. Someone has taken up the mantle of leadership (which may be passed among the members) and someone has given this group the authority to move on their plans. There is a cohesiveness among the members that allows them to build on one another’s strengths and hold each other accountable.

There’s nothing wrong with being a group, if that’s what the situation calls for. The people gathered for a class or training, for example, co-exist well as a group. They’re all there for the learning, but there’s no project to require interdependence. However, church leadership teams will be much more effective if they embrace a team identity with all it entails.

To start making the move from being a collection of individuals to a true team, build mutual understanding by discussing together these four questions:

What is our shared purpose?

What is our process for living toward that purpose?

Who will be responsible for which pieces of the process?

How will we know we can trust one another throughout the process?

These aren’t the only considerations for team-building, but they’re a good start.

What groups in your purview need to evolve into teams – or be disbanded and re-formed as teams from the start?

Creative Commons image “Clever Cupcakes” by Our World, Our Home Cupcakes is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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