A yellow flower grows out of a crack in a wall.
Mitchell Luo / Unsplash

It’s tempting to start a new idea thinking about the outcome. Leaders often see the results clearly in their mind. But the inherent risk in that thinking is that even though a vision of change might be a great source of inspiration, it can also be a stumbling block to success. Instead of charging out front and hoping others will join you, start with asking several crucial questions:

  • Who do you need on your team?
  • Who can challenge your assumptions or teach you what you need to know?
  • Who has influence that you do not possess?

Building teams is an indispensable skill for leaders, and this is especially true in congregational settings. Churches with strong individual leaders who are lacking in reliable teams might thrive in the short-term, but they won’t sustain their momentum long term.

When you read through Acts, it is obvious how little the people in the early church accomplished alone and how much the early leaders worked in teams. After a dispute about the daily food distribution (Acts 6), the apostles selected a seven-member team to oversee operations. When Peter and John were in prison (Acts 12), a team of disciples met at Mary’s house to pray for them. And as Paul crisscrossed the ancient world, he constantly relied on teams of people to fulfill his calling: Priscilla and Aquila, Silas and Timothy, and the unnamed elders of the Ephesian church (Acts 20:17).

Church vision can live or die on the strength of the leadership team. Leadership scholars distinguish between “teams” and “groups.” A group is a “collection of individuals” who share information to enhance individual success, but in a team, members develop a “degree of mutual interdependence” and adjust their actions based on the needs of the team. You can convene a group with a single email invitation. To build a team, you need to invest time to develop trust. How will you nurture teams to lead the congregation into its next season of ministry?

Resources

What happens when teams fight burnout together

By Tony Schwartz, Rene Polizzi, Kelly Gruber and Emily Pines


Before you go…

Perhaps you’ve heard of the “great man” theory of leadership, which says that the person at the top can achieve success on their own. The truth is that the real potential of your leadership may rely on the quality of the teams you build.

The task before Christian leaders today is complex and stressful. No one person possesses the full complement of gifts necessary to guide a congregation through the demands of the present moment. In the same way that Solomon prayed to God for wisdom to lead, we must ask for divine wisdom to nurture and sustain innovative and healthy teams. An African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”

You can always reach me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading…together.

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity

More on this topic

Being in and for your neighborhood

As congregations de...

Why you should ask an expert

As congregational leaders...