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God likes teams. Moses teamed up with Aaron. Ruth and Naomi committed to sticking together. Jesus called 12 disciples. 1 Corinthians tells us that the church is the body of Christ — many members make up one body.

Teams play an essential role in the way churches faithfully carry out their mission. On Sundays, typically one person delivers the sermon, but it takes a team to bring the preached word to life. Knowing how to cultivate healthy teams is an important leadership skill that can influence whether our best effort succeeds or stalls.

Leaders who seek to develop stronger teams should first know the challenges that stand in the way. Although a group of people may work on the same tasks, various factors can inhibit the formation of a team culture: poor communication, unclear goals, trust issues, inadequate transparency. Church leaders must be intentional and consistent in their efforts to transform the culture.

Churches need teams for everything from children’s ministry to financial oversight. Strong teams are marked by a sense of shared purpose, collaboration and a willingness to serve others. Even small teams, comprised of two or three people, usually work better in the long run than relying on just one person to fill a specific role for an indefinite length of time.

To cultivate strong teams, do more than just invite a group of people in the same room. The practices that build stronger teams start with the way the leader operates with the entire congregation. Preach about the church’s shared purpose. Model collaboration in your pastoral leadership. Demonstrate a willingness to serve. Healthy teams don’t make themselves; they require regular attention, constant prayer and intentional effort. The work can be hard, but the rewards are worth it.

Resources

elephant in meeting room

Learning to speak more honestly in meetings

What would you say for a PayDay bar? A lighthearted exercise using peanut-encrusted candy as a reward is remarkably effective in helping people speak more honestly in public, writes a human resources specialist.

By Claire O. Bowen

Hands holding growing seedling

Three must haves for a growing ministry team

Whether you’re a part of a multisite team or a small church with a growing volunteer team, these are three must haves for your team to grow in a healthy and sustainable way.

By Jeff Cochran

gears labeled with disciplines of thriving teams

Five disciplines of teams that thrive

“Studying more than 2,500 church leadership teams over two years, we discovered several distinctive features of thriving leadership teams.”

By Ryan Hartwig and Warren Bird

Four people leaning over a table to work on a project

Working better by working together

Leadership based on collaboration benefits everyone involved. And the work improves, too.

By Alaina Kleinbeck


Before you go…

The adage “if you want something done right, do it yourself” doesn’t work well in congregational leadership. Although you might get the task done faster by yourself, the benefits of strong teams outweigh the expediency of individual success. As you prioritize your leadership tasks for the upcoming weeks, I encourage you to put strengthening teams near the top of the list. What can you do to increase clarity about a shared goal? How can you improve communication? The seeds you sow today to cultivate healthier teams will bring forth a bountiful harvest in the future. The question is whether you want to go fast or go far.

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

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity

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