Review: The Teaming Church

October 10th, 2012

Successful teaming in a church requires a surprisingly geometric approach, according to pastor, author, and speaker Robert Crosby.

In The Teaming Church: Ministry in the Age of Collaboration, Crosby suggests that Jesus’ way of team-building marked a radical departure from the linear hierarchies and power triangles common in his day. Instead, Jesus drew circles of honor around people, setting them apart for teamwork and community.

Crosby asserts that American society is transitioning out of the information age of the ‘90s and 2000’s. In the business and church world, we have already entered the age of collaboration, in which teamwork skills are the most important assets an individual can possess.

He identifies highly successful teams, including Billy Graham’s evangelistic team and the church builders at Northland and Willow Creek. He brings that together with wisdom gleaned from the business world to argue for the importance of team building.

Applying the methods of Jesus and the wisdom of modern practice, leaders can form teams that are oriented not only to their task, but toward a healthy environment in which team members live and operate. Leaders invite people into circles of honor, where their input is welcome and their service valued. By accepting an invitation into a circle of honor, people are built up as disciples.

Central to his argument is what Crosby calls the “Teaming Church Principle.”  In order to be a team, a group must move toward a compelling goal with the help of a capable leader and a context of community. Each of the four components of the principle—character, carrot, coach, and community—must be tended to in order to avoid common pitfalls and move toward success.

First, a team must have people and practice built around honor. Members must know how to show honor in a way that brings out the very best in other members. The way in which a team operates should model honor for those who may not be as familiar with the practices of the team.

A team without a clear and compelling goal is doomed to failure, however. Teams and teaming leaders must be able to agree and focus on their objectives so that they can track progress and stay on task. Churches must avoid underchallenging their teams, since the challenge (or “carrot,” as Crosby calls it) is crucial for a team to operate effectively.

Not surprisingly, the teaming approach requires a specific set of leadership skills. Team leaders must be capable of drawing circles of honor around team members, then fostering an environment of trust, problem-solving, and accountability. This environment allows the community to develop for the accomplishment of its goals and the growth of its members.

Although he draws most of his examples from highly visible and successful people such as Peter Drucker and Craig Groeschel, Crosby believes that his principles can be applied to any sized team in any sized church. His interviews with team leaders from mid-sized, large, and mega-churches model his insistence that collective wisdom is stronger than individual insight, and that the goals of a team supersede the egos of its members.

Like most good books on leadership, The Teaming Church is clear and focused, if occasionally repetitive. Crosby’s writing is easy to read, and the strength of his principles make it a valuable book for church leaders who want to move their congregations out of the immobility and frustration of committee maintenance. Perhaps best of all, Crosby presents a model of leadership that improves functioning while still accomplishing the primary task of Christian community: the formation and growth of disciples.


Read an excerpt from The Teaming Church on Ministry Matters.

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