Ministry Team Leadership: Go Deeper

May 30th, 2013

Being a team leader for a ministry is a great privilege. You get to set the stage for people to serve God and others in a meaningful way.

Ministry teams are most often made up of volunteers who have a conviction and commitment to be the hands and feet of Jesus. They have learned that God has gifted them in a certain way, they have seen a need they are passionate to meet, and they have stepped up to serve.

As the team leader, members have been placed under your authority, but more than that, they have been placed in your care. Of course, a strong, cohesive team needs a vision and mission, a strategy and plan, effective alignment of action and tasks, and motivation and passion. But more than that, a strong, effective team needs nurturing, encouragement, and personal spiritual direction. One could assemble a team for the sake of a task only, but the fact is, serving is a spiritual practice: a ministry team that serves sees Jesus work through them, and experiences Him working within them.

As the leader, you are the overseer to both parts of this equation. When you assembled the team, you probably asked the question, “How can this person best serve the team?” You considered their gifting, personality, and passions, and then spent time figuring out how all the members fit together: you planned on how to get the task accomplished. Now its time for the second question, “How can I best serve this person?” As the “shepherd” of the team, it is for you to prayerfully consider what God is doing in the lives of each individual team member. While the team is ministering to others, how will God use you to minister to the team? Taking your team leadership to a deeper level goes beyond the task at hand and requires a more thoughtful, deeper commitment to those you are leading. Here are three ways you can do that:

Commit To Their Spiritual Growth

More important than the “doing” of the volunteer is the “being” of the volunteer. Pray for your team members. Ask God to give you spiritual insight into what they may need for their personal spiritual growth. More than that, talk to them about their faith and how it’s going.

Initiate A Spiritual Check-Up.

Have a routine, sit-down conversation quarterly to see how they are doing in life and in their relationship with God. OR

Implement A Personal Development Plan.

Use a tool that provides a simple assessment of life and faith, revealing current strengths and weaknesses so that a direction can be set based on the needs of the individual. Usually this is done on a semester time line. Both you and the team member have a copy of the goals so that you can provide encouragement, any resources needed, and accountability.

Acknowledge Them As A Whole Person

They have come to your team because they have a certain gift/talent/skill to offer. But this one thing is not the total of who they are. Every person is a unique combination of gifts and talents and passions and personality. Great leaders recognize their team members as multi-dimensional. For example, the members of the worship team are more than musically gifted. Some of them also have the gifts of mercy, hospitality, intercession, etc…. How can those gifts, too, be employed within the team? Or, are there other ministry contributions outside of the team that you could connect them with for further engagement in God’s work?

Provide A Spiritual Gifts Assessment.

When you meet someone, talents and skills often present themselves more tangibly than spiritual gifts. Leading your team through a spiritual gifts assessment to discover more about how God has made them will both strengthen them and the team, and give you the wisdom you need to create more fulfilling opportunities for them in ministry.

Recognize Unique Contributions

Recognizing others affirms and inspires the individual and the team; the spirit of encouragement and enthusiasm is contagious. When the team leader demonstrates that they know their members well and they honor what they do, team appreciation begins to embed itself as a value. Being specific in what we notice about others and speaking this to them from our heart is invaluable.

Give Private Recognition.

A personal thank you note goes a long way. Get some notecards, pre-stamp the envelopes and be ready. Make sure your database is up to date, so when someone comes to mind, you can send an email. However, it works for you, just take the time and do it. Special words from a leader provide inner satisfaction for a job well-done, as well as energy and motivation for whatever is next for that team member.

Plan For Public Recognition.

Host a yearly celebration for your ministry team, including dinner or dessert. It gives the team a chance to get together and "be served" rather than serve. They can socialize and bring their families to hear a short program of stories that tell of the team accomplishments from the year, as well as hear the vision for the future. You could give each team member a gift of some kind. You could give awards: awards might recognize years of service, or those who have gone “above and beyond the call of duty.” For fun, the team may vote for a “blooper of the year” and give an award for that. If someone has exhibited excellent craftsmanship or “most improved” in some way, you may want to honor them. The possibilities are endless. (A note about public recognition. Some would say, "If you can't recognize everyone, then you should not recognize anyone." This is not true. Hopefully you are not given to favoritism and you understand that public recognition needs to be spread amongst the team, meaning, you can't recognize the same people every year! But, the fact is, your team knows there are stand-out people, and to recognize them is fun and inspiring! Apostle Paul recognized the unique and significant contributions of others all the time, while teaching that all the glory went to God. You can do the same.)

Consider this: as a leader, Jesus cared for the person first. The heart of an individual mattered most to Him. If we are to emulate His priority, then discipleship practices need to carry over onto our ministry teams. If you are committed to your team as whole people who are changing and growing in their faith, you will find that a strong, stable “able to do much” ministry team will result.

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