Team Building

Building Teams for 21st Century Ministry

As leaders we must ruthlessly control the number and quality of the meetings in our lives if we are to avoid the numb pastor syndrome.  If our meetings can be transformed into the effective work of teams, we will see God renew, build, and use people in a more helpful and effective way. Let’s look at team building principles from Nehemiah:

  • Nehemiah focused on the need until God worked it into his heart.
  • As Nehemiah sought God, he made plans with a purpose.
  • Teams that Nehemiah recruited and mobilised built the wall.
  • These teams had a sense of vision, purpose and task.

From Committees to Communities to Teams

It is not enough to take existing structures/groups and add relationship dynamics to them. Many churches are structured for maintenance rather than for empowering ministry among God’s people.  We must reexamine our structures so that the new can come into being while preserving the essentials of our faith.

  • The key elements of a team are people, process, purpose and task.  The task is always centred in Jesus Christ and what God wants to accomplish through the church in the world.
  • The task of the team may be focused inside the life of the congregation but the focus should reach beyond the congregation.
  • Pastors are to equip the saints for ministry. Team building is not simply about recruiting people to do the task that needs to be done. Pastors are to encourage people to become teams that don’t simply sit and talk about needs and problems but who get involved in proactive, effective ways.

Four Images of how Churches Function


Each person works with little interaction or input from those outside his or her immediate sphere.  They are task-oriented and departmental. These people work in parallel spaces that only converge at certain intervals in gatherings of relatively autonomous people who have little connection and minimal commitment to common goals. They have little awareness of the dreams, hopes, and efforts of colleagues, a sense of isolation, and a feeling of a lack of support. You often hear, “That’s not my job” or “That’s not your responsibility.”


In medium to large-sized churches, the primary aim is often programs.  Success is defined by numbers. There is often competition to impress the leader and competition for scarce resources.  Meetings they are involved in are fuelled by power and control issues. These teams are limited to coordination that seldom allows for creative energy.


This can be a positive image if a group of people are committed to one another over time and care about and interact with one another in multiple settings and ways. Unfortunately, the church as family can become a dysfunctional model of ministry when people assume they know everything about one another, failing to recognise and develop the gifts of each person. Everybody does everything and almost nothing new or fresh gets done.

A Team in Space:

This team requires a common purpose and mutual accountability to one another. Their work needs to be done with the knowledge that they need one another to do it. They must work in close proximity with one another because there are real consequences for good and bad work. They need constant feedback and fact-driven planning.  Often our church structures are cut off from interaction and processes of feedback.

Stages of Team Building

These stages must be in place before recruiting members and a prayerful process cannot be rushed.


Why am I here?  Left unanswered, members are disoriented, uncertain and fearful.  Once resolved, they have a sense of purpose, personal contribution and acceptance. The atmosphere and dynamics of the first meetings will determine the quality of the interactions and the work that will be accomplished from that point on. Sharing is essential.  Ask people to share their faith stories and how the need at hand became real to them personally.

Trust Building:

Who are you? Can I trust you and rely on you?  If this is left unresolved, the team experiences caution, mistrust and a façade. People won’t tell you what they think and feel until they know you care about what they care about.  They must be respected, treated with dignity, and valued for their opinions. Trust exists when there is mutual regard for one another, forthrightness, and spontaneous interaction.

Goal/Role Clarification:

What are we doing? What do we bring to this? What do we expect? What can we give? Make assumptions explicit.  Have clear goals and identified roles.


How will we do it? Left unanswered, there is dependence, resistance and scapegoating.  Resolved, there is shared vision, allocated resources, and the ability to make decisions.


Who does what, when, where, and with what resources?  When unresolved, there is conflict, confusion, and blaming.  Deadlines are missed and the same discussions occur repeatedly.

High Performance:

When the team reaches the “Wow!” there is excitement, anticipation and satisfaction, and there are results.


Why continue? Left unresolved, the team experiences burnout and boredom. The team continually needs to recognise a new need or a new facet of the existing need as well as provide recognition and reward for what has been accomplished. Teams should come up with new challenges themselves.  It is demoralising to teams to dump problems on them.


Pastors must know which teams they can create and lead themselves, which teams they have inherited and how they will influence them, and which teams they will encourage and equip to function largely independently. Effective teams make a world of difference in a healthy ministry.

Team Building Effectiveness Profile (PDF)

Team Building Storyboard (PDF)

Team Building: Skill Builder Booklet (PDF)

Team Building: Coaching Guide with Storyboard (PDF)

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