Book Review: The Power of Team Leadership

ABSTRACT

God did not create us to do life alone.  In his book, The Power of Team Leadership, George Barna lays out many of the benefits of working as a part of a team.  All throughout the Bible, there are many stories of God moving in a community or a fellowship of believers.  Pastors and leaders can avoid the pitfalls that are lurking for those that adopt a lone ranger leadership style.

George Barna is well known for surveys and statistics.  He spent the first part of the book identifying the problem that many churches face when the staff and the pastor attempt to go it alone.  The middle section of the book talks about all of the benefits of working as a team.  The final section of The Power of Team Leadership focuses on implementation of teams and shares some land mines to avoid in the process.

Many great ministry leaders burn out because they are hired based on their strengths, but often required to serve as leaders in areas that they are weak.  Barna asks if we are setting up pastors for failure by sticking to this solo leadership model rather than recognizing the talents and abilities sitting right there in the pew in front of the pastor week after week.  Even the most dynamic leaders have areas that they are weak in.  Our society is known for encouraging people to just suck it up and figure it out.

Barna points out, “A major advantage of being led by a team is that the results almost always transcend what any individual from that team could have produced without the assistance of the other leaders involved in that team. ”  No matter how charismatic or skilled your leader is, there will always be areas of their ministry that could be stronger.  That is where a leader must be willing to ask for help.

Many leaders feel like it is admitting defeat to ask someone to serve alongside them in order to carry out the vision of the church.  Barna was quick to point out the teams that allowed Moses, Nehemiah, Joshua, and others to be remembered as great leaders.

The middle of the book focuses on vision and the importance of focusing on the task at hand.  There are also some specifics about how teams should be made up and the different aptitudes of a leader.  It is important to realize that a poorly organized team can often be worse than no team at all.   It takes a good combination of talents and abilities in order to execute the vision of the organization.  Simply getting along is not a good enough standard for team building.

Barna points out three qualifications he looks for in building a team.  He said that you must look for people “who have been called by God to lead, who have godly character, and who possess the competencies to help people fulfill God’s vision for the group.  “  If any of those areas are missing, that person will not be able to help the team accomplish their goals.

The rest of the book is spent explaining the benefits of team leadership and things to consider when implementing teams in your ministry.  Barna doesn’t claim that the transformation to team leadership is an easy one, but he does prove that it is a necessary change to fulfill the vision of the ministry.

CONCRETE RESPONSE

This book did a great job unpacking all of the benefits of working as a part of a team.  I have grown up playing a variety of sports and have always enjoyed being a part of a team atmosphere.  I have all of the t-shirts that say, “There is no ‘I’ in Team” and “TEAM means Together Everyone Achieves More”.  Barna did a great job detailing all of the benefits of teamwork, but I am not sure that I heard anything new or revolutionary.

In my work as a Christian school administrator, it has been exciting to see how we have been able to integrate teams into our planning over the last few years.  Our school is accredited by a variety of associations and we have certain things that we must do to renew our accreditation each year.  One of these governing bodies puts out a list of standards and rubrics that schools will be graded on.  In order to be fully accredited, you must be compliant in every standard that applies to your particular school.

At our school, we have decided that rather than just being compliant, we would rather exceed compliance in each area.  We have a nine-member board of directors and a twelve-member administrative council.  We could take these groups and charge them with the task of assessing each area and putting a plan together to help our school reach excellence in each area.

However, we would be pretty foolish to think that those twenty-one people could express all the great ideas in the school.  Instead, we have decided to tap into the one hundred and twenty-five staff members we have and organize them into teams to accomplish this task. We have sixteen teams that will be focusing on areas such as governance, philosophy, crisis management, spiritual development, safety and school health, and personnel.

Administrative council members lead some of the school improvement teams and other staff members lead some.  There is a nice mix of people on each team.  Some of them are heavily involved in that particular area and some of them are completely new to the area they are working in.  We are only about seven weeks into our school improvement teams, but so far the process has been very interesting.  We have grown a lot more already than we every would have if we had just relied on those twenty-one people we started with.

REFLECTION

As an athlete, a coach, a youth minister, and now an administrator, I have been to tons of conferences and seminars on team building.  It seems that each month someone comes out with a new way of doing teams or a revolutionary way to achieve your desired results.  One of the major pitfalls I see for most organizations is a failure to follow through with the team approach.

Barna talked about the fact that many churches will head towards building teams only to get frustrated and revert back to the old style of solo leadership.  That does more damage than anything because you have convinced people that their input matters and then shut the door on them just when the team starts to gel.

I think the biggest pitfall for team-based ministry is the amount of noise out there right now focusing on teams.  Is it better to listen to George Barna, John Maxwell, Patrick Lencioni, or Seth Godin?  Should your team leader be equal to the rest of the team in the organizational chart or should they be in a higher authority role?

I appreciate the fact that Barna did address one of the largest landmines in team-based ministry.  A lot of organizations tend to find that one charismatic leader that everyone loves and run them into the group.  They are asked to be on multiple teams because people feel that they have so much to offer.  Barna encourages the church to only let people serve on one team at a time.  Otherwise, their passion will be divided and they won’t be very effective for any team.

Barna discussed the process of disbanding a team once their mission had been accomplished.  I would have like to have seem him spend some time talking about what to do in the case that a team just never worked.  Occasionally a team is not able to come together to carry out the vision it has been charged with.  One of the major downfalls in a lot of organizations is not knowing when to pull the plug on an ineffective team.

ACTION

The Power of Team Leadership was a great reminder for me of the benefits of working as a part of a team.  I was also reminded of some areas that I currently lead that would be better served by developing a team approach.

I am responsible for Student Life at our school. The Student Life Program is designed to connect students and to create environments for them to build relationships and grow in Christ. Our desire is to give our students an opportunity to develop a Biblical worldview. We do that through a variety of academic, athletic, arts programs. Our Student Life program comes alongside our students to encourage and equip them in their walk with Christ.

One of the major ministries that falls in this area is chapel.  We have chapel each week on Wednesday mornings for our middle and upper school students.  They chapels meet separately for about an hour each.  Throughout the year a variety of people participate in our chapel by leading worship, speaking, and otherwise helping communicate God’s truth to our students.  I get informal input throughout the year from our teachers, students, and families.  Occasionally a group of us will sit down to develop a particular chapel series or event.

I realize that it would be more effective to have a chapel team that met regularly throughout the year.  This group should be made up of six to eight people including both teachers and students.  If the group met once a month, we could spend half of our meeting fine-tuning the chapels that are coming in the next couple of weeks and the other half doing some long-range planning and dreaming.  This strategy would afford us the best opportunity to reach those that are far from God for His glory so that they could experience new life in Christ.  It would also allow us to have a more effective discipleship strategy for those students that are already Christ-followers.

In response to reading The Power of Team Leadership, I will take time to pray about who God would lead me to invite to participate in this chapel leadership team.  When we return from spring break in two weeks, I will organize a meeting of this team so that we can work together to make sure our last five chapels of this school year are the best that they can possibly be!

It is exciting to see how God is working in the lives of people around us.  I believe that God desires for us to harness the power of community and use our combined efforts to reach people for His glory.  God created us to live in community and to serve others in such a way that they too would be attracted to having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

1 Comment

  1. I enjoyed reading this review and it provided good insight. Have a great spring break!

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