Ministry teams offer opportunities for your congregants to use their gifts in sacred service. The challenge is to create effective, inspired, dedicated, functioning teams where all team members are living Unity Truth principles as they produce successful outcomes which contribute to your thriving spiritual community! Luckily, there are some proven strategies that contribute to making that happen. Here are some steps to help you and your board in the process:
1 Create the right ministry teams that support the vision/mission of your spiritual community.
Of course, this assumes you have created your vision and mission, and everyone understands and supports it. While this next statement may sound harsh, it is really important! Ministry teams exist to support the vision/mission, not to fulfill the wants and needs of individual congregants. The work of the teams will definitely support the spiritual wants and needs of the ministry as a whole when they are in alignment with the vision and mission. So with every discernment about team creation, the question is: how will this team support our vision and mission? If you can’t answer that question, then you probably don’t need the team!
2 Create a “charge” for each of your ministry teams.
A “charge” is a written overview of the expectations for the team. Ideally, it should include the following elements:
- Team Membership: This section identifies team members (if known), including board liaisons, with contact information.
- Accountability: This section defines clearly to whom the team reports, including their budget and decision-making authority.
- Responsibilities: This outlines the expectations, which should clearly articulate the duties/anticipated outcomes/boundaries of the team.
- Success Vision: This section should be discussed with the team, to create a shared vision of success. Warning: If there is already a very clear picture of what this team is expected to do, include it here so everyone has a clear understanding of it.
3 Schedule a team-building session to set up the team for success.
While the length and content of the team-building session will vary depending on the complexity of the team and the range of expectations, we highly recommend every ministry team spend time coming together to gel as a team, and to collaboratively discuss the following four questions that will truly jumpstart their work together:
Fundamental Question #1: What is our purpose? This includes clarifying why this specific group of people has come together as a team, and what deliverables or outcomes it will produce. Prerequisite in answering this question is that the team has a shared vision of its purpose, which has been articulated clearly. This can come from the previously mentioned “charge,” but should still be discussed. Never assume that any team member automatically knows the purpose for the team.
Here’s an example of how easily this misunderstanding can occur: We know of a Hospitality Team where the team members got into a disagreement about their role that almost split the church! One person on the team felt the Hospitality Team should handle meals and other needs when there were illnesses and deaths in the congregation; another member was vehemently opposed to this, feeling their role only encompassed Sunday morning snacks after the service. Another member chimed in with the idea of sending birthday cards to every member in the congregation. All these ideas have merit; however, it would have been extremely helpful if the team had clearly understood the extent of their role from the beginning so the team members could clarify their purpose within the expected boundaries. It would have saved lots of hurt feelings, redirected an incredible amount of energy, and probably saved a few members who ended up leaving over the disagreements.
Fundamental Question #2: How will we operate as a team? Here the team members determine the Meeting Covenants for working on this team, including how we behave together, handle disagreements, reach consensus, communicate, hold each other accountable, and determine leadership. The sidebar provides an example of a Meeting Covenant; however, we recommend that each team create their own. The discussion to create it is every bit as valuable as the actual covenant that evolves.
Fundamental Question #3: What are our roles and expectations? This discussion opens the opportunity for team members to identify the unique gifts each brings to the team and what specific roles are needed to achieve results, and gives time to clarify their preferred styles of working with others.
Fundamental Question #4: What will success look like? Here the team shares how they will know success has been achieved. They decide how to measure their outcomes and, most importantly, agree on how to celebrate success. This question is critical, because it allows teams to stay focused, and also to be clear when their work is done.
4 Get out of the way and let the teams do what is theirs to do.
Once you have laid a strong foundation, you and the board get to step back and allow the teams to operate. This does not mean that you leave the teams totally on their own; it means you provide guidance where necessary. You periodically meet with the team to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s happening. The board liaison reports on the progress of the team at board meetings, and feeds back information to the team. And of course, you focus on Step 5.
5 Celebrate and Honor Team Success.
Look for every opportunity to recognize teams for the work they are doing. The best form of recognition is personal, specific, and focused … which means you need to stay in touch with what is happening on the teams and you need to understand how team members prefer to be appreciated.
When ministry teams are working at their best, both your spiritual community and the individuals on the teams benefit. We believe that when people understand what is expected, and believe they are valued as legitimate team members, they will drive themselves to unbelievable excellence. Enjoy building phenomenal ministry teams!
Sample Meeting Covenant
We agree to:
- “Pray in” and uphold the spiritual principles of Unity throughout our meetings;
- Honor the agenda;
- Treat each other with dignity and respect;
- Participate fully, leaving personal phones and other unnecessary technology outside the meeting;
- Communicate clearly and honestly—listen with the intent to understand;
- Put over-hashed issues to rest;
- Have fun;
- Honor agreements, commitments, responsibilities, and accountabilities;
- “Pray out” and model Unity principles as a time-honored best practice.