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You Might Not Have a Team

This week I tweeted the following: “If you’ve never had a good fight in a staff meeting, you may have a staff but you don’t have a team.” The response it received took me by surprise. Apparently the idea of a “good fight” being implicit with team dynamics hit home for many church leaders.

The problem for some senior leaders is thinking they have a team when they only have a staff. So, let me add to my Twitter-thought.

You might not have a team…

  • If your staff won’t tell you the last 10% of what they’re thinking.
  • If you have high turnover. You can’t keep staff on staff.
  • If you constantly hear from them, ‘How do you want us to do _____________?”
  • If you can’t leave for extended periods of time without some mess happening that only you can clean up upon returning.
  • If you won’t resolve to losing some battles to others you work with.
  • If your ideas are the only ones that win out in discussion.
  • If you struggle to think the best of your staff’s intentions.
  • If your fear of seeing others fail is greater than your fear of never giving them the chance in the first place.

If some of these find unfortunate resonance with you, consider whether you have a team or just a staff.

Make no mistake, it is much easier to oversee a staff than a team. With staffs you can be autocratic. You operate under a theocracy, and your name is Theo. You order, they do. They don’t have to love, admire or even like you. They don’t even have to like what they do. They’re employees, not owners. You also don’t have to spend time to get to know them as individuals – their strengths, their passions, their walk with Christ! Heck, you don’t even have to get to know them at all! All you have to do is run the staff.

But teams are harder. They take time. Teams are forged not assembled. They are built over time, over hardships, over tension, over wins AND losses. Their currency is trust, respect and the freedom to fail. Teams are messy. Good leaders know that. Teams disagree with you (because they feel secure in your leadership), they may outvote you (because they know you trust their leadership skills as well), and might even get into a big fight with you (because you both love each other and the mission God has given you). Teams are harder but are infinitely better to oversee. In the end there is no real comparison.

You run a staff. You lead a team.

So what do you have?

Picture of Yancey Arrington
Dr. Yancey C. Arrington is an eighth generation Texan, Acts 29 Network and Houston Church Planting Network fan, and Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in the Bay Area of Houston. He is also author of Preaching That Moves People and TAP: Defeating the Sins That Defeat You, and periodically writes for Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition.

3 thoughts on “You Might Not Have a Team”

  1. Good stuff. This is all very true of leadership, in general. I know this is not the case everywhere, but autocratic leadership is still very alive in the corporate world. If my boss or boss’s boss is 80% “correct”, I am content to let that decision ride. I have little motivation to help him improve that 80%. One of the best bosses I ever worked for typically said things or proposed solutions that were so ridiculously absurd that his subordinates typically felt compelled to give their opinion. Consequently, his initial 40% “correct” proposal often improved to 95% “correct” not just because he listened to his subordinates, but becuase he elicited their response in the first place.

  2. I wonder if ‘leadership’ is the “apple of God’s eye”?
    I know that the order of importance to God is; 1) people having relationship with Him 2) His children making disciples 3) marraige as a covenant between man and woman also reflected in Christ/Church…but if I look at leadership in the God Father/Jesus Son relationship it was somewhat autocratic in nature. Although God as Father spoke and Jesus listened and obeyed, Jesus did love and admire God so in that respect it was a team effort so to speak.

    On another note, YA stated, “Teams are forged not assembled. They are built over time, over hardships, over tension, over wins AND losses. Their currency is trust, respect and the freedom to fail.”

    Now that is awesome! Because it gives a church team the freedom to work together in relationships, (which is truly what God wants), and the good news is, that as a church team, we have the “freedom to fail” and with that failure, we have the grace and motivation to get back up and start again! yay 🙂

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