Building “Teams that Thrive”

I’m not going to lie to you… I really don’t enjoy reading on organizational leadership. I have a really hard time making my way through them. I would rather read a dense theology book any day. So for most of my career in ministry I have avoided leadership books like the plague – only reading them when I had to (i.e. forced by my leaders at the church I work at).

In my opinion, church leadership books were a necessary evil.

As lately, as me and my team are trying to move our college ministry forward into the future that God has for it, I have come to realize that leadership books aren’t actually a necessary evil. They just are necessary. But they aren’t just necessary – they are actually important.

Teams and ministries that truly thrive, and not just survive, are teams that believe collaborative leadership is important and they put in the hard work to get better as a team.

Teams that Thrive: Five Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership covers it all. It begins by making a case for why we should even read a book about leadership, then they make a case for why the biblical model for leadership is teams not individuals. Then they lead us to evaluate how our team is doing. Then they get to what I believe is the most important part of the book:

5 Disciplines of Teams that Thrive

  • Focus on Purpose
  • Leverage Differences in Team Membership
  • Rely on Inspiration More than Control to Lead
  • Intentionally Structure Your Decision-Making Process
  • Build a Culture of Collaboration

It was the first discipline that really spoke to me the most. To a certain extent I already knew the other four (though they were good reminders). However I have never really thought of how vital it is to be able to articulate in a clear, compelling, challenging, calling oriented, consistently held way what your purpose as a leadership team is. As Bird and Hartwig say:

Without a 5C purpose, a team will never reach its potential or be able to set meaningful performance goals, which transform the broad purpose into specific and measurable performance challenges, focus the team on pursuing results, facilitate decision making and constructive conflict, and drive the development of an approach to get the work done. (105)

Clearly articulating your purpose will help narrow your team’s scope, it creates space for staff and volunteers to contribute at a high level, it compels people to contribute their best, it inspires and energizes the team, it clarifies the team’s unique contribution to the church, and it brings the team together.

As I look at our ministry, I realize that we haven’t clearly articulate our purpose as a leadership team. And now as a result of this book I see how important that actually is. One thing that I loved about this book was that it actually laid out some practical “2 Minute Tips” on how to take steps towards accomplishing these things and cultivating teams that thrive. These “two-minute tips” are invaluable. They really helped to get my creative juices flowing!

Overall – here are my thoughts – if you don’t really like leadership books… stop that right now. You need to at the very least consider how you might strengthen your organizational leadership. For the sake of your church, just do it! A great place to start would be Bird and Hartwig’s Teams that Thrive.


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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