5 Time-Tested Tips for Building a Powerful Sense of Team in Your Ministry
Right now you may not have what you would call a “dream team” (or maybe you do!) but in my experience, every leader has what I would call a team dream. Leaders long for the people they recruit to play key positions on their ministry teams to share in the passion, purpose and plan for reaching and teaching kids for their good and for God’s glory. Simply getting people to serve does not guarantee that they will see themselves as members of a team, or feel any sense of belonging or ownership of the ministry. Those things do not happen by accident. As leaders, we need to be intentional about building a sense of ‘team culture’ for our leaders to plug into.
Here are 5 time-tested tips for building a powerful sense of team for your ministry’s leaders.
- Clothing – Teams wear the same uniform. This is true of 4-year-old T-ballers and NFL players. The uniform both identifies and unites the players. If your church is a T-shirt-friendly church, I highly recommend printing custom shirts for your kids team to wear every time they serve. This identifies your leaders for kids and their parents. If anyone has a question to ask, they can look for someone wearing the yellow (or blue, or red, or green) leader shirt. The shirt lets others know who is officially on the team.
It also unites your leaders as members of the team. That simple shirt gives your leaders status and value and a sense of belonging (more on this later). Just wearing the shirt places importance on the wearer.
If your church is more inclined to formal dress, you can bestow a similar sense of identity and unity by creating a wide and colorful lanyard that your leaders can wear around their necks. The goal is to provide your serving team members with a distinct wearable uniform piece that is unique to your team.
2. Coaching – Members of sports teams don’t just show up on game day without preparation. They have a coach who helps them practice, plan and prepare. As ministry leaders, we do well to think of ourselves as coaches to our volunteers.
Coaching is different from managing. It implies awareness and attention and the offering of insight and encouragement to improve each player’s performance. While all players on the team have the same coach, the coach may lead each player differently depending on their personal talents, needs and potential.
As ministry leaders we need to stay in close communication with our team members. They need to know that we are on their side, and that we are available to help them succeed.
- Huddles – Football teams huddle before every play. They circle up, link arms, look each other in the eye, and talk about their game plan for that moment. Huddles are a great tool for you in leading your ministry team. Huddles don’t last long, but they are extremely important for getting everyone on the same page, and for executing a winning strategy.
Make a habit of circling your leaders at the start of each ministry hour for a brief stand-up meeting where you can link arms, look each other in the eye and remind everyone of the importance of what’s about to happen. You might use this time to reinforce the big takeaway of the day’s lesson that you’d like every child to understand, and lead a brief prayer asking for God’s blessing on the day.
I like to end huddles by having everyone put their hands in the middle and doing a quick, “1-2-3 Go team!” sort of cheer. It is amazing how building a cultural expectation of huddling before ministering, even if that huddle time is very brief, can transform your leaders into a team.
- High Fives – When any player on a sports team scores, the whole team celebrates with high fives. We would do well to borrow this practice too. All too often our victories happen in isolation and we fail to celebrate victories with the larger team. For instance, when a child in the 3rd grade group makes a decision to trust Jesus, or a 5th grader decides she would like to be baptized, the whole team has reason to whoop it up, even those who happen to serve in the 2nd grade area.
Volunteers need to know that there are spiritual points on the board as a result of their efforts. When volunteers know that the ministry that they serve in makes a difference and generates Kingdom results, they rightly feel that what they do really does matter, and they will be more inclined to stick with the team for a longer duration of service than disconnected leaders who do not share in the ministry’s victories.
The point isn’t to elevate the volunteer who leads the child to Christ or the person who has that pivotal baptism conversation, but rather to celebrate every victory together in a way that directs glory to God and brings praise to His name for what He is doing in the hearts of children in your church.
- Belonging – The ultimate goal is to create a compelling culture of belonging for everyone who serves on your team. Your leaders need to know that they are not ‘on their own,’ but that each one plays a key position that makes the whole team better.
I don’t know if anyone has ever done this, but I love the idea that perhaps when a new volunteer joins the team there might be a moment of whole-team celebration wherein the new member is ceremonially given their team shirt or lanyard and welcomed by the bigger team.
As leaders, we need to intentionally connect our leaders to one another so that they have something to belong to. They need to understand that every person is important; everyone contributes to the ministry and shares in each victory. They need to know that they are valued and honored and appreciated. Ultimately, my hope is that every person who serves feels a sense of ownership of the ministry and identity with the team.
Chuck Peters is Director of Lifeway Kids. Before his role at Lifeway, Chuck had a prolific career in television and video production. He is a 3-time Emmy Award Winning producer, director, writer and on-screen talent. A graduate of Columbia Bible College, Chuck, and his wife, Cris, have served in Student and Children’s Ministry for many years.