How to Build a Team

If you are a leader, one of the most important things you will ever do will have to do with the team you build around yourself. It doesn’t matter if you are paid, volunteer, if you work at a church or in a for-profit, your team will determine the success you will have.

The question then becomes, how do you build a team that not only works well with you, that you will work well with, but will also help you accomplish the goals you have as a leader?

Before getting to those things, let me tell you two truths you have to know up front about being on a team:

  1. Being on a team can be and will be one of the most rewarding aspects of ministry and life.
  2. Being on a team can be and will be one of the most painful aspects of ministry and life.

My hope for you is that you will experience the truth of number one. Here’s how:

1. Know yourself first. I’m amazed at how few leaders and pastors are self aware. Most don’t know the gift mix, personality type and how that affects their leadership. One of the most surprising things many leaders do when they build a team is simply filling roles without any thought to who they are as a leader. Are you organized? Creative? Black and White? Extrovert? Introvert? This is basic stuff but if you miss this, you will build the wrong team, you will build a team you don’t need.

2. Build around your strengths and weaknesses. This goes with the first one and if you don’t build around your strengths and weaknesses, but simply fill roles as many pastors do (with volunteers, elders and staff), you will build a great team for someone else. Any time you hire someone, bring on a volunteer, you should ask, “What does my team need?” Recently, the church I lead hired two new staff members that would be on my leadership team. One of the things I set out from the beginning was, they both had to be highly relational. We needed to find someone who was extremely organized and strategic. Why? While we are organized as a church, we don’t have someone whose primary gifts is in that area. Thankfully, we found all that our leadership team needed and roles we had to fill.

3. Have a clear vision and win (and make sure everyone agrees). This is where teams get off track, when they start building their own empires or reaching for personal goals or visions. Many times, the win for a team or organization is unclear, when that happens, people do and spend their time on what they think they should. You start pulling on the rope in different directions.

4. Be willing for things to not get done. This is crucial to building a team and incredibly difficult. To build the right team, you may need some patience as you wait for those people to come and that means some things might not get done. Now, if they are mission critical, keep the lights on kind of thing, they need to get done. But maybe you don’t attempt something or have music the way you want or kids ministry isn’t as robust as you’d like. It is better to wait for the right person than put the wrong person in charge that you’ll have to remove.

5. Have clear rules for how the team operates. Every team has rules for engagement and how they operate. Many of them are unsaid or simply made up, but have clarity on those rules. I ask each person on my team to agree to three things, three promises I make to them and promises I ask them to make to me and the other members of the team:

  1. Always make everyone on the team look good.
  2. Never surprise anyone on the team.
  3. Always have each other’s backs.

If things are agreed upon at the beginning, it creates accountability and keeps a lot of hurt and frustration from happening. Which leads to the last one…

6. Be accountable. You must have a plan for how you will hold your team accountable. Recently, we began implementing an annual plan. This not only helps me know the vision and goals of everyone on my team, it creates accountability from me, but also with the entire team. Each month, we will go over our plans, see where we are and how things are going.

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