Team ministries come in many forms and can range from wonderful collegial groups to people who find it difficult to be civil to one another. When Murray and I began our ministry at Spreydon, we had a great team ministry… Murray and me. We worked together, shared our hopes and dreams and prayed together.
As the church and our family grew, the nature of the team changed. I stepped out of the picture and others joined Murray, becoming a formal pastoral team. This was not easy for me as I felt “they” were taking my place. Now Murray talked, dreamed, prayed and planned with another group while I stayed at home looking after preschoolers. By the time Murray came home I was exhausted and he had talked, prayed and dreamed with others!
Over the years as I have watched these teams I have observed some very good teams but others have struggled to work well together. Almost without exception, the individuals have been very good people, wholeheartedly committed to Jesus, committed to the vision and hard working – but that does not always lead to a good team. A good team is more than a group of highly committed Christians.
A dictionary defines a team as: “ A group of people who work together for a particular purpose.” The key words are “work together.” I have observed that a team ministry can break down when instead of working together the work environment becomes competitive.
In a church setting competition can arise in four main areas. The first is money. Churches have finite resources and when members of a team see their area as the most important in the whole church, they then feel entitled to a bigger proportion of the budget. They become convinced about the value and needs of their ministry and find it hard to see the big picture. Instead of asking at a budget meeting, “What is the best use of the money we have for the whole church?” they insist on the rights of their ministry.
Have you ever heard, “Cut my budget this year and give the extra to the Single Mum’s ministry ... or the children’s ministry. They are growing and need more money.”
Another area where problems can arise is in the appointment of leaders and volunteers. All too often there is competition for leaders for children’s ministry, youth ministry, worship ministry, or whatever. Unfortunately a leader with a competitive spirit does not ask the question, “What is the best ministry fit for Mary?” but rather focuses on, “What are the needs of my ministry? Who is doing a good job round here that I can get to fill my gaps?” Often consideration of an individual’s passion and skills and the needs of the whole body is lost.
The use of space can be another area fraught with competition. Church buildings are of necessity multi-purpose and every space is expected to have multiple uses. Who uses what space and when can become quite nasty and territorial.
A fourth area of potential trouble, and an expression of competition, is when one area of a church’s ministry is elevated by those leading it to the detriment of all other areas of the life of the church. This can become very divisive and may cause splits in the body of Christ.
Team members who fail to appreciate they are part of the whole worshipping body and who downplay Sunday, for example, because they are the ones out on the “edge,” do so to their peril. We need each other and, by and large, it is the Sunday worship attendees who pray and give the money that enables the ministries to function.
The result of a competitive spirit, rather than cooperation, is the growth of territorial voices stridently claiming “my rights” along with jealousy and envy, and a lack of trust and respect between team members. At this point a team becomes dysfunctional and far removed from the servant leadership model that Jesus demonstrated.
How can competitiveness be averted? It can only happen when each team member has a genuine interest and appreciation of the whole body of Christ that they are a part of; when team members are interested and seek to serve and encourage others. One simple suggestion is that when team members from different ministries meet, they ask, “How’s it going?” Many problems with relationships in a pastoral team might disappear if each person forgot about his or her own ministry and said, “Let’s have a coffee and please tell me how your year is going.” Then truly listen, be genuinely interested and pray with them. Walk in their shoes for half an hour.