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A worship pastor's tips to building and managing a team

Anna Hellebronth is Worship Pastor at Gas Street, Birmingham.  

Teams and team dynamics fascinate me. A bad team can be destructive, but a good team is a force to be reckoned with.

The way you go about building and structuring a team will be foundational in developing culture in your church. Each encounter with a team member is an opportunity to teach and encourage; it is a powerful and effective way to disciple people.

Here are a couple of thoughts I’ve had about the nuts and bolts of building a productive team. I’m very much learning as I go and most of this content is pulled from other brilliant authors and thinkers. Here are just a few of the must-read books on this topic –

·       The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni,

·       Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey,

·       The Undefended Leader Simon P Walker (stunning!!)

1.     set others up for success

As a worship pastor, my first thought when establishing a team is, how can I do myself out of a job as quickly as possible? In other words, who else is there to join forces with me to do the job I need to do? Delegation is key.

The ultimate goal of leading a team is to enable people to have responsibility.

If we look at Jesus, He spent all of His time giving everything He had away; His knowledge, His power, His day-to-day life. He loved people into realising who they were and helped them take ownership of that, consistently taking the flack to see others free. In the end, He gave Himself completely as the perfect sacrifice, and made a way (the only way) for us to spend eternity with Him.

He was not insecure about who he was or what His role was in life. He knew exactly who He was and what He was here to do – surrendered, secure.

On a day-to-day level, I am always thinking; how do I get the best of each person I meet. How do I fully release those around me and on my team into who they were made to be? I know the Spirit really enjoys this too and partners with us.

In the corporate world, it is called management. This word can sound unexciting and rather dry, but ultimately, a good manager, operating in the power of the Spirit, is dynamite and can have huge influence beyond themselves and beyond their own capacity.

And, the good news is, it’s something you can learn.

 

2.     there is no such thing as ‘team management’

 

You can set team values and a strong sense of your team ethos to which you hold each person accountable but you must also remember that everyone is an individual with specific needs. Sir Alex Ferguson, in his book ‘Leading’, talks about the various approaches he had to different players on his team. To some he would give strict boundaries, goals and harsh discipline. To others, he recognized a need for a father figure, someone to come alongside them and encourage them.  It may seem unfair but he discerned that no two people could be treated the same. If you are a parent, you’ll know all about this.

We have to take this approach with team members we work with – knowing that how one person responds, is not always going to be how the next person responds, and that’s ok! That’s the fun part and where you rely on the Holy Spirit to guide each conversation – particularly the difficult ones. But one thing I have learned – difficult conversations always go better when you assume the best. Using language like “I was confused when…” rather than “that was the wrong thing to say/do…”

On a basic level, it’s important to note that some people are affection-led and others are direction-led. (taken from Neil Young’s CCV Church NI.)

There are people who come alive when talking about issues of the heart– family, friends, perceptions, feelings and ideas. When these people are listened to authentically, other things fall into place – they are affection-led.

There are others that, if you discuss these topics, they get bored very quickly. Instead, they want to talk about vision, strategy, the tasks they need to complete – and this draws the best out of them – they are direction-led.

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This is not to box people, but sometimes we are in danger of leading the way we like to be led, and it’s important to acknowledge that that doesn’t work for everyone.

3.     know what each of your volunteers can bring

When building a team of volunteers, it’s good to remember that the majority of your team, say 80%, will be essentially compliant – people who want to do what you tell them, who are keen to serve and are good at taking direction. This is brilliant and makes for a unified, servant-hearted culture. But it’s worth being prepared that 20% of your team will do an extra layer of thinking for themselves. They will have their own thoughts on how to improve; they may come across as frustrated at times or even rebellious. Whilst sometimes this is a sign of immaturity (and is perhaps a chance for discipleship), often these are the people you need to get close to – people who think differently to you!  Give these people time, listen to them, consider their ideas, challenge them, work out your differences respectfully until you can get on the same page or at least agree to disagree. They will be your culture carriers and influencers. They will challenge the reason you do certain things, which will force you to consider your convictions and, as long as they are mature enough to listen and dialogue, they could be your best players.

4.     invest in the key players within your team

One of the things I learned through reading ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team’ was that with a worship team of 65+ people, it is a large number to operate as a fully functioning team. A really healthy team is a place where trust is strong – where you can debate, brainstorm ideas, create an environment that refines thinking and takes things forward. What I realised is that this requires a degree of intimacy and so I needed to create a ‘team within the team’, that is made up of people who are the think-for-themselves types. They are people I have invested more heavily in – they have become culture carriers and influencers. We meet twice a term to discuss direction, air questions and frustrations. We also try to keep accountable to results. This creates the heartbeat within the team.

Regardless of your set up, creating a space for people to be honest and give feedback is vital in any team. It also creates a tremendous sense of trust and ultimately gets the best results.

I am so thankful for the advice I was given early on in building a team and it has been worth all the many challenges. I can honestly say, that being the worship pastor at Gas Street for the last two and a half years since we planted the church and building the worship team has been the best season of my life – exhilarating, exhausting, hard work – but totally life-giving!

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Anna Hellebronth
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