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8 Tips for Building or Rebuilding Your Team in 2021

Are you and your team glad 2020 is finally in your rearview mirror? I've been hearing from many of you that 2020 exhausted your teams, stretched your relationships, battered your souls, and you crossed the finish line of 2020 worn out and discouraged. 2020 has forced many difficult staff changes and transitions due to burnout and job restructuring and has caused exhaustion due to constant innovation and experimentation.

But now that you're staring 2021 in its face, what are you going to do to make it different? Don't you wish that all the angst of 2020 disappeared when the clock struck midnight last night? In order to make 2021 better than 2020, you must make some changes in how you operate as a leadership team, whether your team is made of staff or laity. You can't do the same things you did in 2020 and expect to get different results. Here are 8 tips for building or rebuilding your team in 2021.

1. Worship Together- When was the last time your team truly worshipped without leading worship? Church leaders are often starved for worship, even while providing environments for others to worship.

Consider pulling your team together and asking someone from another church to come and provide a worship experience for your team so they can just relax and enjoy being in the presence of God. You can even partner with another church and take turns doing worship for each other so you can all be built up and renewed! Find a regular rhythm of worshipping together where you don't have to be in charge but can be revived by God's goodness.

Get some creative ideas for building a monthly rhythm of prayer and worship with your team here: "Refresh, Revive, Renew."

2. Share your lives- How well do you know each other? Not just your work selves, but your full selves? Do you provide an authentic place for team members to be themselves and share their frustrations, dreams, and burdens with each other?

We need to be the kind of honest, loving community we hope to see in our congregations because we can't lead others to a place we've never been. Dedicate time together at the beginning of staff meetings, talking about your personal lives and providing a place for people to connect. Have lunch together once a week and make it a point not to talk about work. Your team needs a safe place to show up completely with all their joys and junk so they can bear each other's burdens. (Galatians 6:2).

Find ideas for turning your meetings into connection opportunities here, "Ministry Meeting Starters."

3. Know Each Other- In addition to knowing about each other, your team needs to feel they are known by each other. They need to feel appreciated, not just for what they do, but for who they are.

Spend time together exploring tools like the Ennegram (my favorite Enneagram book here), GiANT's Five Leadership Voices, or Les McKeown's Predictable Success Styles. Learning about each other through these types of tools produces increased self-awareness and deepens your ability to respect and honor each other's voices and points of view. These types of tools provide opportunities for conversations that move a team toward greater trust and improved communication.

4. Invite Debate- Teams often think they are functioning at an optimal level when there is consistent consensus and little debate among the members. They make the mistake of thinking this is the purpose of a well-oiled team. In reality, these teams are often ignoring hard conversations in order to “keep the peace” by sweeping difficulties under the rug and allowing the "elephants in the room" to grow unaddressed.

As a senior leader, if everyone agrees with you all the time it doesn't mean you're that good at your job or you're always right. More than likely it means your team doesn't feel safe to disagree or they don't feel heard. When you don't invite real, honest debate and encourage dissenting opinions, your team's valuable points of view go unheard and you miss out on the real purpose of having a team - to contribute to the conversation and make it better than it would be if you were alone. If you're not experiencing healthy debate, ask yourself why and be willing to address the underlying factors that might be causing your team to be silent.

5. Value Each Role- You've probably heard the overused motto, "There is no 'I' in team." The reason this phrase has been around a while is because it's true.

On a well-functioning team, there is no room for status, position, or privilege. The person who writes the checks is just as valuable to the ministry of your church as the one who preaches. The team member who oversees discipleship is just as important as the one who cleans up after a Sunday morning service. True teams do not have hierarchies of importance and influence. Everyone is valued and everyone is important because without one the others would not be able to fulfill their roles. Everyone on your team is necessary to fulfill the calling God has placed on your church. Every role has value. Every team member is important.

6. Build Teams- A strong team builds strong teams. Teams that don't build more teams are just cliques. Each member on your team should see themselves as team-builders.

Church leaders were not called to do all the work of the church, but to equip others for works of ministry (Ephesians 4:12). Jesus called this process of building teams and engaging people in the mission of the church, "making disciples." (Matthew 28:19) High-functioning team members naturally build more teams as a way to invite others into the mission of the church. As these new team members engage in mission, they learn, grow, and then move on to become leaders who equip new leaders; disciples who train new disciples.

7. Work hard, play hard- There is no doubt the Gospel deserves our best effort. We are sent to make disciples and other’s very lives depend on our willingness to go above and beyond to make the Gospel available to as many as possible. BUT the gospel isn’t just a matter of telling people how to escape eternal separation from God, it’s also showing them how to experience the joy of living in Christ's freedom today!

It’s important for teams to work hard, but also play hard. Play games, be silly, laugh a lot and spread joy. Take days away to have fun - go play putt putt, take an overnight retreat, go bowling, have a picnic in the park, play games. Spend time enjoying what you do and who you get do it with. Let the freedom you have found in Christ overflow in a way that invites others to experience joy.

8. Expect Creativity- If there was anything church leaders learned in 2020, it was the fact that creativity is now a necessity in ministry and church today. Whether you are a "traditional church" or a "modern/contemporary church," there are new realities that must be considered in order to continue to grow and fulfill the mission Jesus gave us to make new disciples. People are looking to encounter God in new ways and the church must think differently about how to do that.

Don't allow your team to settle for what they've always done because it worked in the past or it's easy. Challenge yourselves to innovate and improve. Doing something new isn't discounting the old, it's simply building on the solid foundation of the ministry you've done in the past to reach new people in the present and future. The methods change, the message does not. If you're ready to "Get Out of That Box" and unleash the creativity in your team, click here to learn how!

It's going to take all of us working together to make 2021 a year where church leaders passionately proclaim the Gospel in new ways from the overflow of a rich relationship with God and with others. I look forward to walking beside you this year and sharing in the work that God has already begun.

See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the wilderness

and streams in the wasteland.

- Isaiah 43:19

If your team needs some TLC and you'd like to contact me about facilitating an overnight team retreat or you're looking for coaching as you rebuild your team this year, please reach out and e-mail me at ! I'm here to help you make 2021 a year for rebuilding relationships, and renewing your passion for ministry!

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