How To Build A Championship Level Ministry Team

Posted by Aaron Buer on January 17, 2019

One of my greatest joys in ministry is being part of a team.

I am a firm believer that a healthy and high functioning team can accomplish exponentially more than even the most talented individuals.

I was reminded of this a couple of weekends ago when my student ministry team led a winter retreat for 1,000 students and volunteers.

It ran like clockwork.

The schedule, logistics, sessions, programming, worship, teaching, busing...I mean everything was solid and I had very little to do with it.

It was our team, a group of dedicated, diversely talented and hard-working people devoted to a singular task.

I love being part of a great team.

I’ve been leading this student ministry team for a few years now, and along the way, I’ve learned quite a bit about leading a great team.

Each of us is likely on some sort of team. In fact, many of us lead teams - staff teams, volunteer teams, student teams, you could even say that a family is a team.

Each team we are part of or lead is a HUGE opportunity for exponential impact, if you can get that team running in the same direction.

So, let’s talk about team.

In this post, I’m going to share my top seven values on team. These values drive who I bring on to the team, how I lead, and how we function as a team.

So, here we go...

1. Focus

Focus is knowing what you are about.

What is the goal of your team? What’s your purpose?

For us, it comes down to grounding students’ identity in Jesus.

At the end of the day, this is the win for us. If we are working toward this goal then we are running in the right direction.

So, what is it that God has called your team to do?

If your team only did one thing, what would that one thing be?

If you want a great team, it’s incredibly important that you are all focused on the same thing.

2. Trust

Here’s the deal: Teams are built on relationships.

Relationships are built on trust.

In my experience, there are two options when it comes to teams...

You can keep your team on a surface level and see normal results.

Or, you can build something special and unique - a championship level team.

I’m talking about the kind of team that produces truly remarkable work.

If you want that kind of team, you must build a high level of trust.

This all starts with focusing on actual relationships.

If you want to learn more about building trust on a team, I recommend this book:

3. Candor

A great team will constantly improve.

Constant improvement requires feedback loops.

In order to grow, we all need to understand where we need to improve.

This requires candor.

Candor is the willingness to speak the truth about what needs improvement, whether that is a process, a system or even an individual’s performance.

Now, this is where most teams fail to reach the next level. We don’t like conflict.

We are a church for crying out loud!

I get it.

However, here’s the challenge: If everyone is focused on the same goal, and if there is enough trust between individuals on the team, candor will not be a problem.


Because the honest feedback is not about the person, it’s about the mission. And if you know that I care about you and if you trust me, then we can talk about whatever needs to be talked about.

It takes hard work and a lot of time to get to the place where candor can be a value but it is so worth it!

4. Humility

There is something else that is required along with candor...humility.

Here’s the thing: If I deflect, redirect or ignore your feedback because of pride or arrogance, then the entire process breaks down.

In order for our teams to become championship level teams - the kind of teams that can accomplish greatness, every person on the team, from the leader down must be humble.

Every single one of us must be willing to hear feedback from any source and simply say,

“Thanks for sharing that. Tell me more.”

Because of this, when I am hiring new people for my team, lack of humility is a deal breaker.

In interviews, I always ask questions like:

    1. ● Tell me about a time you totally dropped the ball. What did you learn from it?


    1. ● Tell me about a time you received tough feedback in ministry. How did you respond?


    ● We all have weaknesses. What are some of yours?

If a person doesn’t have stories here or says what 90% of people in an interview say, “My weakness is that I work too hard.”

Then I’m out.

I’m looking for people who fully embrace the reality that they actually aren’t good at everything and are hungry to grow.

5. Collaboration

My fifth value when it comes to teams is collaboration.

I am a firm believer that what we can accomplish together will always beat what I can accomplish alone.

Now, here’s the thing: collaboration is a cool word and it sounds fun. It’s not.

Collaboration is critical to unlocking greatness in teams but collaboration slows down the process, requires conflict and debate and it requires that leaders invite less experienced and less skilled voices into the process.

The truth is that collaboration is hard but I’m telling you, if it is done right, it ALWAYS leads to a better outcome than solo work.

So, how do you actually collaborate?

First off, don’t even try it until you have spent some time focusing around a singular mission, building trust, candor and humility.

Collaboration requires a solid foundation or things can get sideways in a hurry.

Second, start small.

Invite more voices into specific projects or conversations.

Don’t try to implement total collaboration everywhere overnight. Instead, experiment on the fringes.

Build momentum around specific projects or individuals.

6. Empowerment

A team is made up of individuals.

Each individual contribution is critical to the success of the team.

As a leader, one of the best strategies to pursue is empowering your team members.


Because a team member that believes you are for them and investing in them will often produce far beyond a team member who does not.

How do you grow in this area?

It starts with understanding the people under your care.

What are their needs? What are their aspirations?

A great starting place is this question:

Where do you want to be in 5 years?

And then follow up with this:

How can I help you get there?

I’m telling you, if a team member believes that you are working to help them achieve their aspirations, they’ll do just about anything for you and the team.

If you want to see your team achieve greatness, empower each individual team member by helping them move toward their goals.

If you’re interested in learning more about this concept, read Multipliers by Liz Wiseman

7. Excellence

Alright, my last team value is excellence.

Here’s another way to say this:

“I bet we can do better.”

The winter retreat I mentioned team crushed this event. I’m telling you it was great.

But what’s more important to me is that it was a little bit better than last year’s winter retreat.

And, that year was a little bit better than the year before.

You see, great teams care about excellence. It’s never quite good enough and it can always be a bit better.

This value keeps us from getting comfortable and keeps pushing us forward.

If you’re interested in pursuing this value, there is one practice that I recommend.

Evaluate everything you do shortly after you do it.

We run every event through a feedback tool that we call 4 Helpful Lists.

It’s pretty simple:

    1. 1. What was right?


    1. 2. What was wrong?


    1. 3. What was confusing?


    4. What was missing?

If you spend 30 minutes to an hour with your team answering these questions, it’s pretty easy to create an action list for improvement.

And, if you do this after every significant event or program, it’s not terribly difficult to improve.

The value of excellence drives this process and great teams are always intent on excellence.

Wrap Up

Well, it’s probably obvious that I’m a huge believer in teams.

Part of this is just how I’m wired but another part of it is that I’ve experienced the magic of being part of a great team.

I firmly believe that if our church staffs functioned better as teams, we could accomplish so much more than we are.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this and also your ideas for leading great teams. Leave us a comment below.

Topics: Advice

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