How to Build a Magnetic and Effective Ministry Team

How to Build a Magnetic and Effective Ministry Team

Aaron Buer

Digital giving apps and tools

There is an image that I keep in the forefront of my mind.

It’s what I hope for, almost more than anything.

It’s this outdoor dinner scene — it’s summer time, there’s a long table, at a lake cottage, at sunset.

It’s a beautiful and very particular picture.

But more than where I am, it’s about who I’m with.

I’m surrounded by my people—by my team and we’re laughing together and we’re sharing life.

Sometimes, there are tears because we’re really being honest with each other about what’s going on in our lives.

And, we’re also celebrating what God has done through our team.

There is genuine gratitude and joy over our shared accomplishments over the last year.

This is my vision.

This is what I hope for.

This image drives almost everything that I do.

For me, it’s all about realizing potential together.

I’m about team.

This is something God has put in me and it drives how I do ministry.

I’m much more interested in what we can accomplish together than what I can accomplish alone.

The question is, how to do you build a team like that - a team where people genuinely love each other, are real with each other and focused around shared goals and results.

How do you build a team that is magnetic and effective?

The kind of team no one ever wants to leave and the kind of team that achieves championship level results?

Well, all I can do is share what I’ve learned and what works on my team.

So, here you go.

Shared time

There’s no such thing as a magnetic and effective team that isn’t made up of authentic and real relationships.

Relationships and trust are the foundation of any team, church or organization.

In my experience, you just can’t build a team without time together.

This means weekly team meetings, one-on-ones, going out for lunch, overnight off-sites, and maybe even trips together.

It might not be all of these things—perhaps your team is remotely connected.

However, you just can’t build a team without shared time together because relationships take time.

So, if you want to build a great team, you have to organize everyone’s schedule around shared time.

Shared Memories

When it comes to building a team, there are certain experiences that are more valuable than others.

Time together that creates shared memories are incredibly valuable.

A great team has history together.

A great team often says, “Remember when...” These memories are like glue for teams.

The question is: How do you create shared memories? Here are a few ideas:

  • Creative off-sites—we typically add an element like a kayaking trip, golf scramble, yard games tournament or whatever
  • Serving together in the community
  • Trips away—conferences, mission trips, etc.
  • Challenging projects that require the entire team to pull off—for my team: summer camps, winter retreats, etc.

If you want to build a magnetic and effective team, create shared memories together and as a leader, tell the stories! You’re looking for those “remember when...” moments.

Shared Understanding

Great teams care about each other.

They’ve taken the time to understand how each other are wired—strengths, weaknesses, personality, etc.

Shared understanding builds trust.

If I believe that you’ve taken the time to understand how I’m wired and what my preferences and passions are, it does something in my heart toward you.

I start to believe that you’re for me and it’s much easier for me to be for you when I believe that you are for me.

We’ve gone about this in a number of ways:

  • The Enneagram
  • DiSC Test
  • Strengths Finder
  • Meyers-Briggs

My advice would be to pick one and make it THE thing that your church staff does.

When you do this, it not only creates a shared understanding but also a shared language.

In my experience, this shared understanding and language empowers us to speak more clearly to each other and also avoid needless conflict.

Great teams have a shared understanding of each other.

Shared Stories

In my experience, one of the most effective tools in building great teams is sharing stories, and I’m talking about personal stories—life journeys, testimonies, whatever you want to call them.

Just a few weeks ago, my team headed off to a church member’s cottage for an overnight off-site.

Part of the schedule was stories.

We do some variation of this at every off-site because shared stories build trust, bring down walls, create empathy...I could go on.

Here are a few ways we’ve done this:

  • Share the most impactful moment of your childhood, teenage years and adult life
  • Share about 3 people who deeply impacted your life and why
  • Share something you’re struggling with and something you’re celebrating
  • Share the story of how you came to faith
  • Share your most embarrassing moment and your greatest mountaintop moment

All I’m saying is this: I don’t care if your team is a giant pile of disorder and division, if you get off-site, stay overnight somewhere and share your stories with each other...things will start to get better.

Shared Goals

Alright, enough of this mushy relationship stuff.

Let’s get down to results!

Something happens when a team rallies around a shared goal, especially if the goal is consequential.

This is why sports teams often bond at such a deep level.

There is something about rallying together and winning or losing as one.

It’s a powerful experience.

Perhaps you’ve been there.

Let’s run with this idea of sports teams.

One difference between a sports team and a ministry team is a scoreboard.

A football or volleyball team always knows whether it is winning or losing.

There is never any ambiguity.

What if you created a scoreboard around your shared goals?

I’ve done this in a number of ways and it almost always leads to fantastic results.

Why? Scoreboards are crystal clear and they create a sense of urgency. No one likes to lose.

This summer, one of my teammates came up with a brilliant scoreboard idea.

We ran the numbers and realized that we need 70 new volunteers before September if we are going to start the year fully staffed.

So, we came up with a scoreboard.

It’s called “The Summer of 70.”

We have a board of 70 numbers and every time we recruit someone we write their name on one of the numbers.

We use the “summer of 70” language in emails, social media and other forms of communication as well and it’s created energy and excitement around the recruiting process.

Now, you might think this idea is dumb, but hey, it’s working for my team!

We’ve used a variety of scoreboards like this to create clarity around what matters right now and it unifies us.

The truth is that each of our campuses needs a different number of volunteers and some are much closer to being fully staffed than others, but when we add all the numbers up and work on it together, it creates unity.

All I’m saying is that shared goals can create a new level of teamwork.

See if you can create some sort of scoreboard either physical or digital around your shared goals.

Shared Accountability

Alright, one last idea around building magnetic and effective teams.

Here’s the idea: There is a BIG difference between a supervisor calling out low performance and team members calling out low performance.

I’m calling this shared accountability.

It is possible to create such a powerful team dynamic around goals and results that team members confront each other on anti-team behavior and low performance.

When you hit this level of team work, the effect is phenomenal.

It makes the job of supervisors much easier and productivity skyrockets because everyone feels a shared sense of accountability for results.

So, how do you get there? 3 ways...

  1. If you’re the team leader, you must invite negative feedback and respond appropriately when you receive it. When you do this, you create a safe and trustworthy environment for everyone. Confronting a teammate feels risky. If you demonstrate the process well, it starts to feel safe and normal.
  2. When a team member comes to you with a frustration toward another team member, your first answer as the team leader is “How did it go when you talked to them about it?” You see what I did there…shared accountability.
  3. When a team member comes to you with a frustration about something, after listening carefully and empathetically, ask, “What’s your plan for that?” Often, managers end up getting managed by their employees because they are constantly fixing problems for them when in reality, the responsibility lies with the employee. Your job as a manager is to manage, not get managed. “What’s your plan for that?” sends an appropriate message that this is your responsibility, not mine. I can help, but this is yours.

Wrap Up

Well, there you go! If you’re interested in building a fantastic team, I believe some or all of these ideas can help. We’d love to hear your thoughts, questions or ideas. Leave us a comment below. Thanks for reading!

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