Team First

Bishop Stephen Hale - 27 April 2022

One of the largely unnoticed moments during last year’s AFL Premiership presentations related to the player adjudged to be best on the ground. He slipped his medallion inside his guernsey and proudly displayed the premiership medallion on the outside. Christian Petracca said, ‘It’s not about me, it’s about the team.’ I have to admit I’m a biased Melbourne supporter (formerly long suffering), but it was a striking moment and comment. It touched on the willingness of a talented group of individuals to make sacrifices for the sake of being a better team and achieving ultimate glory.

We’re used to these sorts of stories about sporting teams. Related to a team first culture is an embracing of a culture of humility. We all know (hopefully) the joy of being a part of a team and working hard together and seeing great things happen. The question for this article is whether we associate this simple and key idea with church teams, and in particular church staff teams (and Christian not for profits for that matter). Sadly, I expect that many of us can easily call to mind dysfunctional teams we’re aware of or have been a part of. The stories abound, don’t they?

One of the key challenges in team leadership is referred to as alignment. It’s one thing to have a great and inspiring vision and sense of mission. It’s another matter to get a group of people to align together to make the vision and mission a reality. It strikes me that deep within many ordained ministers’ hearts, even if they are working in teams, is a solo ministry mindset. I’m not suggesting that good team work is easy, because it isn’t. Though it may be more straightforward when churches and groups are new, as opposed to established entities. I also wouldn’t want to give the impression that I’ve always got this right, because I haven’t.

So, what might the characteristics of alignment look like?

  • an empowering and selfless senior leader
  • an agreed and compelling sense of vision, mission and direction
  • clarity of governance and decision making
  • clarity of roles and expectations
  • humility and a culture of service and sacrifice
  • everyone knowing and playing their part
  • allowing individuals to shine as part of something much bigger
  • honouring and encouraging each other
  • celebrating successes and creating spaces for enjoying each other’s company
  • good processes for resolving tensions and conflicts
  • understanding each other’s leadership styles and the way we impact each other
  • having a culture of review and personal and team accountability
  • investing in team training and coaching and helping people to have exceptional opportunities
  • having fun together
  • a culture of generosity

There is much more one could say about all of this. It is a recurring biblical image that we’re meant to work well together as we honour each other and use our gifts for the sake of the upbuilding of the work of God’s people.

Learning to lead teams and align members to a shared vision is a real challenge. If you can pull it off, then your team’s performance will be immense.

Bishop Stephen Hale