QUESTION: How can I empower a group that has had so many setbacks!? As a new pastor, I am trying to encourage key leaders and members to be positive during difficulty, but it is much tougher than I anticipated. How can I create positive energy within the congregation and how can I communicate positive lessons in leadership when the established leadership is so negative and “set in their ways,” so to speak? What pointers do you have for me?
MY ANSWER: What a great question! And thank you for your engagement. I wanted to answer you in detail because of the depth of your question. Here goes:
Ministry teams and churches, like people, develop and mature through a series of stages of growth. In Chapter 16 of Building A Church Full of Leaders, I talk about the importance of ministry teams and the stages of development these teams go through. Leadership teams are no exception. I invite you to read the chapter for a comprehensive approach to keeping your leaders and their teams encouraged and engaged through the various stages of your church’s development, but let me summarize a crucial stage of ministry development that it appears you are dealing with—Storming.
After the thrill and excitement of a ministry plant or new ministry team start-up, the stark realities of ministering together surface—individual personalities become stronger and conflict arises. Left unchecked, it can create a caustic ministry environment. We call this stage of team development, storming, because it’s as if the team members experience a squall of conflicting styles, personalities, opinions, and approaches.
How a leadership team weathers the storm, however, will determine how the team continues to develop or stagnate. You as the leader of leaders will need to provide unifying processes that help put team members on one accord without squashing the diversity of opinions and ideas of your team. Remember, the goal is unity not uniformity. That unity comes through the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:3) as we endeavor or strive to discern the will of God through the Spirit together. Furthermore, that positive energy you speak about is the energy that gets released from the activation of faith that comes from trusting God through the setbacks.
If you truly believe you and your leaders are called by God to this work then you must trust God through the process and help your leaders walk in a unified faith. You won’t agree on everything but you cannot let divisive conflict cause you and your leaders to lose focus. That divisiveness generates the negative energy that erodes the esprit de corps (feelings of loyalty, closeness and commitment to the team) that is created in a high-performing, transformative team.
Here are 5 tips for helping your leaders at this stage:
1. Clarify. Conflict arises within the leadership team as members attempt to clarify goals, roles, rules and direction. Take time to clarify the direction of the church, your expectations for leadership in general, and for each of them, individually.
2. Unify. Factions may appear as members attempt to build support for their own ideas. Take time to stress unifying themes, including keeping the mission and vision of the church before the leaders, reminding leaders of their purpose on the team and the significance of each member to the team, and staying in the Word to build your and your team’s faith.
3. Magnify. Team skills for working together, leading ministry, and handling conflict gradually increase. Acknowledge the team’s growth to help them focus on the positive instead of the negative. Too many times people lose sight of the positive things happening around them and focus on the negative. Train them to see what God is doing around them and celebrate it!
4. Solidify. During this stage, task accomplishments of your team will increase. Take the time with your leaders to solidify your team and build trust within and among the team. You must spend time with your leaders, helping them absorb the core values of the ministry and to hear your heart for the things God has entrusted to you for this particular work.
5. Amplify. It is critical that the team prayerfully, but effectively, deal with conflict and setbacks. Take time to pray together. In fact, it is especially important to amp up your prayer time both individually and collectively. Your time spent praying, staying in the Word together, and allowing the Word to shift your mindset and perspective, will be invaluable down the road.
Thank you, again, for such an engaging question and be encouraged that you can weather the storm as the Lord gives you grace and wisdom to navigate through it!