Friday, January 16, 2015

Building a Team that Works Together

It was one of those programs you always dream about.  The storytellers brought their "A" game that Sunday, and the kids were glued.  The teachers had been practicing all week, putting in hours of rehearsal to deliver a Bible story that was fun, creative and crazy-powerful.  

The only trouble was it was about to blow a hole in my team.

I was standing in the back of children's worship with a guy I'll call Jim.  Jim led the admin volunteers who made sure all the small group supplies were copied, cut out, prepared and sorted into baskets for each of the small group leaders.  Hours of work went into prepping a single weekend's lesson.

Jim was watching the clock.  The large group lesson was awesome, but it was also running long.  Small groups should have started ten minutes ago and the storytellers were still going strong.  Once parents showed up at end of service, we would be done.  

There was no way we were going to have time for small groups today.  Jim was fuming.  He stood in the back of the room, arms crossed, shaking his head.

"All that work," he said.  "All those supplies.  All the small group leaders who studied the lesson.  We won't get to do any of it.   And they don't even care."

He walked out of the room, disgusted with the storytellers and what he perceived to be a total disrespect for his team's contribution.  A few minutes later, the storytellers ran off the stage thrilled at their lesson. They knew they'd killed it.  What they didn't know was that Jim was ready to kill them.

Clearly I would have a lot of work ahead of me that week.

Here was the problem.  I had amazing individual volunteers, but I didn't have a team.  

On a healthy team everyone clearly understands their role and how what they do affects everyone else.  My storytellers weren't trying to dis Jim and his team.  They just weren't even thinking about them.

As Paul puts it, "Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it" (1 Corinthians 12: 27 NIV)  

A huge part of Children's Ministry leadership is helping people understand their unique contribution and appreciate the contribution of others.  We don't win unless we win together.   The more we can help our leaders understand how their role works together with other roles to help kids know Jesus, the more trust and unity we can build in our teams.  

Here are a few ways to do this:

  • When you orient a new leader, make sure you give them an overview of all the volunteer roles and talk about their interdependence.  
  • If possible, have leaders observe all the roles for a weekend before you place them in the one that is the best fit.  
  • Try some job swapping.  When a leader is out, see if someone who normally does a different role can fill in.  There's nothing like walking in someone else's shoes for a day to build appreciation.  
  • When you share win stories with your team, remind everyone that it's the whole team's win and highlight how each player did their part to get you there.  
  • Do pre-service huddles where you pray together and share what's going on in your lives.  This helps leaders see each other as people and not just roles.  
  • Create a culture where your leaders honor other leaders.  Encourage them to brag on each other.  
  • Make sure everyone plays by the rules.  If I had been watching the clock that day, I could have intervened and wrapped up the lesson myself, avoiding throwing the small group leaders and admin volunteers under the bus.
I learned a huge lesson that Sunday.  The temperature of the team depended on me.  If I had done a better job of helping my team function like a body, Jim would have given the storytellers the benefit of the doubt and realized that their slight wasn't intentional but just an oversight.  As you build trust and unity on your team, these experiences become learning opportunities that bring a team closer together instead of a rift that tears them apart.

So, how about you?  What do you to build unity and trust on your team and help them work together?  

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