What comes to your mind when you think of a successful team?
If you are like me, your mind goes straight to sports teams.
I think about the 73-win Golden State Warriors.
The Nick Saban coached Alabama teams that have been on a run of unprecedented success the past decade.
My 2013 Seattle Seahawks that won Seattle’s first ever Super Bowl.
Did I cry when we won? That’s none of your business.
(RIP Legion of Boom. No, I’m not ready to talk about the interception on the 1-yard line, thanks for asking.)
But I also think about some of the teams at church that I have gotten to serve on. I have been blessed to serve on teams with guys and girls that became my best friends in the world.
You have probably heard the quote “Leadership is lonely.” I understand the sentiment. I have felt the pressure of having to lead and make tough decisions. I know the tension between trying to be friends with people you sometimes have to tell what to do.
But overall, I don’t agree. No, really. I got married this summer. Here is a picture of my groomsmen.
Every single one of them we either met or became close while serving in the church. The best times of life and my best friends have come while giving my life to reaching young people and building the church. As youth pastors, we have the opportunity to build community not just for students, but also for leaders.
Here is a question for you to ask yourself: if Jesus could have accomplished his purpose by himself, why waste his time with the disciples?
By all the stories we get from the gospels, they seem like a big headache. They make a lot of mistakes. They ask to sit at his right hand on his throne. He calls one of them Satan. One betrays him. And right before he gets crucified, they all abandon him and run away scared.
They also ended up starting the early church, and without their faith, you and I would not be pastoring the communities we are today.
Here is the truth. Jesus couldn’t accomplish his purpose without people.
Neither can you and I. Your vision requires a team of people to help build it! Here are some very practical things I have learned about team building over the years of leading and serving on teams.
Start with VISION.
People follow vision! Ask yourself right now: what are the vision and values of my youth ministry? If you can’t briefly answer that in 2 minutes or less, it is either too complicated, or non-existent.
Simple vision doesn’t mean there isn’t creativity in your services, your events, and your discipleship. It means that there isn’t complexity to the VISION. As a leader, it is your responsibility to have more vision than resources, more vision than volunteers, more vision than access to campuses.
My pastor always challenges our staff with this question. If someone walked into your office today with a check for 50,000 dollars, but you had to tell them a plan, would you know what you want to spend it on and be able to convince them it was a good investment?
I think sometimes we have dreams, but our planning (or lack of), shows that we have no real belief that God can answer them. When you are recruiting to get people on your team, you have to be able to quickly and easily cast the vision for why they need to be on your team!
Cast a wide net; you won’t catch everyone.
I’ve had to learn that to build a great team; I am going to have to ask a lot of people to be on it. In every interaction, I have on a Sunday, or throughout the week, it is always in the back of my mind to try to get that person serving in our youth ministry!
Truthfully, I don’t have time to have every single person that serves in our youth ministry be the result of a two-hour long lunch where we go through every single detail of what happens in youth.
So the ask has to happen in the middle of everything else that is going on.
Here’s what’s hard about continually inviting people to serve with you; People will say no. A lot of YP’s including myself struggle with a fear of rejection. If you want to reach people you’re going to have to throw that out.
Passion over talent.
When building my team, the number one characteristic that I look for in a leader is passion. I will always rock with hungry leaders that want to help young people.
We have had every kind of leader on our team over the years: talented, funny, raw, experienced, creative, introverted, extroverted, athletic, musical, the list goes on and on. But ultimately what I am looking for is passion.
I believe that we can teach our leaders almost any skill set, but I can’t teach you how to care.
When you look for talent instead of passion, it almost always ends poorly.
More roles, than people.
One surefire way to lose a leader is that when they show up to serve, they feel like there is nothing for them to do. As a leader, it is always our job to come up with things for people to do that make them feel like they are contributing!
My first youth pastor was a genius at this. He would have guys and girls be in charge of things that appeared simple, but in reality, it was these roles that kept them engaged and gave them a reason to show up every week. Why? Because he made it seem like the success of the night was contingent on something as simple as bringing out the podium before he preached!
People want to feel like they are a part of what is happening in your ministry. So I am continually challenging myself and my lead team to have roles for people that are jumping on to serve.
DO IT AGAIN.
Team building is never ending in youth ministry!
It is so easy to get comfortable when we have a strong group of leaders serving with us and forget to get new people on the team with us. The times that I let team-building move to the back burner have always led to a moment a few months down the road where I am looking at the state of my team asking “how did we get here??!”.
Even in the strongest seasons of our team, I have to challenge myself to be constantly inviting and getting new people to serve with us. This lets us stay in seasons of BUILDING instead of having to go into seasons of FIXING and REBUILDING.
Here is the reality that I have become convinced of over the years doing youth ministry: if the team is healthy, we will always reach young people.
Every youth pastor has or will have to learn this lesson. With each new school year, there are new students to reach. Seniors graduate, but new freshmen come. Eighth graders move on to high school, but new sixth graders start middle school.
There will never come a day in our city where there aren’t young people to reach with the hope of Jesus!
When we give our time, effort, and energy to building a team, we will always be in a position to reach those young people.
Grace City Church