A Better Way to Build A Team


This is my third and final post on the shape and content of our church’s staff meetings. In this post, I provide an outline for one of our Tuesday afternoon one-hour strategy sessions.

This particular session was with our 2 Children’s Directors, JoAnn and Ellie, and our Youth Director, Tammy. They had asked for a strategy session on fresh approaches to recruitment. The Pastor overseeing Youth and Children’s Ministries, Shane, collaborated with me to bring the following.


Fresh Ideas for Recruitment


1.      Introduction (Mark)

a.       The Sword in the Stone. The perennial difficulties with recruitment, especially in family ministries, are like Sword in the Stone problems:  the sword yields, not to the one with the greatest power, but to the one with the right touch.

2.      A Fresh Look at Recruitment (Mark)

a.       Question: “If you could recruit 6 volunteers or 42, with the only difference being that it took more time and effort to recruit the 6, which would you choose? This is not a trick question.”

b.      Read John 1:29-50. Watch in this passage the mounting curiosity about Jesus and the rising commitment to follow him. Among other things, this is a case study in grassroots recruitment: one person tells another, who checks it out and then tells another, and so on.

c.       Linear versus geometric recruitment. Linear recruitment is one person (the Director) talking to one person about joining the ministry. Geometric recruitment is one person talking to a few people about joining the ministry, who then talk to a few people, who then talk to a few more. It multiplies rapidly. Done well, soon the problem is having too many volunteers, not too few.

d.      Vision and Pragmatics. The Director needs a clear and compelling vision for the ministry and a clear picture of what kind of person is best suited for it. The Director must establish clear guidelines for screening and equipping those who step forward.

3.      A Fresh Look at Volunteers (Shane)

a.       A new name. We need to come up with a different title for people who help in ministry. “Volunteer” doesn’t capture how vital and needed such people are: the ministry literally depends on them. “Fellow Worker” or “Co-Laborer” is closer to the mark

b.      A new strategy. We need to empower people in ministry, not just give them jobs to do. They are not just filling holes: they are stewards and ambassadors of God’s mission.

4.      Exercise: A Fresh Plan (Team)

a.       The 3 Directors and 2 Pastors then spent the remaining 30 minutes coming up with a plan. This included the following:

                         –  Committing to working on clarifying the vision of each ministry.

                          –  Committing to working on a “profile” of the kind of person who thrives in this ministry.

                          –  Committing to coming up with a new title for those who join this ministry.

                          –  Committing to a strategy to empower each member of this ministry to recruit at least 2 more people.

                           –  Committing to heightened collaboration on all these things.

                        –  Inviting me to the next ministry team meetings to help cast the vision (that week, I spoke to the Children’s team).

5.      Prayer


I’m interested in what you’ve discovered about recruiting. I’d love to hear from you.

Why I Love Meetings

That’s something you rarely hear: “I love meetings.” But I genuinely do. At least, I love the ones at the church where I’m a pastor. And especially, I love the ones we’re having lately. 

Let me explain.

At the beginning of September, I introduced and implemented a new plan for church staff meetings. The structure we had used for our staff meetings had served us well for a decade, but it was starting to show signs of strain. Our team had doubled over the past 10 years: the old structure was designed to equip and unify a small team. It was, simply, less effective with a larger team.

It’s not that our team is huge – we’re only 11 paid staff. But I wanted something that not only served well this size of team, but that could be scaled quickly if we doubled, or tripled, and so on.

So a few of us took a couple months to re-envision and redesign how we meet.

First, we clarified why we meet. This remained what it has always been: to strengthen and deepen our team unity and to extend and empower our impact, individually and together.

Then we overhauled. Some of this involved tweaks. Some of it involved complete paradigm shifts.

What follows is a description of the new system. I share it in the hope that it might benefit you, and that you might share with the readers of this blog ideas you’ve found helpful.

  •  Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, 8:30-9:00 AM, we have a staff prayer time that is open to anyone in our church. We pray for our congregation, our community, and our church’s ministries. All staff are strongly urged to attend.
  • Every Tuesday morning, 9:00-9:15 AM, we have a 10-15 minute Stand Up Meeting. This is an exchange of administrative information that everyone needs to know. All staff are required to attend.
  • Every Tuesday morning, 9:15-10:00 AM, we have a 45-50 minute Step Up Meeting. This is a high-energy, interactive session to engage us with one of the core values of our church. Step Ups are “insight-rich, task-light,” meaning that they are primarily designed to inspire, enrich and equip staff, not burden them with more things to do. All staff are required to attend.
  • Every Tuesday morning, 10:00-11:00 AM, we have a one hour Pastors Meeting. This is a free exchange of ideas and a discussion of issues. These are very frank, sometimes tense, usually energizing, always clarifying meetings. All pastors are required to attend, and sometimes other parties are invited in as well.
  • Every Tuesday afternoon, 1:00-2:00 AM, we have a one hour Strategy Session. This is an intensive interactive session designed to engage a staff person or a ministry team in identifying and solving one problem in their ministry – a communication gap, or a volunteer shortage, or a fuzzy vision, and the like. Strategy sessions are “insight-rich, task-heavy,” meaning that they are primarily designed, not just to inspire, enrich and equip staff, but to give them a plan to be implemented immediately. Each staff is required to attend as scheduled, which adds up to at least 4 sessions for each staff each year.
  •  Every Thursday, I leave two 1-hour blocks open in my schedule (with some exceptions) for One-on-One Sessions. These are for any staff to book (or drop in if no one else has booked the time) to talk about anything – they choose the agenda: hanging out, catching up, counselling, coaching, confession, whatever.

We’re only 3 weeks into this, but so far I like what I’m seeing: fresh energy, clarity and creativity. Even though it takes me a lot more time to prepare these sessions – especially the Step Up Meetings and Strategy Sessions – I find the challenge deeply invigorating.

In my next two posts, I’ll provide working samples of both a Step Up Meeting and Strategy Session.

I welcome your feedback. What have you found most effective in building unity and effectiveness in a team?