Matching Aspects for a Ministry Team

By Ben Shin Mar. 6, 2013 11:26 p.m. Christian Education, Church Life, Ministry and Leadership


            Forming the right kind of pastoral staff or leadership team can be a very challenging endeavor. Getting the right people to work together for the long run is much more difficult than people imagine. Sometimes great individual leaders do not necessarily mean they will work well together in a team. So, how can this be remedied? But before this question can be asked, there is another important preliminary question that needs to be raised.  What elements need to be in place or need to match in order to build a strong and cohesive staff? This blog will examine three aspects that need to match well in order to build a good, strong, and cohesive staff.

            The first aspect of mutuality among staff members relates to the person’s philosophy of ministry. A person’s philosophy of ministry defines how one sees the ministry and why he/she will do what he/she does. It explains certain values that are important for a person’s ministry. I actually believe that this should be the starting point in finding out if there is a match between potential staff members. The  philosophy of ministry usually acts as the driving force of the values and practices of someone who is in ministry. If there is an agreement on the philosophy of ministry, there is a likelihood of cooperative partnership for a long term. However, if the philosophy of ministry is incompatible, then there is a guarantee that there will be conflict and most likely an eventual termination of the partnership.

            A person’s philosophy of ministry will either make or break a team. This point is probably the one of greatest conflicts. One team member may value efficiency for example in executing a task so he works quickly to finish. While another team member may value the process so he will take a much slower approach that may not be efficient or quick. Put these two differing philosophies of ministry together and you will get conflict and disharmony. That is why when a supervisor interviews a prospective teammate, he not only receives a clear and thorough philosophy of ministry on paper but he must assert a direct questioning to confirm that there is some agreement on philosophy of ministry.

            The second aspect of constituting a good match has to do with relational respectability. Simply put, this means that each member of the team has somewhat of a good respect for the other. This doesn’t inevitably come quickly or easily because some feel that respect needs to be earned. But in order to do this, it requires everyone to check his/her ego at the door and be willing to see one another as better than himself/herself (Philippians 2:3-5). The main quality that each team member needs to subscribe to is humility and willingness to accept each other especially with their differences (Romans 15:7). A simple question to ask of staff members here is “do I like that other staff person?” If there is a relational respectability towards each other, then it will lead to a better working relationship as a team.

            So how do you build relational respectability towards each other? A big part of this will come through time together or an investment relationally in order to get to know each other. This mainly happens outside of the workplace and even aside from serving together in the ministry. It does happen inside a restaurant or a Starbuck’s where the relationship can be built through discussion and sharing about life, likes, and stories. This could also be done through a retreat or getaway with the staff together. The more investment is made in the relationship, more dynamic and lengthy the likelihood of preserving the team.

            The final aspect has to do with theological similarity. It will be important to see the difference between similarity and sameness. It is very rare to find people who will be theologically the same on every point of doctrine. For this reason, it will be more realistic to see people who are within the range of theological similarity meaning that they are fairly close to one another in their beliefs. This will especially be helpful when different team members come from different seminaries and potentially different doctrines.

            The first approach that will be most helpful is to begin with affirming the basic major tenets of Christianity. This should include matters of the gospel, the Trinity, salvation by grace through faith, the physical resurrection, and the importance of the bible, the Word of God. From these major points come the gradation of aspects of theology to secondary and tertiary issues. In other words, not every point of theology should be a primary issue. With these issues, there could be discussion and differences that would not be detrimental to the ministry or the team. This useful grid will lead to more peace and less conflict and also a greater compatibility with other leaders on the team.

            These three aspects have proven to be a successful formula in the many years of ministry and teams that I’ve been a part of. Please try it out. How have your experiences been over the years with building teams within your ministry? Are there other areas of agreement that you would like to add to these three? Let us know what else has been helpful towards your team.



  • Joe Hellerman Mar. 8, 2013 at 1:07 PM

    Great input, Ben, from a guy (you!) who's "been there/done that."

    It occurred to me, as I was reading, that we could significantly short-cut your second aspect by hiring people we know well, rather than pulling the trigger on a person with a flashy resume who interviews well, and then discovering a year or two later that there is little to respect.

  • Tim Mar. 19, 2013 at 12:34 PM

    So you have observed some problems with building a long term staff?

    Before you ask, "how can this be remedied", possibly you should ask Why is this a problem in the first place? Why is it that hiring mature believers to lead in the church is so sensitive to breaking down? Why is it that many who have grown up in the faith to be leaders have difficulty working together when God has done everything possible to accomplish His work in unity? Why is the supernatural empowerment of God in the lives of strong believers so nullified in the assumptions of ministry that are involved here?

    I know these are difficult questions to ask and may be questions that would want to be avoided because they might lead to discovering that the systemic assumptions of hiring experts to "lead" in perpetual dependency actually nullify what God has asked His people to do in His church. It seems many would not want to discover this.

    We may have all experienced a smooth running staff that seems to be accomplishing great things for God. Our experience has become our vision for the future and an authority that God Himself has authorized these forms for building His church. Our experience should never trump the Word of God. But it does so often. There are endless books and Leadership Journal articles on staff building. Each with it's tweak of structure, hiring process, and ministry philosophy to be the fool proof recipe. These ideas will continue as long as there is money to hire experts and we do not want to ask deeper questions and consider in a clearer way what God has asked for. I've heard there is great reward out for doing what God says rather than tweaking men's ideas and traditions.

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