Team Development: The Team Jesus Template, Part I

"Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33

For all the words written, workshops conducted, speeches spoken on "best methods" for building teams and recruiting personnel, there is no better church team-building structure than how Jesus worked with His 12 apostles. 

View your team time to incorporate Bible study, fellowship, prayer, worship and accountability in the task or skill-building training.

Using that structure, called here "The Team Jesus Template," as the foundation to the additional writings, workshops, speeches and holy imagination you employ, may yield unperceived practical, spiritual and numeric growth in ministry service.

Some concepts may be standard operating procedure for those fortunate churches where personnel and capital resources are fairly abundant.  Nevertheless, the template outlined here is applicable across the size spectrum, for it concentrates on Christ's primary focus:  the servant's heart.

The core of "The Team Jesus Template" is this:

1. A clear mission from conception, John 18:37;
2. A widely expressed vision with buy-in of man, Luke 8:4;
3. A diverse, smaller body of aides chosen for select purposes, Luke 6:13;
4. Regular Scripture, fellowship and prayer with that smaller body, Matthew 5:17-19
5. Delegated tasks for that small body to conduct, Matthew 10:5-14;
6. Regular feedback among that team following their tasks for improvement, Matthew 17:14-20;
7. Direct and indirect admonishment, in love, to keep egos in check, John 21:23;
8. Ultimate release of responsibility and authority to the team to train others, Matthew 28:18-20.

Teamwork: It’s A Mindset Thing

Our introductory verse at the top of this piece is the apostle Matthew's account of The Sermon on the Mount, wherein Jesus reminds His followers to not worry about stuff. "Your heavenly Father," He said, "knows you need them."

Yes, Jesus is addressing clothes, food and daily needs; yet the same mindset for ministry may apply. Ministry leaders, especially in smaller venues, tend to be concerned with resources we don't have (money or people) which can lead to emotional (enemy-spurred) responses to new ideas or new people.

Even maintaining the status quo is a survival skill. All at the expense of sharing the Gospel of Christ.

One of the most life-changing messages I have heard was entitled:  "The Church:  Club or Mission," by Curt Hansen, then-pastor of Elk Grove Baptist Church in Illinois. The sermon challenges church-going listeners to remember the purpose of Christ-followers to build His Kingdom. Among his challenges, "How will we organize ourselves?  Around our wants and our needs, or around the desperate needs of those around us who are drowning?"

That same principle applies to staffing and building sustainable ministry teams. Are the teams for us and our friends?  Do team meetings lapse into unfocused social gatherings? Or do we trust God to provide for His purposes to reach others? If so, do we try resolving matters without abiding in Him?

And so:

1. Reenvision Staff Meetings As Small Group Bible Studies

Church small group ministries are essentially Bible studies which incorporate fellowship, prayer, occasionally worship (not necessarily music) and (maybe) accountability.  As participants explore The Word or hang out, they get to know each other and build in a sense of community.

On the other hand, teams which serve e.g., a worship ensemble, a men's or student ministry, a media team—more likely come together to do a task. They may review some scriptures, but the other group elements, may be incidental.  We recommend being intentional.  Rather than view your team time as just a "staff meeting" or "rehearsal," operate as a small group.  Incorporate Bible study, fellowship, prayer, worship and accountability in the task or skill-building training.  That is what Christ did. 

Scriptures note He had many disciples. From those hundreds of followers, Jesus selected 12 to be His apostles His small group to train with Him to learn the mechanics of ministry, based in (the Old Testament) Scriptures.  Each of the 12 was chosen for his specific gifts and skills needed for Jesus' mission to tell the good news of reconciliation between God and man (that's The Gospel), and to teach them how to tell others (make disciples). 

Reading The Gospels, using our holy imagination, we can safely conclude that for the three years from His transfiguration through His ascension, Jesus hung out with the 12 virtually daily—not for team meetings, but as a small group: studying Scriptures ("It is written"; "Haven't you read?,"), worshiping ("Let's go off some place by ourselves to a quiet place,"), praying ("and when He had given thanks"), fellowshiping ("Come and have breakfast"), as well as preparing for the task ("Take nothing for your journey").  They became unified through life and the Scriptures.  How does your group bond?

2. Clarify Your Mission

Jesus came to earth with a clear mission.  That mission was verified when He was baptized by John the Baptist, commissioned by God The Father, and anointed with The Holy Spirit. From this New Testament appearance of The Trinity (Matthew 3:16-17), Jesus went forth, recruited disciples and, subsequently, the small group, whom he empowered with authority (Matthew 10:1) and specific tasks (Matthew 10:5-14)

In your church from the staff, to each ministry is there:

1) One person with a clear voice from God, anointed and led by the Holy Spirit, who is responsible for the mission of the ministry? 
2) Respect and submission to that authority among the leaders so that they may, in turn, invite others to be involved?
3) A mission for each ministry team goals, needs, expectations that is in sync with the church mission?

If the answer to any of the above is, "No," take steps now to turn the "No," to a "Yes."  This might mean the lead pastor or elders reviewing the church mission, vision or value statement.  (Not an advertising slogan, but a precise statement of purpose.) Once in agreement, a similar review must occur with team leaders. Any differences must be resolved, for without unity and clarity of purpose, a club mentality can exist. The entire ministry is at-risk as new people are recruited into an unhealthy environment. In established churches or ministry, this may mean changing personnel.  Such a change need not be acrimonious. 

A leader who has a different vision should be thanked for serving, reminded of the agreed upon direction, and offered an opportunity to serve in a more compatible ministry.

Then act. (The Jesus-Judas relationship is an illustration. Knowing Judas had lost sight of the mission, Jesus released him without rancor.  "What must be done, do quickly.")

Translating this Biblical structure into contemporary practicality, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health cites unclear goals among the primary causes of stress.  In church terms, this translates to "burnout." Conversely, embracing these concepts not only minimizes possible burnout, it also enhances the likelihood of recruiting new team members, by introducing them into a healthy, secure environment.

3. Create A Culture of Feedback

Feedback is a give-and-take communication process of evaluation to improve. When feedback is expected in the organization's DNA—participants ask for feedback rather than defensively wait for criticism.  This culture of feedback, in church terms, can be viewed as ongoing accountability and on-the-job discipleship that generate team and personal growth. The gospels illustrate this culture and its fruit. 

Both Mark (writing for eyewitness Peter) and Matthew record private conversations when the disciples asked Jesus for feedback, after difficult attempts at healing. Moreover, Jesus had so established this culture of feedback that He employed it after his resurrection, both reprimanding the surviving 11 for not believing He would return and, more importantly, encouraging them to now fully implement His mission by telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but.

There are a number of evaluation resources available from which to choose depending on your need, from numeric rubrics to essays to staff debriefings.  Whatever process fits your church, make the process of evaluation a regularly expected element of serving whether it is for a Sunday school program or weekly Service of Worship.  When feedback is a consistent part of the process, grumbling that kills teamwork is minimized; operational skills and interpersonal communication improve. What might be otherwise viewed as negative criticism may be received more openly. 


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