Hey, student minister! Let’s take a 1 question survey:
Q: In your line of ministry work, who is on your “first team?”
If you had asked me this question 4 years ago, I would have had a very different answer, I might have said my family or my volunteers, but when it comes to building an organization this is actually not my first team.
One thing I’ve learned—no matter how small or large a church—is that your first team are the folks you share the ministry burden with in, out of, and around the office and campus of your church.
Your first team is the ministry leadership “in the trenches” team.
Yes, I’m talking about your senior pastor, children’s minister, custodial staff, administrative help, and even that really cool or really odd worship arts leader that only drinks their coffee one particular way.
Why? Because they are thinking of and feeling the ministry of your church as much and often as you are.
Yes, your adult volunteers rock, and they make ministry possible.
Yes, your student leadership team is worth bragging about, and their social media presence is crushin’ the game.
And, of course, your spouse, family, and close circle of friends help to keep you honest, humble, and human.
But it is your first team that needs to be a priority, especially in this new year. It may be the most difficult ask I could make, but learning to work together in a new way is vital.
So let’s talk TEAM, okay?
TALK ABOUT YOUR TEAM
How do you talk to your team and about your team? When you are gathered in person or via a conference call, what level of communication and candor do you bring to the table? Do you lead by asking important questions and inviting quieter members to share? Do you take great notes to follow up specifically?
When you’re not together, check yourself: How do you talk about fellow staff members. Is your talk honoring? Would you offer those comments to their faces? You may even need to do some hard, honest, forgiveness-seeking work. It is painful but also incredibly important. Don’t start this year by trying to bury grievances in the backyard of 2020.
ENCOURAGE YOUR TEAM
Encourage your team. Encourage them palpably. For three consecutive weeks, give them the encouragement that you wish you received, and see what happens. Write the notes you wish you had in your inbox. Brag on them via social media. Share stories with church members about what your team and team members do well and how they inspire you. Experiment for three weeks by giving away as much specific and genuine encouragement as you can.
BE ACCOUNTABLE TO YOUR TEAM
Accountability works both ways. How do you offer yourself as accountable for what you say you will do? I know there was a season of my life in which I was so frustrated that our staff team wasn’t accomplishing all the great ideas we had chatted up in the conference room. But the more I reflected in my frustration, the more I realized that I was the chief contributor to the problem. So I started taking notes on what I suggested and what I committed to do and shared them when appropriate. I found that when I had to commit myself to share the follow through, I was a better team member.
Accountability is a trust-building spiritual practice for your words and efforts amongst your first team. Grow this year by committing to what you will get done, and be surprised by how comforting and freeing that leaves you feeling.
MEET WITH YOUR TEAM
I know the last suggestion you want to hear is to schedule more meetings, but trust me when I say that you should only fear time-wasting meetings and not soul-bearing meetings. Let’s plan more of those.
My dad is a wise businessman and says that leaders grow not in the meetings they make, but in the meetings that they schedule. When you get a chance this week, schedule some honest conversations with the fellow ministers-humans-grandads-moms-overbooked-parents-stressed-seminary-students who comprise your first team.
You may do this anyway, and if so, great! But don’t get together to just “talk shop” away from the office. Ask about their family situations, their changing hopes/fears for this year, and pray with them. Please, ministry friend, don’t run out of ministry. Save some for your first team.
Below is a PDF of some conversation guides that we encourage you to take to your senior leader or direct report. Express the need for some quality coffee and conversation time. Whether it’s in person or on a video call, share the guide, ask for the appointment, and do the relational work that builds up a team, the work that blesses and grows many.
Thank you for what you do, but more importantly thank you for who you are. I truly believe that the next season of ministry will not be defined by what we were able to create, gather, or give, but by how willing we were to stay faithful, loving, and generous.
As always, DM me for Soul Care. Tag me with recommendations (coffee, music, otherwise).
This post was written by Zac Workun. Zac serves as the Student Ministry Training Specialist for Lifeway and is one of the co-founders of Youth Ministry Booster, Lifeway Students’ collaboration and training network. He has served the local church in various youth ministry roles for over 15 years.