We know for any organization to survive and prosper you need to have a team of people working together. Maybe you don’t currently have a team but you know you need to recruit and build one. Or could it be that you have a team that is unhealthy, not working together, dysfunctional and broken? What can you do to bring people together to work toward a preferred future for all? What are some foundational aspects to building a team?  

I worked in youth ministry for decades. There is a perception in some circles you have to beg people to work with youth; that was not my experience. I always had an abundant number of quality, gifted folks who were eager to give their time, talents, and treasures to this ministry to teenagers. How did that happen?  Building the youth ministry team had a lot to do with communication and relationships. 

I have served in a variety of other situations, organizations and teams. Some were amazingly healthy, fruitful and strong. Others not so much, as they were lost and failing. Many had a lack of vision and were missing a sense of purpose. They had stopped doing the things necessary to move forward. 

What did the ministries, and their leadership teams, have that allowed some of them to thrive while others struggled?

They had lost the “why” of what they were doing. 

Leadership Teams Need a “Why”

There could be a whole article on how to recruit team members, especially ones open to the experiments and agility required for pursuing fresh expressions of Church. An article about where to look and what to look for, how to vet prospects and evaluate skills and talents, etc.

Knowing your “why” is essential before you even begin to recruit. When I am with a potential team member I begin by telling them stories about why this work is important, essential, necessary, making a difference in people’s lives. A good why is necessary to convince someone to join and stick with your team.

Simon Sinek’s now famous Ted Talk – Start With Why is well worth the 18 minutes of your time. I watch it a couple times a year to keep me focused on the why of my vocation, calling and life.  At the core of any institution, school, church, ministry, there needs to be inspiration that breeds enthusiasm about the task at hand.

Without a meaningful and compelling purpose, teams fall apart, lose their drive, cannibalize the resources and fail. As Sinek says we can do the “how” and the “what” of a business or ministry but without a powerful WHY we lose heart, fold our hand and walk away.

But it’s not enough to give the team a why. You should also give leadership teams what every person craves.

Leadership Teams Need to Acknowledge What Every Person Craves

Eric McManus writes that every person craves three things: to belong, to have a destiny, and to matter. 

To Belong

There is a relational component to all we do. To be engaged, connected, on a team or part of a family is essential. We were created for fellowship. In a ministry sense we are grafted into a living organism being part of a body. Romans 12:5 reminds us, “though we are many, we are members of one another”. We are called to work together to reach a desired outcome. We all bring diverse gifts, skills and talents that we use to leverage the work to a preferred result.

As Christians, we are to live in a community with one another. From a theological perspective we have the perfect model of this corporate unity in the Trinity: Almighty God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Distinct yet one. Bound to the other yet with a manifest calling.

Relationships are important and we must tend them, especially when it comes to a ministry team. We listen to one another, empathize, serve and give to each other; in doing so we link our lives to accomplish the goal that is set before us.

I became the director of a failing retreat and conference center. It was hanging by a thread and without some drastic measures, some systemic change, it would close. When I arrived over the first three weeks I did a lot of evaluation, listening, and praying. It became obvious the current staff needed to go. They were locked into a broken business model and were unwilling to adapt to needed changes. I made the difficult decision to fire them. One of the most painful things I have ever done. 

The task over the next year was to identify the right people who had a heart for this ministry of spiritual hospitality. We found people who believed in the mission and were willing to work hard and give themselves to this work. Looking back I did not hire a new staff but changed the culture to be a family that loved one another and the mission we were given.  We truly loved and cared for the sacred space of a retreat center, we welcomed our guests with this same love and more so it was so evident that we loved and cared for one another.   

To Have a Destiny

We need to live with eternity in mind; that all we see is not all there is. We pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth.” Ultimately part of our vocation is to be an answer to that prayer. Whatever the task; worship, teaching, training, serving, social justice, building community we do so in hope that by what we do will make our little corner of the world a Kingdom Outpost; that is when people look at what we do they will glimpse the Kingdom of God.

What does the Kingdom of God look like?  I think it is a people, a gathering, a faith community doing life together, loving God and loving each other and sharing that love with the world. That constitutes the authentic meaning of church. A church is not a place you go on Sundays, it is a family you belong to. We could put it in an equation like this: Great Commandment + the Great Commission = a Great Church. The fruit of labor like this never ends. 

We are currently in a renovation of our kitchen and fellowship hall in a church I serve as a part-time Vicar. I have used this question in making decisions; “Will the leadership 30-50 years from now (when we are long gone) be glad and commend the decisions we made today?”   Hear it?  It has that sense of destiny embedded in that question.   

To Matter 

As we work together, we discover we have value. This value is not founded solely on what we contribute but it is far more core than that. We matter because God says so and He created us in His image. Along those lines our contribution is important because this giving is not merely a skill set but an offering of who we are. 

I had an employee at the conference center that worked the front desk and answered the phone.  They felt their involvement in the larger mission was minimal at best. They compared themselves to others on our team that had more visible and seemingly more important roles. That comparison made them feel less. I explained to them that their role was crucial to all we did.  They were often the first point of contact, the face and voice of the ministry.  Without their being at “the gate”, people might never find us or utilize what we had to offer.  Through their kindness and direction, people got to the right place. They had a servant’s heart that shepherded people to where they needed to go.  In many ways they were like a traffic cop steering people through the various channels and without their work we would have a traffic jam. 

This person began to see their part in the greater whole, how important they were and that what they did mattered to the success of all we were doing. They developed a sense of deep worth and calling in what seemed like a menial task but in reality was crucial. 

Regardless of the task, the work to be done, the goals to be accomplished a healthy team is anchored in these values of; why, purpose, meaning, belonging, eternity and value. If we get this foundation right we will succeed. Without settling these essentials we will flounder at best in the rough seas of life, tossed to and fro, not reaching our destination. 

Three Essential “Cs” of a Healthy Team

Once we get this right there are some team essentials:


Healthy teams communicate. Whether it is Zoom, Slack, Asanda or other platforms or coffee at Starbucks; we need to listen to one another, to talk and explore ideas, opportunities, strategies that will allow us to progress to the desired outcome.


We work with one another with kindness, compassion, mercy, confession and forgiveness. We link ourselves together for the good of the whole. This requires humility.

The Apostle Paul gives good instruction on team building and the attitudes we should possess and own in working with one another.

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.


Romans 12:9-18

We can aspire to these things but in reality this is accomplished by the Holy Spirit working in our hearts as we surrender our wills and ways to the will and ways of God.  


There will be disagreements in terms of how we get to where we are going. The content and order of tasks are debatable. We need to work in a consensus model seeking unified agreement on how we proceed. To do this involves humility and maybe even the art of compromise expressed in; “I am not sure about this direction but I can live with it and give it a try.”

We will make mistakes and even fail. Don’t be discouraged but look at every stride as a chance to grow and learn.  One of my board members at the retreat center would remind me, “Mistakes will happen, let’s not make the same mistakes.”  Listening is becoming a lost art and a healthy team can be the source of great wisdom and even safety.  “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”   Proverbs 11:14

The Right People in the Right Place

Jim Collins in his book Good to Great, details the importance of having the right people in the right place. This is essential in team function. Having people committed to the work and put in the right place so they can bring their unique gifts to bear makes them feel fulfilled and the team run smoothly.  

There are many other team essentials but this is a good starting point. Evaluate your team dynamics based on these expressed values. Celebrate where are you getting it right, getting things done?  Where are you lacking, failing?  Where are you a drift, rudderless in a sea of turmoil?  Own the failures and mistakes and let them merely be lessons on the way. Make the necessary course corrections and you will reach your destination. 

Keep moving, something has to be in motion to be guided. With confidence and hope move forward in faith. Keep at it, work, communicate, dream, hope. Or, as that great thinker, scholar, poet, Garth Brooks said, 

And there’s bound to be rough waters, And I know I’ll take some falls

But with the good Lord as my captain, I can make it through them all

And I will sail my vessel, ‘Til the river runs dry

Like a bird upon the wind, These waters are my sky

 I’ll never reach my destination, If I never try

So, I will sail my vessel, ‘Til the river runs dry

                                                                                             Garth Brooks / The River.

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Jon Davis
About the Author

Jon Davis

The Rev. Jon Davis PhD is an Episcopal Priest, church planter, teacher, worship leader. He is on staff with Fresh Expressions as a mission strategist and is launching some Fresh Expression gatherings through the Abbey Mission in a NE suburb of Orlando.   jon.davis@freshexpressions.com