The creation of a covenant can help any committee, staff or ministry team enjoy healthy and whole relationships.
Put the “fun” in dysfunction!
If you haven’t noticed by now, life is a contact sport. Every day, we bump into one another’s ideas, egos or spirit. Patrick Lencioni’s bestselling book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, reveals problems that people in the corporate world experience as they try to work together. These dysfunctions are:
- Absence of trust
- Fear of conflict
- Avoidance of accountability
- Lack of commitment
- Inattention to results
Now, let’s be honest. The church is not immune to these dysfunctions! Some of the worst conflicts can happen in church meetings … or even worse, in the parking lot after the meeting! We are like porcupines gathered in a snowstorm: We need each other to keep warm, but we can be prickly.
There is hope!
The creation of a team covenant can help overcome dysfunctions by providing a foundation for trust. Remember, covenants are God’s idea! Just as covenants can be anchors for our faith in God, they also can protect our relationships with one another. Writing down the actions that will build trust among people enables the team to thrive and work in a healthy environment.
In the past six years I have the privileged opportunity to walk into the role of leadership into church scenarios that were right out of the “Twilight Zone.” One church in its last four years went from 600 in attendance to 45 on A Sunday morning and in my current situation I became the leader of a church that wanted to transition into becoming a campus of a very large healthy church in our area and in the past two years they had experienced two church splits. In both of these situations I worked hard in developing a Leadership Team that would begin to learn how to function as a team. In both leadership contexts our ministry teams were able to get to the other side of the Twilight Zone.
Learning How “NOT” to make Dysfunction Work for You!
The first thing that I recognized was the premise that every person who is on the team brings a suitcase of their own “dysfunction” to the table that comes from their own family of origin. An example of this from my own leadership is that I grew up in a family with a father who was demanding and desired immediate answers. If I did not respond quickly my father would make a disparaging remark telling me that I was not smart. Later in my adult life I felt the need to respond quickly to demands because I constantly struggled with this nagging thinking that if I delayed my response I would be perceived as a weak leader. After processing through several painful episodes in my life I have become much more confident and whole in my own personal identity that I communicate to people freely that I will need some time to process a an item but when I communicate back to them I will have a well thought out response. If we are going to build teams with people who are bringing the issues related to their family of origin it is only healthy that agreements be developed by members of the team to assist them in their collaboration and debate. This reduces emotional “drama” and it better equips the team to build trust in each other in order that they can process through conflict well. Patrick Lencioni when writing about team conflict states, “The only way to prevent passive sabotage by members of a team is for leaders to demand conflict from their team members and to let them know that they are going to be held accountable for doing whatever the team ultimately decides.”
How to Build a Team Covenant?
Our starting point in my current leadership context took us many hours and I did not facilitate every stage of its development. Our starting point was to find a passage of Scripture that would become the foundation for the type of “team-culture” we wanted to see created in all of our teams in our church campus. After identifying the passage we began identifying our shared core-values and then placing specific behaviors that would be lived out of each one of these core values. This team building exercise not only began to help people unpack what was in their suitcase it would become the metrics by which we would begin to trust one another as we as a team exercised our decision making and keeping one another accountable. Peer-to-peer accountability is the primary and most effective source of accountability on a leadership team.
In order to develop a strong sense of core values they must be shared values. In their book In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman write, “I believe that the real difference between success and failure in a corporation can very often be traced to the question of how well the organization brings out the great energies and talents of its people. What does it do to help these people find common cause with each other?” I believe that these authors are correct and although they use the term corporation, this would apply to all Christian organizations as well. Shared values become the common cause that is so vital to realizing ministry vision. There is no doubt that if leaders through an entire church can agree upon the same shared values, then together they will accomplish their mission.
The final step of this process is to define your covenant down to six to ten behavioral statements that will be the guide for how you do team. Kouzes and Posner conducted research that involved over twenty-three hundred leaders and managers representing public and private organizations located in the United States, regarding the importance of their shared values. These studies revealed that shared values:
- Foster strong feelings of personal effectiveness
- Promote high levels of company loyalty
- Facilitate consensus about key organizational goals and stakeholders
- Encourage ethical behavior
- Promote strong norms about working hard and caring
- Reduce levels of job stress and tension
For our Ministry Team in Lincoln, California, it became the very document that freed us to pursue our mission while navigating a church that was experiencing dynamic change!
Our Ministry Team Covenant!
Bayside Lincoln Campus: Ministry Team Servant-Leader Covenant Agreement
Scriptural Foundation (Colossians 3:12-17, NLT)
“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”
We desire to maintain a Culture of: Affirmation, Expectation & Honor
We are committed to having a prayerful attitude and intentionally following through on our commitments to others.
We are committed to unselfishly treat each other with mercy, grace, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
We are committed to maintaining a healthy team atmosphere, putting the team needs first, remaining teachable and open to counseling.
We are committed to living in peace, speaking the truth in love and actively seek to resolve conflicts.
We are committed to affirming the members of the team both publicly and privately.
We are committed to exercise discernment, which is the ability to step-back, reflect, and to listen in order to nurture a wider awareness.
We are committed to acting in a way that honors God and the team.
We are committed to sharing God’s unique spiritual gifts with joy and thanksgiving with the team.
 (Lencioni 2005)
 (Lencioni 2012) p 51.
 (Lencioni 2012) p 54.
 (Thomas J. Peters & Roberts H. Waterman 1982) p 280.
 (Malphurs 1996) p. 49.
 (Posner 1987) p 193.
 Note: Much appreciation must go to Rev. Betsy Vanderpool for her leadership meeting with our teams in developing what we called our Living Document to do life well together. I am also deeply grateful to the Ministry Team at our campus for having the courageous faith to live this out before our community. Deeply grateful to my Senior Pastor Ray Johnston and members of the Executive Team of Bayside Church for their visionary leadership that empowered our team to Reach Wide-Teach Deep and Unleash Compassion.
Lencioni, Patrick. 2005. Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Field Guide. San Francisco, CA: Joseey-Bass.
Repeated Author. 2012. The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Malphurs, Aubrey. 1996. Values-Driven Leadership: Discovering and Developing Your Core Values for Ministry. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.
Posner, James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. 1987. The Leadership Challenge: How to get things done in Organizations. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Thomas J. Peters & Roberts H. Waterman, Jr. . 1982. In Search of Excellence. New York, New York: Warner Books.