How does anyone go about writing on such a topic? There are many successful teachings on team building. I’ll warn you that we have not arrived, but we can give you insight on what has helped us. May they help someone, including me as I humbly brave the task of leading a creative team.
First, I am thankful to be placed me under the brilliant leadership of Pastor Rick Bezet and Neil Greathouse. I have grown so much because of their patience and belief in me. They have set me up to win and now have positioned me to do the same with others.
It would be a complete shame for me to give you “the 5 steps to building a successful team.” Ha! I am still learning, and you can find those types of books elsewhere. But team is incredibly valuable to us. Without it, we are incapable of serving our vision well. To be honest, our Creative team is just on the horizon of producing healthy fruit. Don’t get me wrong, we have always had a great team, but over the last couple of years, several people have moved on because of life circumstances, struggle, insecurity, burnout, and disconnect.
For me, building a team should be rephrased to “keeping your team healthy.” Your goal should be to want them to stay.
A good motivator can draw a good team line up; a good team leader will create a family that doesn’t want to leave. My priority is more to address how to keep a team long term.
To the Pastor
Thank you to Rick Bezet for allowing us to experiment with how to accomplish our responsibilities. He has allowed us to flourish by giving us room to operate in systems that set us up well. Our strategy for serving our lead team is to initiate the planning and scheduling of the known details so that we are not functioning last minute on every project. This is never intended to mandate what Pastor Rick feels the direction should be. We simply aim to find patterns of what is repeating each year so that we can initiate planning, removing the pressure from our lead team to drive every decision. And by us having time to work ahead on the known needs, we can step it up on whatever comes about last minute. If we can aim to know 80% ahead of time, we can react quickly to the 20% that arises in the moment.
The constant last minute, everything-is-an-emergency atmosphere will crush a creative team. It’s just a matter of time. So, to every pastor: allow your team to partially plan for the year so that they can put quality attention to your vision.
Then they will be excited to step it up when you feel led last minute toward a new direction. I could talk on this all day. It has literally saved me from ministry burnout.
To Creative Leaders
This “position” of leading creatives does not mean impressing your team with your creativity while watching them execute what you have dreamt up. Ha!
Being a Creative leader is simple: cover the vision of your leadership with a servant heart, set systems in place that protect and give success to your team, and set a life-giving environment that allows creatives to flourish.
If I focus on these three areas, I help set a healthy balance for both our leadership and our team to fill their call. It is my job to promote the gifts of others and push them into the spotlight rather than myself. Some thoughts Pastor Neil Greathouse instilled in me is that we believe in hiring heart over talent any day, and those serving on your team are as valuable as those who are staff. At the end of the day, this is where our greatest strategy lies. Is a person called to be in this house? Are they looking for personal gain or attention? Can they learn what they do not know? Will they be a team player? All of these are imperative to finding someone who will better the team as a whole — not just stand in the spotlight for themselves.
I haven’t always been good at team. After my first year on staff, I had a come-to-Jesus meeting because I was facing burnout from an endless list and no team. Unfortunately, what pushed me to building a team was survival, not because I understood its value. That came much later. But my method early on is the same as it is now. I always ask myself, “What am I doing that I shouldn’t be doing that would give someone else an opportunity?” Once I pass down the responsibility, I aim to equip a person well by passing down both the knowledge and experiences we’ve gained, and the mistakes and struggles we’d endured. And I do not abandon them. I provide a constant covering as their leader. Our very wise pastor teaches our staff to look for those who are smarter and more talented than us. This is genius, but it also requires a great deal of security as a person.
From a spiritual perspective, the enemy would love to take you and your team out, handicapping your church and once again keeping down the bridging between generations. In order to be culturally relevant, church creative teams must have influence; and, your calling is to protect your creative culture so this can happen. Be on the defensive, pray over your team, protect communication, protect against disunity and poison, and teach life-giving communication and a respectful atmosphere. In other words, fight for the health of your team, and get ready for growing pains. But don’t let them confuse you.
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! Psalms 133:1
To the Creative Staffers & Volunteers
During a Big Screen message last year, Pastor Rick spoke to our kids and demonstrated what would happen if he smashed an orange with a large mallet. He said that under pressure, what is within will come out. The kids scooted away as they anticipated that Pastor Rick would plaster orange juice all over them. Don’t worry; he didn’t actually smash the orange, but he did make such a great point that is so helpful for me.
Whatever you are dealing with will come out under great pressure.
Church pace can cause that pressure. And the enemy wants to cripple you from your role in the Kingdom plan. So many times, leaders are taken out by the enemy in a disguised form: frustration, a critical spirit, envy, pride, ambition, anxiousness, depression, fear, insecurity, lack of direction, idleness, and burnout. The Church is robbed of its sons and daughters and left with discontent short-term seat fillers. Beware of the times you feel the pressures that tell you to throw the towel in, walk away from the house, do something better with your talents and time. And don’t be afraid to ask your leader to come alongside you to overcome a season of this spirit. I love that our church believes in supporting you through your junk rather than asking you to take a seat until you get it together.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:4–7
Tiny soapbox: there is a misconception that a day in the life of a church staff could best be described as a “stress free, coffee drinking, sitting in a circle, praying all day, soaking up the Lord” kind of day. We may always have a coffee in hand because the job is fast paced and the days are full, but we wouldn’t be able to make it without a vision minded team. Here are few things we look for when choosing leaders:
- Those who are vision carriers: they represent the heart of our church, support the vision, nourish their relationships within, and initiate unity at all costs.
- Those who look to promote others instead of themselves, who feel the responsibility to equip the next potential creative, and who will help the church vision last longer than their own generation.
- Those who are flexible, reliable, trustworthy, take initiative, take responsibility, and are willing to learn and grow as the vision changes.
- Here is a full view of our Creative Department Leadership Expectations.
So Creative staff & volunteers, don’t walk away disgruntled and critical. Root yourself so that you can produce fruit that is long lasting and useful. Be aware of the pressure points that the enemy wants to use to distract you from being a part of this legacy. I could talk on this all day, but I want to leave you with this final thought:
What if your influence spanned not only to your generation; what if you equipped the next generation as well so they don’t have to start over figuring out what the Church should be? Imagine the Church of tomorrow if the Church of today left a legacy worth passing on.