It has been some time ago that I posted anything to my blog. I have been busy with school. Yep, school. I am a Doctoral student at Grand Canyon University in Arizona. My area of study in Doctor of Education Organizational Leadership.
The article presented is a formal critique of the book by George Barna titled, The Power of Team Leadership. I wrote it while I was working on my Masters at Liberty Theological Seminary. I welcome any comments you may have in regards to this offering. Thank you.
In the book, The Power of Team Leadership Finding Strength in Shared Responsibility, George Barna shares his concerns that the American church is in desperate need of a change in its leadership style. Barna carefully builds a case for why he believes that the church in today’s culture is challenging many of its leaders and is placing a strain on the one time single leader philosophy. With the use of statistical data, he identifies the problem that many churches face when pastors attempt to be a solo leader. At the mid-point of the book, Barna begins to list the benefits of working as a team. Finally, he focuses on how the church can implement a team leadership style. He further delineates some of the pit falls that can and should be avoided if developing teams in a Biblical format.
From the onset of the first chapter, he lays the groundwork that many churches place such high expectations on its leaders, that they are bound for failure. Barna states, “During the past two decades, there has been a continual decline in the satisfaction with leadership in churches, government, nonprofit organizations, schools, businesses, and families.” As Barna researched the reasons for the decline in the Church, he came to the conclusion that team leadership is the best and most successful way to do ministry within this cultural context.
Throughout the Bible, there are examples of God moving when people work together. Barna relates how leaders such as Moses, Nehemiah, Joshua, and others became great leaders because that they utilized the team leadership concept. The idea of team-based leadership perhaps is best described in Ephesians four. The prevailing idea from Barna’s perspective is that many church leaders are hired based on their strengths, and often are required to serve in areas that do not complement those strengths. This results in large numbers of leaders failing simply by default. Barna argues, “A major advantage of being led by a team is that the results almost always transcend what any individual from that team could have produced without the assistance of the other leaders involved in that team.” No matter how charismatic or skilled your leader is, there will always be areas of their ministry that could be stronger. Pastors and leaders, who build a team ministry, avoid the pitfalls that are found among those who do not, because they believe they are admitting defeat when they recruit others who are capable to assist in carrying out the vision that God has placed in their heart.
Barna’s strategy for team ministry is to understand the types and gifting of a leader’s aptitude that is used in the development of specific skill sets that can make or break an organization or a church ministry. In fact, organizing a poorly structured team can do more damage than having no team at all. Barna shares what he looks for when building a team ministry: people “called by God to lead, who have godly character, and they possess the competencies to help fulfill God’s vision.” Although transitioning from a solo leadership style to a team leadership style is not easy, Barna clearly shows that the benefits far exceed the pitfalls.
The concept of team ministry has always been part of my DNA as a pastor. Reading the book, The Power of Team Leadership brought to mind my first five years as the senior pastor of the congregation. I presently have served for the past twenty-five years. When I came to pastor the congregation they had been under a single pastor of the previous twenty years. He did everything for the people, from dedicating their children to making home repairs, and everything in between.
One day he shared his heart with me and said, “These people will let me do anything in the world for them except pastor them.” Those words have stuck with me from that day till now. When I became the senior pastor, many of the congregation still held to that concept of what a pastor was supposed to be. When God began to show me the importance of team ministry, I began to share the vision and plan the Holy Spirit had placed in my heart and it was met with great resistance. Many left the church; over half of the Elders resigned. Most of the Elders were personal friends. It was a struggle to deal with the loss of those whom I had spent so much time with, and I reasoned that they just did not want a thirty-year-old pastor leading them. The truth was revealed when one told me that they were not happy with my choice of moving to a team leadership style.
One individual I upset was the church treasurer. He had served for over fifteen years. For him, vision casting and using different approached for ministry was out of the question. He became stubborn to move into the new direction God was laying out. One day while I was praying, I spoke to the Lord from my heart, “either move him or change him because I cannot continue to have his resistance.” I was confident that God was going to move. A few weeks later, he stood before the church and confessed his heart. He told the church his first thought was that I was just trying to make a name for myself and would move to something better the first chance I got—that I would just leaving them holding the bag and deeper in debt. Then he said, “but God changed me. I know that God sent our Pastor to us, and we need to get behind what ever it is God is saying to him.” From that day forward, God began to chip away at the solo leadership mentality of the congregation. Now, over twenty years later, the church has transitioned; and while we are not a perfect church, there are more team ministries happening today. We are raising up new leaders who are gifted and are helping us follow the vision God has given to us as a congregation.
Leadership principles are a dime a dozen in our present culture. Just Google the word leadership and you get approximately 177 million hits. If you type Team Leadership on Amazon.com, you will get over three thousand hits. You have the seminars, conferences CD’s, DVD’s and the like, all designed to make one a better leader. All of this can be overwhelming. It makes one wonder, “Why would someone want to write another book on any topic of leadership?” The problem with this present culture is that we suffer from information overload. This overload has caused many to read more information than can be implemented. This is a real issue among pastor’s and church leaders. This is an area that Barna addressed when he stated, “Many churches would rather live within the confines of an unhealthy culture than go through the painstaking transformation a cultural shift requires.”
One area that Barna does not cover in much detail is how the gifts of the Spirit relate to team leadership. The idea of the Holy Spirit gifting some one to function in a leadership capacity is just as important as the other leadership skills Barna mentions, especially within the context of the church. I would like to know what Barna says about the role of Spiritual gifts in team leadership. Perhaps this is addressed in other books he has written, but if you are going to talk about team leadership, then the first member of the team needs to be the Holy Spirit. He enables believers to do the ministry by gifting them.
In the chapter on Landmines in Team Territory, Barna gives a good overview of areas that become pitfalls of team leadership. This chapter offers great ideas on what to look out for when working in team ministry, but again, the idea of allowing the Holy Spirit preeminence in the team needs to be addressed. When Barna addresses the idea of being careful not to let people be part of more then one team at a time, he says they need to be part of the team that releases their passion. This can be difficult if they are not sure what their passions are. However, when one understands the gifting that the Holy Spirit has given to them, the idea of doing more than one thing becomes limited. Again, perhaps more time on this subject would have made a larger contribution to the overall concept and idea that Barna set forth.
Reading the book, The Power of Team Leadership, is a tremendous asset to my collection of Leadership books. Serving as the Lead Pastor (replacement title for Senior Pastor) allows me the opportunity to pour into others and assist them in discovering where they best fit in the ministry that God has allowed me to lead. Time and space will not permit me to enumerate on all the action steps I want to make as I continue to lead our ministry teams but I have listed three of the most important. First, for the past two years, I have been searching for better more effective ways to develop new leaders’ as well as assist our present leaders to grow. I will take time to develop a viable leadership partnership. I know I cannot do it all. I want to develop other leaders to assist in the development of leaders. In his book, The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make, Hans Finzel argues, “The number one leadership sin is that of top-down autocratic arrogance.”  He goes on to explain that after all these years, leaders should have gotten the message that domineering dictatorial leadership that barks out orders to the weak underlings, is not the way to lead. Sadly, many continue to devalue their most important asset—people.
It has been said that variety is the spice of life; and when it come to developing and building teams, it is important to remember that different personalities on a team will make a team stronger not weaker. In our training sessions, I want our leaders to remember how great it is to have variety on the team. Secondly, I am praying for the Holy Spirit to create an environment of excellence. I am aware that as the lead pastor, I champion the change. I have already begun making changes in sermon preparation and presentation and when I meet with my team leaders, I will set the tone of excellence before them. Each of our team leaders will place stronger emphasis on doing ministry with excellence. This does not mean that we will not allow members to fail. Failure is an important tool in the development of excellence. John Maxwell states, “If you can’t bear a job done wrong or risk the failure of subordinates, the work piles will litter not their desks but yours.” Thirdly, when I do ongoing training, I will have what Barna refers to as agendaless events. Our full leadership teams meet on a quarterly basis, and I will purpose to have at least one of our gatherings as an agendaless event. This will be a great time of growth and development for all involved, myself included.
 George Barna, The Power of Team Leadership Advancing Success Through Shared Responsibility. Colorado Springs, Co.: Waterbrook Press (2001), 5.
 Ibid., 80.
 Ibid,. 12.
 Ibid,. 72.
 See Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4 for various descriptions of how the Holy Spirit distributes gifts.
 Hans Finzel, The Top Ten Mistakes Leader Make (Colorado Spring, CO.: NexGen, 2000), 22.
 George Barna, The Power of Team. 156.
 Steve McKinley, John Maxwell and Greg Asimakoupoulos, The Time Crunch: What to Do When You Can’t Do It All, Mastering ministry’s pressure points (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Books, 1993), 63.
Barna, George. The Power of Team Leadership Advancing Success Through Shared Responsibility, Colorado Springs, Co.: Waterbrook Press, 2001.
Finzel, Hans. The Top Ten Mistakes Leader Make, Colorado Spring, CO.: NexGen, 2000.
McKinley, Steve, Maxwell, John, and Asimakoupoulos, Greg. The Time Crunch: What to Do When You Can’t Do It All, Mastering Ministry’s Pressure Points, Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Books, 1993.