How Do You Pick a Team?

Steve Petty
Written by Steve Petty

OK, admit it, getting picked to be on a team was one of the most traumatic experiences of grade school.  The popular and athletic kids got picked first.  The unpopular, dorky, geeky, and less athletic kids got picked last.  The worst feeling in the world was being the last kid standing, everyone is looking at you and everyone knows no one wants you on their team, but you end up getting picked last for a team.

It’s not like that!  We don’t have to pick everyone.  But it is possible to pick a terrible team, one that will fight each other, undermine your ministry, and stop any creative forward moving energy that is going on in the church.  It is also pretty easy to pick a fantastic team; you just have to spend a little time planning who you want to be on your team.

The best teams share common desires. Your team must begin with a common desire to strengthen the local church.  It may be that each one of your team members brings different ideas about how to do that, but the bottom line for each of them must be a desire to strengthen their local church and make disciples for Jesus Christ.

First question:  How many people do I want on my team?

There is no perfect number.  Two people can be a team, or twenty-five people, or fifty people.  It largely depends on what you want to do with the team.

But, as a general rule: Not less than six or more than twelve.  Let me give you two examples:

If you want your team to be the Leadership Team that runs the whole church, then I suggest a team of about eight to twelve.  You may think this is too large; and if your church is a start-up or a very small urban or rural church, this might be half of your current attendance.  However, if you are serious about growing the programs, the ministry, the influence on the community, the worship excellence, and the fellowship mortar that binds it all together, you will quickly find useful places to put all these people to work.

If you want to build a team that will look into the future and be a visionary planning team, then I suggest that six is a perfect team size and eight is the maximum.  Such a team would not be tasked with building specific areas of ministry – at least not during the planning stages.  Their task will be to look at the community, the trends in place at the present moment and how those will play out in the future.  Their task in this venture is to discover the trends, see the vision, and plan the direction that will move the church forward.  Keep this group smaller:  It will be much easier to bring six people into agreement on direction.  It may be impossible to get twelve people to agree on a common vision.

Second Question:  How do I select my team?

Above all, pick only those people for a team with whom you would like to work.  If you generally don’t like people and don’t trust people, and really would not like to work with any of the people in your church – forgive me, but – then you really should consider another line of work.  God created all of the people in your church.  Generally, you should discover that you genuinely like about 90% of the people in your church; you might feel ambivalent about 8%, and 2% are really just not your kind of people.  Beyond that, as you look at your people, there should be some people that you just enjoy being with a little bit more than the others.  There is some “simpatico” with those people.  Pick them!

After that, the next issue is: What is the nature of the team?

If this is a Long Range Planning Team (LRP) of six to eight people, then I strongly advise that you pick a team that looks like this:

Do not pick people who are already leading things.  The LRP does not need to be a team that represents every group, faction, ministry, or committee in the church.  In fact, picking people to represent an area means that you want to insure the continuation of that area regardless of the long-range direction.  If every group in the church is represented, then you will recreate exactly what exists now.  If you want to appeal to a younger demographic in ten years, then select people who will be in that demographic in ten years.  If you want the church to have lots of people 40 to 60 in ten years, then pick people who are 30 to 50 now.

  • Pick one visionary leader who has a thick skin.
  • Pick one person who has the gift of hospitality.
  • Pick one person who is new within the last year or two.
  • Pick another person who has been in the church for less than five years.
  • Pick one long time member who wants to see change.
  • Pick one person who is really young but loves the church.
  • If you want 8, pick two more people who think you are great and fun to be around.

If this is a team you want to help run the ministry of an existing church that isn’t running well now, then pick 10 to 12 people who look like this:

Pick people for their passion, not for their occupation.  Just because someone is a school teacher doesn’t mean he / she wants to teach Sunday School.  Just because someone is a lawyer doesn’t mean he / she wants to serve on the Trustees.  Find out what people’s passions are and ask them to help with those areas.

  • Pick people who are already leaders in specific areas that you want represented in the Leadership Team.
  • Pick people who are well respected in the church for their even temper, broad vision, willingness to work hard, devotion, and likeability.
  • Pick one person to convene the team who listens well and can lead a group.
  • Pick one person with a gift for hospitality.
  • Pick the others because they are good people who can lead on their own.

Third Question:  Who should I NOT pick for my team?

Do not put people on your team who do not like you or whom you do not like.

This seems self-evident, but I am constantly surprised to hear pastors complaining about people who are on their teams.   Often pastors ask people to serve on their teams because they feel they have to ask them.  This person has been a leader at the church since the Truman administration and everyone knows that he / she wants to lead the team, but this person has been at odds with the current pastor since that person arrived.  Given a choice the pastor wouldn’t put them on the team.  Then don’t!

  • Don’t put people on your team who will want to recreate the past rather than embrace the future.
  • Don’t put people on your team who are known by everyone to be cantankerous, obstinate, self-important, have an axe to grind, or are really one-issue people.
  • Don’t put people on your team who regularly fail to do their other church jobs.
  • Don’t put people on your team who cannot live up to the values of your church.
  • Don’t put people on your team who show up for meetings under the influence of drugs or alcohol, people who too frequently use “colorful” language that is inappropriate anywhere, but especially at church, are not going to build the values into your church, and they will drive other people away.
  • Don’t put people on your team who are “at large” members.  There is no place anymore for “at large” members in a church.  At large members are people who don’t want to do anything, but they want to make sure they are consulted before anything happens and they want their voices and their votes to matter.  We traditionally put them on as a courtesy because of their history with the church over a long time.  But, they usually hold the “veto” vote in order to stop anything from happening that would inconvenience them or change anything.

Fourth Question:  How do I ask someone?

Since you are only going to invite people who you sincerely like, just be honest with them and tell them why you think this is something you would like them to do.

There are some “Don’ts” to avoid when asking:

  • Don’t be shy about it.  Pastors do this all the time because we think the church is so unimportant to people that they won’t give us the time of day.  We ask in ways that make it easier for them to say “No!”, because we don’t want to be accused of “guilting” people into serving.  Don’t do that.  When you ask, realize you are asking on God’s behalf!
  • Don’t apologize for asking.  “I know you are really busy, what with the new baby, your big promotion, your mother’s cancer, and your in-laws coming to live with you …. but …”.  If those are the reasons they might say “No!”, then let them bring them up.
  • Don’t make them beg.  “Well, we’ve been trying to get people to help out with this new Leadership Team, but it seems a lot of people are too busy to help.  We really want good people to be on our team.  We just don’t have a lot of leaders.”  Don’t avoid asking, hoping they will offer or beg to help you out of a jam.
  • Don’t lie about the extent of the commitment.  “It’s not a big responsibility.  We probably won’t meet every month.  I think the meetings will last only about 15 minutes.  You’ll definitely be home in time to watch those reruns of Gilligan’s Island.  If you need to miss the meetings every other month we will understand.”  If you want it to be important, keep it important and make the commitment important.

There are also some definite “Do’s”:

  • Do tell them why you think this is a good fit for them.  “Bob, I know your passion for ministry is ….”.  Share what skills and abilities you see in them and why you think this is a ministry that they would find fulfilling.
  • Do be very clear about what you want from them.  “This Long Range Planning group will meet monthly for 18 months and it will require some homework and extra research.”
  • Do tell them you personally want them to do this.  You are an important person in their lives.  “I am asking you because I really want you to do this.  It will mean a lot to your church, and it will mean a lot to me.”
  • Do give them time to think about it and encourage them to pray about it.  Deadlines are good, “Please give it some thought, pray about it, and let me know by Sunday.”
  • Do pray with them about this decision: “Dearest Lord, please be with Sharon as she makes this decision.  May she be open to the leading of your Holy Spirit in whatever direction you are calling her to go.”

Pick your team carefully and ask them wisely.  You will be surprised what God will give you if you have the courage to ask for it.

Next: How do you teach a team?

© 2016 by Steve Petty