How do you teach a team?

Steve Petty
Written by Steve Petty

One of the areas where teams often fail is the overlooked aspect of teaching the team.  It comes as no surprise that one of the reasons people stop volunteering to help in the work of the local church is that they felt they were thrown into a job they were willing to do, but no one took the time to teach them how to do it.

Teaching involves not just making sure people understand the tasks, but also doing the hands-on coaching as the people and the team work up to a high level of efficiency and accomplishment.

The following ideas can be instilled over the first several months a team meets or disseminated in full at the beginning.  The important thing is to make sure everyone understands this is what we are going to do and this is how we will go about doing it.


Have Clear Expectations: 

On one side of one piece of paper write down what the individual and/or the team is expected to do.  This should include:

  •             The goal to be accomplished
  •             The time and place it will happen
  •             The people it will involve
  •             The resources available
  •             The expected outcome(s), clearly quantified.

The Guidelines for Conduct:

Every person involved in every ministry should read and understand the Guidelines for Conduct, Safe Sanctuaries, Child Protection Procedures, etc.  Anyone involved with children or youth should have submitted to full background checks.  This is how we treat people and how we keep people safe at our church.

Lines of Accountability

Who do we answer to and who looks to us for leadership?  Where do we fall in the grand scheme of things?  How do we connect to the greater whole?


Every person who is doing something in the church needs adequate training.

Ushers, greeters, teachers, leaders, all need to have a meeting to explain what it is they are expected to do.  Someone stands up and shows them how it is done, takes questions, and explains why it is important to do it this way.

As you begin meeting as a new team, you will need to assess how well people are prepared to accomplish the task before them.  Some people will be new to this task and may require a bit of patience and special instruction.  Some people may be very experienced at this task, but may need to be taught how to interact better with a team.  As the leader, it is your responsibility to think about each person on the team and help them to learn what you as the leader will do and how you will operate.

When teaching someone how to do a simple task, take on a specific role, or develop leadership skills, the best model I am familiar with is called the coaching model.  There are four steps:

  1. I’ll do it – you watch.
  2. I’ll do it – you help.
  3. You do it – I’ll help.
  4. You do it – I’ll watch.

Step five is when you step away and let them do it.

This process takes some time, but it insures that the values, the methods and the details that need to be present in that ministry are passed on in the right way.

If your team includes several new leaders who are coming into new areas, then it is important to take the time to be clear about expectations and coach them carefully into those positions of responsibility.

Leading the Team

People are generally reluctant to change the operating methods they have used in the past.  So, the leader who is creating new teams will find it very important that the operations of the team be clearly defined and employed from the very first meeting.

Call the Team Together

Establish the normal date, start time and ending time for the team meeting.  The earlier you can get the meeting on people’s calendars the more likely they are to attend.

Set Clear Expectations of Time

Always publish beginning and ending times.  Few meetings require more than 90 minutes and most can accomplish their business in an hour or less.  By publishing the closing time, people will be more likely to keep discussions brief so the entire agenda can be accomplished.  As the meeting begins, and as the end time approaches, remind people there is an ending time and it will be honored.  If there is business left undecided, it will have to wait until the next meeting.  By firmly holding to a closing time, you teach people that you respect their time commitment:  It is important to you.  If you repeatedly go over the limit, you teach people that you don’t really care about their time; you only want to get your stuff done.  If you don’t respect other people’s time, they will eventually decide not to respect yours and they will stop attending.

Publish an Agenda

Give adequate notice.  Usually 10 to 14 days before the meeting, send a reminder to people.  Send copies of the agenda to the whole team as part of the original announcement and the subsequent reminder.  The agenda should include everything you hope to accomplish during the meeting.

Each item listed on the agenda should have a name attached to it. By doing this you remind people that they must be prepared to make a presentation.

e.g., “Trustees Report – Fred Schwartz”

If the meeting is going to be jam-packed it is sometimes advisable to include times.

e.g., “Trustees Report – Fred Schwartz” (15 minutes)

Establish a Value System

As the leader of the team it is critically important to conduct the meeting with a clear value system.  How do we expect people to treat each other?  How do we expect people to cooperate with each other?  How will we deal with conflict when it arises?

Having a clear value system is critical because when a team begins working together, each member brings with them some values from previous teams. Some people may bring values which are detrimental to the team.  As an example, I have seen teams whose primary method of operation was open conflict, no mutual respect, and a belief that every resource available had to be fought for and won.  The reasonable people on the team, who were more inclined to share resources, quickly left the team.  The abrasive, conflict-generating people stayed to fight on, because beating up on other people gave them the greatest pleasure.

If the leader in such circumstances does not stand up to the conflict-generating people and clearly invoke a co-operational value system, the team will quickly self-destruct.

If the leader stops the negative conduct by reminding people of the values we intend to hold ourselves to in these meetings — cooperation, collegiality, respect — then the reasonable people will not be swayed or discouraged by the conflict-generating group.

Adhere to High Standards

Make it known to everyone on the team exactly that these standards apply to all:

  • Attendance – Everyone makes a commitment to be there and be prepared.
  • Confidentiality – Discussion, while free and open, is confidential.  People will not be quoted outside the meeting.  Results will be made known to the church as determined by the group.
  • Unity – We may disagree in the meeting; but when we walk out, we ALL become the majority.  This may be hard, but it is important.  There are no parking lot back- stabbing meetings where the minority sets land mines because they are unhappy.
  • Support – We will find ways to support one another in our tasks.  My area can help your area succeed, and we will gladly accept any help you might want to give us.
  • Honest Evaluations – Every event is evaluated within 60 days.  Everyone makes mistakes:  The secret is to not make them twice.  Criticism is never personal, it is corporate.  We failed to do something.  Let’s make sure we don’t do that again.  Next year we will do it this way!  Or, let’s not do that event again next year!
  • Optimism – We can do this!  “If Christ is for us, who can be against us?”  “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.”

If you spend the first year teaching your team well, they will reward the church with several years of faithful service and establish a methodology that will transform other groups and committees within the church.

Next: How do you create a winning team?

© 2016 by Steve Petty