Church team building is essential since churches rely heavily on volunteers to complete their mission. Without a strong team culture and healthy environment, a church cannot keep pace and care for people well.
Failing to build strong teams will ultimately limit a church’s impact and reach. Conversely, serving on healthy church teams allows people to flourish in their giftings and build lifelong relationships.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss five essential qualities of healthy teams that will explode your church’s team building efforts. This requires the right combination of culture, process, and relationship. Team building helps build individuals, and ultimately advances the church!
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Table of contents
What Exactly is Church Team Building?
We talk a lot about building leaders and teams in the church world, but what exactly does this mean? Building church teams starts and ends with relationship and effective communication.
Here’s what church team building is NOT:
- Posting a volunteer sign-up sheet on a bulletin board.
- Begging people to volunteer in a weekend announcement.
- Slipping a compulsory volunteer requirement into your membership class.
In fact, using the words “volunteer” versus “team member” can make a big difference–it’s more than semantics.
Volunteers are signing up to do a job, to help with a need or something that’s lacking. When they finish the job or the need is gone, there’s no longer a reason to volunteer.
On the other hand, a team is a group of people committed to one another and a greater cause. Teams can be more complicated to organize, train, grow, and maintain but the long-term return is much greater.
Volunteers are often driven by guilt or obligation but healthy teams should be motivated by purpose an d sustained by connection to one another. Team members enjoy both the process and result of being on the team.
Church team building is an organic process. It’s not simply organizing a project or moving people through a pipeline. Teams thrive on relationships, conversations, and care.
Before we talk about the five key qualities for a healthy and effective team, let’s cover the three main phases of team building: recruiting, maintaining, and growing.
Recruiting Church Teams
Before you start recruiting, identify what needs exist and create a path for people to get involved. There are three main questions to ask during this phase:
- What needs do we have in our church?
- Who is best suited to meet those needs?
- What’s the best way to connect those people with the opportunity to serve?
People are waiting to be invited. You can’t just sit back and expect people to come to you. Instead, be proactive about finding the right people for the right positions.
You also can’t assume it’s obvious that you need help. Most churches do an excellent job of making things look organized and fluid from the outside. People may think you have everything covered.
Others might assume they’re unqualified or ill-equipped to serve at the church, or perhaps even unwanted. Even if they hear an announcement about joining teams, they may not take that step without a personal invitation.
And recruiting is simply an invitation. You’re not begging, threatening, or manipulating – you’re just inviting people to be part of what you’re doing.
When recruiting, you should:
- Take a personal interest in the person and find a good fit for them.
- Be clear about what the role entails and what the time commitment will be.
- Make it easy for them to say yes by doing as much of the legwork upfront as possible.
- Recognize that everyone has a different timeline. Sometimes “no” means “not right now”; leave the door open for follow-up (and ensure you take time to circle back around on it).
Maintaining Church Teams
Recruiting is critical but you also need to devote energy to maintaining the team that you have. If you’re only excited about new recruits, your current volunteers will feel used and neglected.
Maintaining a team involves work, it’s won’t just happen. You need to:
- Provide quality training and onboarding.
- Continue to communicate vision, values, and expectations.
- Regularly celebrate successes and milestones of the overall team and individuals (birthdays, anniversaries, life moments, testimonies, etc.)
- Make sure everyone feels valued and appreciated.
- Be present and available to answer questions, give feedback, and provide support.
- Lead by example in everything you do.
A certain amount of turnover is necessary and healthy, but you cannot build a team if there’s a continuous stream of people exiting. So ensure that you provide an excellent experience and continually care for people serving on the team.
Growing Church Teams
Finally, people are going to stay if there’s an opportunity for growth. If things get stale and monotonous, and they have nowhere to advance, they’re likely to move on.
You can encourage growth by:
- Focusing on personal development and not just task-based goals.
- Helping people identify their gifts, talents, and passions.
- Providing opportunities for them to step into leadership roles.
- Connecting them with a mentor or coach who can help equip them for success.
- Creating an environment where people feel safe to take risks, make mistakes, and learn from them.
By investing in your team members and creating a supportive environment, you can grow a strong group of volunteer leaders. This leadership development is truly crucial for advancing the kingdom.
Now let’s talk about five keys to church team building that will help you build a thriving organization.
The first key is culture. Culture is the set of values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that make up the identity of a group. It’s what makes your team unique.
As a leader, you carry the primary responsibility for cultivating and maintaining a healthy culture.
You have to continually reinforce the desired values and behaviors and have loving confrontation when culture gets off track.
Culture is what people experience and embody as part of your team, and it’s what people observe and how they describe it.
So it’s number one on the list because it’s the foundation to keep people on your team long-term and attract new people.
A healthy culture is something people can sense and observe, and they’re attracted to it!
Next on the list is clarity. People need to know what the team’s purpose is and how their role fits into the big picture.
If there’s confusion about why the team exists or what it’s trying to accomplish, people will quickly become frustrated and disengaged.
There needs to be a clear vision for the team that everyone understands and buys into. This doesn’t mean that everyone needs to agree with everything – healthy teams have a diversity of opinions – but there should be basic consensus with everyone on the same page.
If things are clear then they’re easy to put into writing. Some basics your team should have written down include:
- Team purpose and mission
- Roles and leadership structure of the team
- Responsibilities of individual team members
- Standard operating procedures for the team
We know that standard operating procedures (SOPs) sound very corporate, but they are essential for churches too.
SOPs are written guidelines for how a job should be done, how an environment should look, and how team members should act. They ensure things function smoothly and consistently.
Don’t leave small things to chance, thinking they’ll be “obvious” to everyone. You’d be surprised how often people have different opinions or are simply unaware of unspoken expectations.
It’s better to provide clarity on the front end than correction on the back end. Clarity helps people be successful, builds trust, and helps you avoid hurt feelings and resentment.
Communication is the third key. Your team members are undoubtedly busy individuals, and they’ll appreciate concise, timely updates.
Formal communications may include standard meetings, pre-service huddles, and weekly emails. Team members can depend on these channels to receive weekend serve info.
Informal communications are the personal conversations, texts, and DMs that keep everyone up-to-date if there are last-minute changes.
Informal communications can be more spontaneous, but they’re just as important for building relationships and trust. Churches tend to have lots of moving pieces, so teams need established channels and processes for delivering updates.
Open and honest communication is essential for healthy team culture. People need to feel like they can express their opinions and ideas without fear of reprisal.
Leaders should encourage constructive criticism and feedback in order to surface the best ideas and solutions. People are more likely to buy into decisions when they feel heard and understood, regardless of the ultimate outcome.
Community is really what church is all about. In fact, one of the main reasons people sign up for teams is because they want to make friends and get to know people. Church teams should be communities of people who care about and support each other.
This includes everything from being friendly and welcoming to new members, to providing help and encouragement when someone is struggling. People should feel like they belong and bring value to their team.
A sense of community doesn’t happen by accident. It takes effort and intentionality to create an environment where people feel like they belong. Church teams should be strategically sized so leaders can get to know everyone on a personal level.
Leaders should take the time to learn about their team members’ interests, families, and backgrounds. This will help you build relationships and create a more cohesive team.
Community is forged in both formal and informal settings.
Provide church team-building opportunities for people to socialize outside of their volunteer shifts when they’re engaged in “working” responsibilities. These times are just for fun and building relationships and may be one-on-one, in small groups, or including the entire team.
At the same time, recognize that many people’s schedules are jam-packed. Sometimes their only availability to socialize with their church team is at church while volunteering. So, don’t make people feel left out if they can’t attend additional events, or feel compelled to attend and commit even more time to church activities.
Instead, make the community an integrated part of every serve experience.
- Share stories and testimonies
- Provide follow-ups to prayer requests
- Make it fun
- Provide unexpected surprises
- Give gifts or small tokens of appreciation
Doing these things will help church team members feel like they’re part of something special – and they are!
Church team building requires connection to a bigger purpose. It’s not just about the team itself, but about how the team serves the church and furthers its mission–and also about seeing each individual as unique and special.
When people feel connected to a larger purpose, they’re more likely to be engaged and invested in their work. They understand that what they’re doing matters, and that it contributes to something bigger than themselves.
In previous points, we covered how important clarity and community are. Clarity helps people connect the dots between their team’s responsibilities and the overall church vision.
Then, community helps create lateral connections and relational networks, helping people connect to each other.
But there’s another layer of connection which is helping the individual connect to God and their destiny as they serve.
When people aren’t operating in their unique strengths and gifting, they will fizzle out. The team may be fun for a time, but ultimately if it doesn’t help align them to their calling and purpose, they may move on.
Part of team building is bringing people of unique personalities together, uncovering their diverse talents, then putting them to use.
Essentials for Church Team Building
Team building is a necessity for every church. By focusing on culture, clarity, communication, community, and connection, you can set your team up for success.
When these essentials are in place, you’ll create an environment where people want to serve, and where they’re equipped to do so effectively with a clear vision.
If your church team-building culture and processes are unhealthy or missing the mark, it can take some time to turn things around. Remember, building takes time. Focus on one point at a time to avoid becoming overwhelmed or scattered.
One final tip: Celebrate successes along the way! Church team building is an ongoing journey, and there are many victories and reasons for gratitude. Take time to celebrate what God is doing in and through your team. This will keep everyone motivated and focused on the end goal.