“Team work makes the dream work.”

Nothing like a cheesy quote to get a blog post started.  Some quotes like this are just cliche or so overused they have lost all meaning and are nothing more than wall art.  However, this one is true.

We achieve very little if we have a de-motivated, poorly equipped, running on empty, struggling to commit team of people who would rather be anywhere else than hanging out with us on a Friday night doing youth work (or, insert equivalent here).

It is easy to forget, when you are bogged down with planning, dashing out to lead an assembly, responding to a request from a senior pastor, putting together a water tight budget for 2018 and writing discipleship notes for a group of young people with vastly different needs that – unlike most of your team – you are paid to do this.  This puts church ministry in a unique place when it comes to leading teams.  For most people, including those on your team – work is generally what you get paid for.  No offence to those who do the flower rota or are occasional stewards at church on a Sunday shepherding people to their seats but youth work is flippin’ hard work!  Here they come, those volunteers . . . those legendary extra timers – if they didn’t youth work, children’s work, so much church based ministry just wouldn’t happen.

So, here are six ways to appreciate your team.

#1.  YOU Turn up First and Leave last.  Got a club or an activity happening?  Get there before your team turn up.  Start the set up, put out the chairs or put the chairs away, which ever needs to be done.  Get the place ready – when the team start to arrive they can just join in with what you are already doing.  Yes, you might have other things to do – but what this says to your team is you value all the work – you aren’t some prima donna upfront person who floats in when the graft is done.  Lead by example.  Also, putting the chairs away, cleaning up afterwards are GREAT times for informal chats with individual team members – be one of the team to lead the team.

#2.  Say Thank You.  We sometimes don’t appreciate what is right in front of us.  There might well be team who have been committed to a project or activity longer than you have.  You might have inherited team when you moved to a church or organisation where there was already established work.  If you could be honest for a moment – maybe some of these team members are more committed than you.  It costs nothing to say thank you.  Be specific.  Yes, you could just say “thank you for turning up” – but, pay attention, notice what individual team members are bringing and doing.  That tricky conversation over there; noticing a child who wasn’t engaged and going over to say “hi”; getting alongside the difficult young person; bringing natural calm and focus to a group of children when an activity is being led from the front.  What are they doing?  How are they – in their individual ways – adding value to the team and the activity?  Say thanks.  Be specific.  It shows you don’t just appreciate the team – you appreciate them.

#3.  Develop Each One.  Ask yourself this question – are your team canon fodder to throw at the activity or project?  You know, warm bodies in the room that enable you to “do your thing?” Or, are they a group of amazing individuals with gifts and talents.  If, they are the later . . . what are you doing to help them grow and develop in their gifting?  Offer training opportunities, offer guidance and support, create an environment where they can step up and try something – create an atmosphere where, just as they are seeking growth and transformation for the children or young people they are working with – you, as their team leader, are seeking the same for them.  If you have a high turn over of volunteers it might be that haven’t quite got this right – if you get it right, you might also have a high turn over – but for a wonderful reason.  You have invested in people who want to step up in leadership, have – with your support and encouragement – grown in confidence about their gifts and are ready for more.  What a wonderful legacy that would be!

#4.  Praise them in public.  This might seem as easy thing to do – but it depends where we as leaders get our security and confidence from.  If the work is going well – we are most likely to be receiving the plaudits, after all – we are the leader!  Yet, I’ve never known a work to be going well that isn’t enabled by a fantastic team.  As the leader, you may well have a platform that your team don’t.  You could stand there all humble and take the plaudits – or, you could turn and look at your team and tell everyone how fantastic they are.  Do you want people to think, “wow, they must be amazing” or “wow, what a team – who wouldn’t want to be part of that!”

#5.  Cry over losses together.  When it isn’t going so well, numbers are dropping, a young person goes off the rails, some of your team have to pack it in because of other commitments (they are volunteers juggling the rest of life to carve out time for this after all!) you have a choice as a leader.  You can hide from it, pretend it isn’t happening, get defensive if your team notice and start questioning direction, values or – heaven forbid – whether it is worth continuing.  Don’t shut them out.  Draw them in, be honest – face the concerns as a team.  Draw on their experience and advice for a fresh direction, how to deal with the failure – look together at what has gone wrong or isn’t working.  It is often in adversity that we find we are closer as a team, more real, more authentic, able to shape something new with a sense of purpose and direction that has been missing.  If we could be bold and do this together – especially if, lets be really honest – our approach or our attitude might be part of the problem the group or project is facing right now – then, wow – a team that works through something rubbish together comes out of it all the stronger.  This is when the rubber really hits the road and shows our team that, not only do we appreciate them, we need them – we need their input, their perspective and their involvement to see a way through.

#6.  Celebrate the good.  The “good” isn’t just what is going well in a subject sense of “what successful ministry looks like” – the good is this team serving these young people, the good is this single dad giving up what little free time he has to serve young people, the good is this mum – whose partner isn’t a Christian and doesn’t get it – giving the most time she can to serve the children’s ministry, the good is this 17 year old who wants to give something back having grown up through the kids work and youth work . . . whatever the arbitrary ideas of “good” look like in terms of outcomes for children and young people (and, it is important to explore those – but this isn’t what this blog post is about!) – what is good, undeniably good, is this great team – perhaps of misfits, who under normal circumstances would never even know the other people on this team – never mind choose to hang out with them!  This is good.  Celebrate this.  Celebrate who they are.  Celebrate who you are collectively.  Have an annual party, go for meals together – celebrate them for who they are.  Make meeting to just be together a priority – not just planning for next term or the end of year social for the young people.  Celebrate the good that is right in front of you.  This amazing team.

There you go.

How do you appreciate your team?

What would you add to the list above?

Comment below 🙂