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Trend to team ministry emerging in churches, BSSB consultant says

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–The trend to team ministry is replacing committees in many churches, according to a Baptist Sunday School Board consultant.
Ron Pratt, a church consultant for ministers of education in the board’s pastor-staff leadership department, led a conference on team ministry earlier this summer at the National Conference on Church Leadership at Ridgecrest (N.C.) Baptist Conference Center.
“There is a lot of debate about teams verses committees,” Pratt said. “Many people ask, ‘What is the difference?'”
According to Pratt: “A team is a small group of people with complementary skills committed to a common purpose or goal and for which they are willing to be mutually accountable.
“Notice this definition says complementary skills, not the same skills,” he emphasized. “For example, you may not want all accountants on a financial team. Rather, have people with other skills to complement the accountant’s skills.
“Teams are an effective way to help people identify their spiritual gifts and to empower them,” Pratt said.
He gave eight reasons why a church might opt to use a team approach to leadership.
1) People are energized by significant challenges.
2) Teams bring people together with different skills, talents, gifts and experiences with a common goal.
3) Teams can be more flexible and can react more quickly to the need for change.
4) Teams cut through the bureaucracy, instead of increasing it.
5) Teams develop communication skills that help people resolve problems.
6) Teams create more of a sense of family and bonding.
7) Teams usually have more fun and fellowship.
8) Teams are biblical.
Besides this, if you ask someone in your church to serve on a worship committee, they will probably react negatively, Pratt noted. But ask them to serve on a worship team, and they will be more likely to react positively.
Pratt pointed to the ministry of Jesus as the model for team ministry. Jesus built a team of 12. As they followed Jesus, they saw things they never dreamed they would see. Jesus modeled team leadership to them when he washed his disciple’s feet. He taught them how to be a servant.
“Team builders never lose when they wash feet,” Pratt said.
“Most churches have a World War II corporate model of leadership,” he observed, “where people serve under a CEO.”
In these churches, the call is not recognized beyond the pastor. “The pastor is called, the other staff are hired,” he said.
In a team concept of ministry, the call and gifts of each individual are not only recognized, they are celebrated.
Pratt pointed to two different types of teams, functional and project.
One distinction between the two is longevity. A functional team is long-term or ongoing, while a project team is short-term.
Pratt pointed to his own church, First Baptist Church, Franklin, Tenn., for an example of a functional team.
In their young adult Sunday school department, there were seven classes, using four different curriculums.
“We wanted to know what it takes to have life-changing Bible study for young adults every Sunday morning,” Pratt said.
In order for Bible study to be life-changing, the teachers had to discover the life-changing truths in the Scripture. They decided to create a Bible-teaching team, consisting of the seven teachers. For this to work, they all had to be using the same Scripture, so they chose the Life and Work curriculum.
“The seven teachers focused on the Scripture and chose from the text the verses that would be most likely to change lives. No quarterlies or teacher’s books were used at the team meeting; just the Bible. We dialogued about the text,” he said.
After a creative sharing of ideas from the Bible, “the teachers were ready to go home, get their teacher’s book and prepare a lesson for Sunday.”
The result was life-changing young adult Bible study, he said.
Leadership for team meetings was rotated among the members, and Pratt observed the sessions became “the richest hour of my week.”
Project teams are put together to plan one event, like a special fellowship celebration or seminar. Once the project is completed, the team is finished.
Instead of a committee, where all the responsibility rests on the chairman, the team shares the responsibility.
Pratt suggests asking the following questions before leading a church to a team ministry concept.
— What is the demographic/educational level of the congregation? Teams require a high level of motivation.
— What are the reasons for going to teams? Just because someone else uses teams effectively doesn’t mean you should.
— Do I need to lead the church through a transition in implementing the team approach?
— What teaching and training do I need to do to prepare people for teams?
— How quickly will people be able to make the transition?
— What will be the criteria for success?
— Will we have functional or project teams, or a combination?
— How do spiritual gifts fit in?
The National Conference for Church Leadership was sponsored by the Baptist Sunday School Board’s church leadership services division. The board offers several resources in team ministry, including “The Team Builder” by Frank Lewis and “The Ministry Gifts Inventory,” a booklet and software program for determining and recording spiritual gifts.

    About the Author

  • Carl M. White