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Leading a Team Large and Small (Part 1)

This Monday we gathered together for a worship workshop with worship leaders from St. Louis Cohorts. The questions focused on how, as worship leaders, we can better develop our teams (music, creative and technical teams).

How do you lead a small team without burning them out?

Give volunteers permission to place their health & family above their talent and serving. It’s so important to want something “for” our volunteers as opposed to wanting something “from” our volunteers. You may be asking “if I encourage my volunteers to place family and emotional health above church, I might not have any team left!”

Okay, so start slowly by recognizing one volunteer at a time.

Do you notice when she/he complains of being overwhelmed and having no time for themselves and their family? Gently ask them if it would help to have a weekend off from serving to relax and spend time with their family. Assure them that their place on the team is secure and thank them for how they serve the church. Just the suggestion may be enough for them to feel a freedom and care that they are valuable to God beyond their musical/technical gifting.

And what if they take you up on the offer? Have a plan in place for the following weekend that doesn’t require that particular volunteer. Maybe a stripped down worship day (smaller band or solo with one harmony vocal), or a youth that you are developing in the background for just such a time as this, or talented friends and/or family members that owe you a favor. Sometimes your team members may be so overused that it is appropriate to hire a local musician substitute if their role is absolutely essential to the service (and philosophically you are not opposed).

The key here is we value who our volunteers are before we value what they can do for us.

Burn out is so often a symptom of unrecognized exhaustion in the lives of our volunteers. Small teams need attentive care and intentional rest stops. With good planning we can create breathing room for our teams and the result is always increased inspiration and a healthy team culture with energy for the long haul.

How do you lead a large team and still achieve cohesion, everyone being on the same page?

Cohesion–everyone being on the same page–is the marriage of regular communication with your teams throughout the week and intentional vision casting with your teams throughout the weekend (or Sunday morning). Regular communication during the week may be as specific as checking on an individual volunteer or as general as making sure your planning center email is sent out on time to multiple technical, creative, and/or musical teams of volunteers.

For large teams, as much as possible, your communication needs to encompass those who are not serving on the current weekend (or Sunday morning). In other words, large teams often consist of volunteers that rotate on different weekends and–as often as possible–need communication even on weeks they are not serving in order to “feel” and/or remain connected to the larger team vision.

A creative way to keep the entire team connected and envisioned is to send out a weekly blog or text-thread or video chat invitation with scripture, communication about the upcoming weekend, and/or reminder that you are praying for your teams and welcome their prayer requests. When you find your own unique form of regular team communication you then have an amazing opportunity to cast vision that unites your team(s).

Vision casting is your pastoral role in leading volunteers to Jesus again and again.

Another key unifier for larger teams is a monthly or yearly serving schedule (or rotation) that is sent out to your teams in advance. This eliminates the possibility that one of your team members will not know when he/she is serving next. Often, larger teams suffer because individual volunteers do not feel connected if they are unaware of their next serve invitation. Once they have a scheduled rhythm some of their anxiety is relieved–though there is still the possibility that they will want to serve more often (different blog post for a different day).

Finally, it is essential that your team experiences “wins.” By this I mean, after you have communicated with your team and cast spiritual vision for the things God is doing through your teams… you must tell the story of how God moved on that particular weekend. You’ve worked so hard to communicate with your team and cast vision to fulfill God’s purpose at your church–now you’ve got to point out the stories of how it is actually happening!

Gather your team together after the worship service, or before the next worship service and tell them the stories you are hearing from your congregation. How a teammate’s family member is present for the first time and felt welcomed. How a non-believing friend is back for the second week in a row. How God used the creative teams to melt a hard heart or draw someone to Christ for the first time or back to Christ after a long time.

Stories unite teams (large and small) and remind us why we’re serving. Keep the story of Jesus constantly before your teams with regular communication and intentional vision casting and your team will be unified.

In part 2 we’ll look at how we can (and if we should) measure our team’s “success” tangibly, as well as sharing the most important piece of advice about team building that was shared at the Cohort workshop.