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Leading a Team Large and Small (Part 2)

Last time we left off with the promise of looking at two things 1) how to and/or whether to measure the success of our small or large teams 2) the key piece of advice given to worship leaders and team leaders at the “Worship Cohort One Day” last month in St. Louis. Today we’ll look at how to and/or whether to measure the success of our teams.

Before we dive into the first area, let’s set a foundational groundwork for our conversation. How do we currently view success, and or how to measure success on our teams? We are well aware of corporate leadership gurus, like Peter Drucker, who say “what gets measured gets managed.” Undoubtedly, this mentality has penetrated the psyche of church culture—with thousands of church leaders taking their cue from corporate culture through yearly leadership conferences like Northpoint’s “Catalyst” or Willow Creek’s “The Summit.” These conferences encourage churches and teams (small and large) to operate more efficiently and intentionally with management structure mirroring corporations: the Lead Pastor acts as the CEO and the Elders act as board members. Often the result of this mentality is a measurement for success that focuses solely on numerical growth. In this model, the two greatest measurements of success are financial growth, and yearly increase in congregational attendance. I realize this may not be how your church encourages you to measure your team’s success, however I establish this background to point out that consciously or unconsciously worship leaders live in a day-in-age when we are told 1) to measure the success of our teams and 2) to measure the success of our team by how they affect numerical growth in the congregation.

Whether or not you accept these presuppositions let’s look at Jesus’ teaching. The first teaching is the parable of the talents. Three servants are given different amounts by their master—5000, 2000, and 1000 talents. The first two men double their master’s investment, however, the third servant buries his 1000 talents in fear of losing the master’s investment. When the master returns to collect his investments he rewards the first two servants and fires the third servant. The master measures success in simple terms—the faithful servants invested all their talents and gained more talents to return to their master while the unfaithful servant failed to invest any of his talents and did not have a return.

The first thing we glean from Jesus’ parable is that ‘the master’—who is God—measures success.  It’s simple: Jesus says, “God measures success.”

Our first answer then is to recognize that Godly measurement is essential—not because Peter Drucker or Andy Stanley say so—because Jesus says so. Jesus says measuring success is a part of how God, our Master, helps us grow more fruitful in our ministries. The trouble however is that we are not God—and our measures our often flawed. Proverbs 16:11 and Corinthians 10:12 speak to the constant sin connected to a mis-measurement of success… so how do we measure the success of our teams (small and large) in a Godly manner? Is it really all about numerical growth?

For years, I’ve pondered the parable of the talents and dreamed of a third scenario where yet another servant is given a sum of talents. However, differently from the servants who each returned talents to their master, this new servant invests all the talents given by his master only to lose the investment entirely. In other words, when the master returns to collect His investment, the new servant has nothing to return—not even the original investment. How would the master respond to a new servant who invested all but lost the entire investment?

Jesus sits by the temple with His disciples and observes the temple treasury where many rich men give their offerings in large amounts. Then, Jesus observes a poor widow take 2 very small copper coins and place them in the treasury. Jesus tells His disciples that what the poor widow has given measures more in the eyes of God because she has given everything she has whereas the others have given out of their abundance. The poor widow is commended because she has invested everything in her ‘master.’ Like the two servants who were entrusted with differing amounts of talents, the poor widow understood herself as God’s servant—someone entrusted with talents that must be re-invested in the master’s work (no matter how small the amount). Furthermore, the poor widow receives no return for her investment, and in fact, has no return to offer God. And yet, Jesus makes clear to His disciples that she is a greater success than all the others who invested larger amounts.

God measures success. But Jesus tells us numerical returns (the growth of our congregation or financial budget) is a false and worldly measure of success.  

So, if we are to measure our teams for more fruitful ministry, how do we measure their success? Two words stand out in Jesus’ teachings: “All” and “everything.” Let me explain. The master’s servants are not primarily commended for bringing Him a return. Rather, Jesus commends them because in each case—the two faithful servants and the widow—invested “all” and “everything” they had been given. The servants and the widow trusted their master so much they held nothing back from God. The widow and the servants abandoned themselves to the unknown results of their sacrifice for God—and that was how God measured their success regardless of any return.

How do we measure our team’s success? Start with this question: does our team (small and large) give all we have—love, commitment, time, energy, talents, resources, passion, hard work, prayer, sacrifice, heart, mind, soul and strength—everything to God? As worshippers, worship leaders and pastors do we? No matter how much we learn about worship leadership, singing, playing, organizing, administrating, producing, team building, and church growth, we are called first to Jesus—to give Him all. And when we give everything as a team we guarantee success for our Father’s Kingdom and the glory of His Son.

Next time, we’ll make this even more practical, as we look at the non-numerical measures that we will see when our teams (and we) are successful in bringing our all, our everything to God. And it just so happens that this is the most important piece of advice given to worship leaders and team leaders at the “Worship Cohort One Day” last month in St. Louis.