October 16, 2023

How to Develop a Healthy and Effective Senior Leadership Team

how to develop a healthy and effective senior leadership team

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Developing a strong senior leadership team is vital to the health of your organization. In fact, the capacity of your team will determine the potential impact of your ministry.

When we talk about leading church staff teams, we encourage pastors to keep an eye on both team health and performance. You can’t have one without the other and expect to be an effective team… and your senior leadership team is no exception.

In this article, I’ll explain how you can develop a healthier and more effective senior leadership team through spiritual accountability, building community, and showing appreciation.

Fostering a Culture of Spiritual Accountability 

Are you helping your senior leadership team take their next steps toward Christ? Think about it: Your team spends hours praying for new ideas for reaching new people. They develop strategies for increasing volunteer engagement. Your team creates discipleship plans for new believers. They arrive to church early and are typically the last ones to leave.

Yet, it is very dangerous to assume that everyone on your team is healthy. When someone gives their life to Christ, serves in a ministry and is eventually elevated to a senior leadership position, it is easy to forget about helping them take their next steps.

Even the apostle Paul had to keep pressing toward the mark. His leadership position did not keep him from discouragement and temptation. No leader has “arrived.” It is important to make sure that leaders at every level continue growing in their walk with God. Someone has to be responsible for making this a priority. Consider:

  • Who is the Chief Health Officer in your organization?
  • Who is making sure the team is in a spiritually healthy place?
  • Who is holding your senior leadership team accountable for taking time off to be with their family?
  • Who asks them about their prayer life or the health of their marriage?
  • Does someone hold your team members accountable for tithing and giving?

Teams will become healthier if they are having conversations about financial difficulties, marital problems, temptations, hidden struggles and other topics that many teams tend to avoid.

Building Community in Your Meetings

It is very difficult to challenge other staff and volunteer leaders to build and develop “healthy” teams if it’s not being modeled from the top. One practical way to make this happen is the way we plan and execute our senior leadership team meetings.

Many senior leadership teams meet regularly to discuss vision and strategy. Hours are spent talking about the next “big idea.” In these meetings problems are solved, information is shared and ministry practices are improved. Unfortunately, many times building connection is severely neglected or overlooked.

In his book Replenish, Lance Witt shares several questions that will help your team build community and connection. In your next meeting, take time to ask individual team members questions like these:

  • What have been some turning points/defining moments in your life?
  • What experiences (good and bad) have shaped you?
  • Who had the most significant influence on your life?
  • When do you feel successful?
  • Describe the most difficult season of your spiritual journey.
  • What has been your greatest disappointment?
  • In recent years, how has your relationship with God grown and changed?
  • How would you want to be remembered?

Taking time to work through exercises like this are crucial to developing healthy teams.

Showing Appreciation for Your Senior Leadership Team

Jesus modeled team-based ministry from the very beginning. He hand-selected twelve disciples (Mark 3:13-19). Then He invested even more time in His relationships with Peter, James and John (Mark 5:37). Jesus intentionally gave focused attention to the core leaders of His team. 

With that in mind, here are 5 practical ways to show appreciation to your senior leadership team:

  1. Ask your team how you can pray for them. This lets them know that you care about what is going on in their lives.
  2. Invite your team to go with you to leadership conferences or to other ministry invitations. This raises their leadership lids and builds connection.
  3. Pay special attention to your team’s family members. Try to remember birthdays, sports teams and hobbies. Seth Godin calls this “emotional labor.” Use Christmas parties and other team gatherings to get to know your team’s family members.
  4. Share compliments on a regular basis. Don’t underestimate the power of encouraging words.
  5. Ensure that your organization is properly compensating key team members. Many churches can’t afford the same pension programs and bonus plans as larger companies. This is still not an excuse to overlook the importance of this area. If the capacity of your team determines the potential impact of your entire organization then key team members should be a key consideration in the budgeting process. If financial resources are not available, look for other ways to compensate key team members: flexible schedules, sabbaticals, extra vacation days, etc.

How do you build community and connection in your senior leadership team? How are you doing with the “sharing life” side of leadership?

For more, listen to our podcast series on Developing an Effective Senior Leadership Team.

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

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