Creating an emotionally healthy culture and building a healthy team are among the primary tasks for every leader, whether that leader is a senior pastor, a para-church ministry department head, a nonprofit or a marketplace executive, a church board member or a small group leader. And the task for Christian leaders is even more demanding because the kind of culture and teams we create are to be radically different than those of the world.
Take a few moments and consider how you are doing, using the list of statements below. Next to each statement, write down the number that best describes your response. Use the following scale:
|5||Always true of me|
|4||Frequently true of me|
|3||Occasionally true of me|
|2||Rarely true of me|
|1||Never true of me|
|I invest in key people from my team, both in their transformation in Christ and in their skill or professional development.||[Your Answer]|
|I directly and promptly address “elephants in the room” (tensions, lateness, hostile body language, sarcasm, unkind remarks, silence, etc.).||[Your Answer]|
|I consider healthy rhythms and loving union with Jesus of team members as the indispensable foundation for building a healthy culture and team. Our schedule and agenda reflect these values.||[Your Answer]|
|I explore and ask questions when people are highly reactive, or triggered, rather than ignore them.||[Your Answer]|
|I negotiate differences and clarify expectations when there is frustration and conflict.||[Your Answer]|
|I communicate in ways that are clear, honest, respectful and timely.||[Your Answer]|
|I am intentional to set aside time and space in team meetings to instill particular values (e.g., Scripture, expressing appreciations, sharing new insights on leadership).||[Your Answer]|
|I dedicate the necessary time to explore the root causes of inappropriate behavior, seeing it as a spiritual formation opportunity.||[Your Answer]|
|People experience me as willing to take the time to “tune in” to them.||[Your Answer]|
|I ask specific questions about the quality of people’s marriage or singleness because it is a key factor to build a healthy culture and team.||[Your Answer]|
Take a moment to briefly review your responses. What stands out most to you? The following are the four characteristics of emotionally healthy culture and team building that I’ve discovered over the past 19 years:
1. Work performance and personal spiritual formation are inseparable.
We are not simply concerned with our team’s ability to do their tasks well and fulfill their job description, be it paid or unpaid. We are deeply concerned if they are growing spiritually in Jesus. It is the first question we ask when we meet with them. We invest time, energy and money in their personal growth and formation.
2. The elephants in the room are acknowledged and confronted.
An “elephant in the room” refers to an inappropriate or immature behavior that remains unacknowledged. They emerge all the time—often at the most inopportune times. Rather than shrink away in fear of addressing them, we see them as mentoring moments to raise the spiritual maturity level of the person, our team and our ministry.
3. Time and energy are invested in the team’s personal spiritual development.
We take time in our meetings to feed and mentor our teams. At New Life staff planning days, for example, we set aside half our day (three times a year) to investing in their development. We encourage ministries within the church to follow a similar pattern. One of the reasons people have always joined the marriage leadership team led by my wife, Geri, is her constant investment into their marriages and lives. We may not be able to pay marketplace salaries, but we offer something much more valuable: personal development to become more like Jesus.
4. The quality of people’s marriages and singleness is foundational.
Because we really believe that Christian marriage and singleness are meant to be living signs of God’s love for the world, and that this aspect of our lives is the loudest gospel message we preach, we purposefully engage our teams about their singleness or marriage. We ask questions. We invest resources and time to encourage and equip them, knowing the health in our ministry is inseparable from the health level of their marriages and singleness.
This may be new territory that will feel uncomfortable, at least initially. But one thing is sure: You will meet God in unexpected ways and unleash new beginnings that will bless you, your team, your ministry and the world you seek to serve for Christ.