Our church is a large church, so we have to work together in order to raise children – both physical and spiritual – into maturity. Team is fundamental to how we do what we do.
Back in 2006 we (New Life Church) were looking for a new larger building. We were rapidly outgrowing where we were in New Bradwell and needed somewhere to move on to. I had lunch with the leader of the largest church in town, and he said to me that “55 percent of churches embarking on building purchases or projects fall apart in the process,” and that, of course, left me thinking, “We’re looking for a new building but I do notwant our church to fall apart during this time!
At the end of 2006 we found the Ridgeway Centre or, as it was then known, the “Cintex building” and I began to negotiate a commercial deal. It was a three-way deal as the seller of the freehold wanted £2.7 million for it and the leaseholder wanted to escape lease obligations and was willing to pay £600,000 for this. We wanted vacant possession, and needed to apply for a change of use (to make it a place of worship as opposed to a warehouse space). We were selling the building at New Bradwell for £650,000, which would help fund our deposit and we needed a mortgage of about £1.4 million, so we ran a competition amongst four banks for the business, as well as fundraising as a church. I started negotiating with the eight groups that were involved in this process, so not much of my time was spent investing in the daily running of the church and its ministry at this point. Then it suddenly dawned on me, “This is why 55% of churches fall apart! I have been trying to do ALL of it!” How then did we avoid disaster? We looked at our leadership, and decided I would continue to negotiate all these deals and fund-raise, and Dave would lead the church for that time.
We moved in to the building in 2007 with a planning condition of adding 63 car parking spaces and I organised a contractor to do this for £45,000. At this point, we realised that we could not afford to refurbish in all the ways needed by using contractors as they were way too expensive. We needed to project manage the refurbishment ourselves – buy materials, hire tradesmen and take the risk on ourselves. Now, I am useless at all of this stuff but Dave, on the other hand, has quite a talent for it! So Dave and I switched roles again. I stepped back into leading the church and Dave got on with arranging all the building works; new heating, new partitions, new wall coverings, new carpets, new chairs. I reckon Dave’s input and project management of all of the in-house works saved us about £250,000.
Dave and I work as a team. We work according to our different skills and strengths. Teams are so much more effective than people on their own and working together brings a much wider range of skills and approaches to bear on any problem.
When you look at successful leaders in the Bible they all worked in teams: Moses, David, Solomon, Nehemiah, Jesus. Every last one of them worked in a team. It is clearly demonstrated in the life of King David. Here is just a portion of the story that is covered in 1 Chronicles chapters 25–27.:
25 Azmaveth son of Adiel was in charge of the royal storehouses.
Jonathan son of Uzziah was in charge of the storehouses in the outlying districts, in the towns, the villages and the watchtowers. 26 Ezri son of Kelub was in charge of the workers who farmed the land. 27 Shimei the Ramathite was in charge of the vineyards. Zabdi the Shiphmite was in charge of the produce of the vineyards for the wine vats. 28 Baal-Hanan the Gederite was in charge of the olive and sycamore-fig trees in the western foothills. Joash was in charge of the supplies of olive oil. 29 Shitrai the Sharonite was in charge of the herds grazing in Sharon. Shaphat son of Adlai was in charge of the herds in the valleys. 30 Obil the Ishmaelite was in charge of the camels. Jehdeiah the Meronothite was in charge of the donkeys. 31 Jaziz the Hagrite was in charge of the flocks. All these were the officials in charge of King David’s property. 32 Jonathan, David’s uncle, was a counsellor, a man of insight and a scribe. Jehiel son of Hakmoni took care of the king’s sons. 33 Ahithophel was the king’s counsellor. Hushai the Arkite was the king’s confidant. 34 Ahithophel was succeeded by Jehoiada son of Benaiah and by Abiathar. Joab was the commander of the royal army.
David had an army team; 30 mighty men; Joab, the army commander; specialists within the army; different teams with different abilities. Previous to this, he employed officers over the 12 tribes of Israel and each of these had an army of 24,000 men. Everything was organised – someone in charge of storehouses; another in charge of farms, and others in charge of vineyards, vineyard produce, olive trees, supplies of olive oil, herds in Sharon, herds in valleys, camels, donkeys, flocks. He had priests in teams, singers in teams, gatekeepers in teams. Ahithophel was a counsellor, Hushai the Arkite was his friend. It was well-ordered; a systematic organisation. David built scale because he built team, and in this way he reunited his kingdom, Judah and Israel. He led his kingdom to success on the battlefield against all surrounding nations. And remember, this is only two generations further on from the days of the judges when “everyone did as they saw fit.” (Judges 17:6)
As a church we seek to do as David did, to build teams and organise systematically. We work in teams for five primary reasons. I encourage you to apply these principles in every area of life, combining them with a readiness to help others however and wherever you can.
The first reason is training. We learn most effectively when someone shows us and leads us, and then we have a go. We learn even more effectively when we in turn train someone else. Last year I saw a powerful photograph from a church in Singapore. It showed a rear shot of their sound desk, where they had a 19-year-old in charge, who was training a 14-year-old, who was in turn training a 10-year-old.
We’re a big church and working in teams provides more opportunities for more people to serve. Otherwise, it would just be the same few people running around doing everything, and a lot of small churches work that way, with the pastor and a small team doing all the work. There are two problems with this approach. First, running around doing everything will get us worn out and we won’t get the opportunity to learn and to grow. Secondly, teamwork gives more people more opportunities to develop.
There are two things I have seen to be necessary for us to be engaged in their local church:
We need to be known – we need a connection
We need to be needed – we need to feel valued through involvement
People who connect in these two ways – known and needed – find lasting engagement. Serving gives people opportunities to connect and to contribute.
It takes all sorts of people to make a world, and it takes all sorts of people for effective leadership. Ephesians 4:12–13 says: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up”.
God gives us variety and variety is most effective and helpful in getting things done. Like Dave and myself, we have different skills, both of which are useful. And they are different to those of Sharon and Tim. All are different but all are useful. As a team we process things, we work out where we go wrong and we allocate tasks and responsibilities to those with the skills to be most effective.
Using teams means that more things get done and we all avoid getting exhausted. I build the largest possible teams. If everyone does a bit, it will save a few doing it all the time and shares the load.
There is safety in team. Jesus sent out his disciples two-by-two as small teams and did most of his ministry in public with his team around him.
In 1995, I was on holiday in the south of France staying in a mobile home. We had children aged 8 and 6, and spent most of the time in the pool. In the evening after the children had been put to bed I read a lot. I was thinking about our church – this was when it was at a much smaller scale – and I kept thinking “There has to be a better way than this!” I read a book by a guy named Carl George called Prepare your Church for the Future. He described a church where we all work together, we each have our own role, and learn and grow together as we serve. For me it was a “eureka” moment! I saw a better way – a way to reach more, engage more, accommodate more; to in every way scale up!
We are called to be part of a team, we are more effective when we are part of a team and we will grow and develop as we serve together.
So, a call to action? I encourage you to have a look and see where your gifts could help you serve as part of a team at church.