Sticky Teams

Last week I finished reading this excellent book on leadership by Larry Osborne called Sticky Teams. Here are some of the best take-away points.

  • Gaining team unity is sometimes more about situational factors than sin factors – get things such as environment, timings, numbers, and efficiency right can make meetings more fun, effective, and unifying. He moved his team meetings out of the boardroom and into his living room. As he says “when you disagree – no matter how much you disagree – when you’re sitting on my couch, you’re not allowed to be a butthead about it.”
  • One of the best insights was in a chapter entitled “What game are we playing?” Here he notes the team relational dynamic changes depending on the size of your team and organization. For example, a small church with one full-timer is like the track athlete working along. As it grows you might have a couple of folk involved – golf buddies. When it gets a little larger you may have a basketball team to organize with a coach. When a church gets really big it’s more like an NFL team with multiple specialists and coaches all performing unique roles. Being aware of this helps deal with team frustration which will be inevitable if the church grows and the game changes.
  • Related to size, the role of the elder board changes as the church grows. When a church is small the leaders do everything, at midsize they approve everything, at large they review most things, at very large they have to be content to set boundaries and direction and only review the key things. This can be frustrating for long-term elders.
  • As church grows you need to employ more specialists and less generalists.
  • When it comes to decision making seek permission, not total buy-in. You’ll never get total buy-in and “church harmony is
    inversely related to the amount of time spent oiling squeaky wheels.”
  • When it comes to change remember most church battles are not fought over theology but over change. “Churches are like horses. They don’t like to be startled or surprised.” Communicate and train if you don’t want a kick in the face!
  • In one of the last chapters he also makes a compelling case for elder teams being aware of the churches giving – not just in a general way, but a specific list of who gives what. Jesus’ teaching in Matt 6 is addressed to those who like to show off, not to eldership teams trying to lead and pastor. In the same way we do sometimes talk publicly about fasting or our prayer lives. Is it OK for leaders to know some specifics about people’s giving? Have we become overly pious in this area? Osborne gives one particular example of a man who threatened to withdraw his ‘firstfruits’ over an issue. He asked one of his team to find out about the man’s giving, and it turned out he hadn’t given anything that year – he was making a deceitful power-play. Knowing or not-knowing that information profoundly changes the pastor’s response. This chapter for me was certainly stimulating and I need to think some more about this, but I’m increasingly persuaded that part of our pastoring and leading in every area probably does include some knowledge of people’s giving.

All in all, an excellent book, and one I suspect I’ll be returning to time and again.


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