Teams That ThriveI had the privilege of writing the forward for a great new book by Warren Bird and Ryan Hartwig, Teams That Thrive: Five Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership. Warren is a brilliant researcher and a gifted writer. Ryan is a scholar and a practitioner. In Teams That Thrive they offer us a rare combination of great research and best practice for leadership teams. I had the opportunity to do the following Q & A with them which gives you a glimpse of why they wrote this book and why it is so important.

What makes Teams That Thrive a unique book for church leaders?

Though nearly every church says they’re led by a team, many of these “teams” aren’t teams at all, much less effective ones. Despite good intentions, many don’t know what it takes to develop a thriving top team. Teams That Thrive shows leaders step by step how to thrive in their teams, especially at the senior leadership team level. As the subtitle—Five Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership—hints, this timely guide gives church leaders both what they want—practical, straightforward, compelling guidance with real-life examples of successful teams—and what they need—substantial, challenging insights and a fresh model grounded in the latest research on church leadership teams.

What was your inspiration for writing Teams That Thrive

Too many churches don’t thrive in the area of team leadership. Instead they struggle. Or worse, they accept being mediocre-to-good. We believe many would rather excel as a senior leadership team – which they can if they can see “best practice” models of what it can look like, and have practical guidance on how to get there. Our unique angle was to blend our practical experience and research expertise. As a professor and researcher, Ryan observes, studies and teaches about teams in various contexts, bringing a rich theoretical base and knowledge of research on senior leadership teams. As a leading student of church leadership practices and trends, Warren has addressed the issues of senior leadership teams in hundreds of interviews and has been part of a senior leadership team in four different churches of varying size. The result is a book that not only tells church leaders what exemplar churches do to help their teams thrive and why, but goes the extra step to show practical steps of how teams can help their teams grow to a greater level of health and effectiveness.

What makes a great team?

From all our research, we’re convinced that the best teams are distinguished in two ways. First, teams that thrive believe that collaborative leadership is practically and biblically the right way to lead. Second, teams that thrive discipline themselves to practice the fundamentals that make a great team, day in and day out. Because they’re convinced it’s worthwhile to lead collaboratively, they do what it takes to become extraordinary. In short: you can have a healthy, thriving leadership team. It’s both biblical and doable. To develop a team that thrives, you will need to practice the five disciplines we describe.

Teams That Thrive is deeply grounded in research. What can you tell us about your study?

We collected questionnaire data from 1,026 senior leadership team members at 253 churches. The leadership team members of 145 churches completed all aspects of two assessments, offering us an outstanding dataset to work with. From there, we visited many top leadership teams – including Community Christian – and conducted dozens of interviews with members of church senior leadership teams.

What are the most significant challenges church leaders are facing with cultivating great teams?

One challenge is that few pastors who lead teams have been trained in building great teams. In fact, only 18% of the team leaders in our research study have received any special training in how to lead teams. That lack of understanding of team dynamics and effective team building strategies often results in well-intentioned but ineffective efforts. In the book, we explain the pitfalls of many common team-building efforts and offer several strategies that can be used to help a team grow. We speak to new churches and established churches, smaller churches and larger churches, high-structure churches to more organically led churches.

What do you want church leaders to take away from reading Teams That Thrive?

Cultivating and working with a team that thrives is possible, realistic and doable. The hard work of developing the disciplines that result in effective collaborative church leadership is worth it – for the team itself, for the team’s members individually, for the rest of the church staff, for other teams in the church, and for the congregation as a whole. In Teams That Thrive, we tried to provide a roadmap that will enable thousands of church leadership teams to thrive, which will, in turn, result in the thriving of thousands of Christ-centered congregations.

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