Developing the Heart of Your Team

Dressed up or dressed down, the fact is still clear — the heart of the team member affects his ability to lead. Consider these four core convictions about the heart and soul of leadership.

by Glenn Reynolds

Colleges and universities offer degrees in organizational leadership. Seminaries train students in principles of redemptive leadership. Bookstores dedicate entire sections to leadership materials. Politicians promise leadership. And, leadership gurus attract thousands of people to seminars across the country.

Your ministry team is awash in a sea of leadership ideas. Most material they read or listen to focuses on skills and fails to acknowledge how much the heart affects leadership. Here are four core convictions about the heart and leadership for your consideration.

The Heart of the Team Member Affects His Ability To Lead

Leadership is more than competency. Leadership is less science and more heart. In the 1990s, leaders often compartmentalized their private lives from their public lives. People admonished us to believe the heart of the leader did not affect his ability to lead. But Proverbs 4:23 tells a different story: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

More than just strategic planning, team building, or vision casting, the leader must help his team guard their hearts because their heart condition does affect their ability to lead. Most of your team will not succumb to the allure of sexual misconduct, financial indiscretion, or egomaniacal kingdom building. But there are more subtle forces seeking to sap the aliveness from the heart of your team, thereby eliminating their creativity and daring, their curiosity and eagerness, and their compassion and love for people.

Ministry is a journey where your team can daily get beat up, put down, or cast aside. Absent of careful attention, they can allow cynicism to replace innocence, arrogance to replace curiosity, and callousness to replace compassion.

Imagine the contrasting effects of:

  • an innocent heart versus a cynical heart.
  • a curious heart versus an arrogant heart.
  • a compassionate heart versus a callous heart.

As leaders, we help our team members develop self-awareness and self-management. We do not allow them to dress up cynicism as realism, arrogance as authoritative knowledge, or callousness as the thick skin of experience. Evaluations must include more than performance checks; they need to include heart checks as well.

Dressed up or dressed down, the fact is still clear — the heart of the team member affects his ability to lead.

The Heart of the Leader Sets the Tone for the Organization

Whether it is the senior leader affecting the entire organization or the heart of your youth pastor affecting the youth, no single factor has a greater impact on the tone or culture of the organization than the heart of the ministry leader. In the end, ministries in your church will be the lengthened shadow of the leaders on your staff — not a direct reflection, but an exaggerated representation, sometimes distorted and other times accurate.

Consider these examples:

  • If the leader’s heart is filled with grace, the organization will give people the benefit of the doubt.
  • If the leader’s heart is filled with anxiety, the organization will stutter when it is time to make key decisions.
  • If the leader’s heart is filled with anger, the organization will live timidly, not taking risks or creating waves.
  • If the leader’s heart is open, the organization will experience life and innovation, moving forward rather than maintaining the status quo.
  • If the leader’s heart is filled with hubris, the organization will take on more than it can handle and make mistakes that can spell its demise.

As you analyze the effectiveness of the various parts of your ministry, trace the line back to the heart of the team member in charge. The choir that is backbiting may be led by a choir director afraid to confront. The youth ministry may not be moving ahead because a codependent youth pastor refuses to address issues. Trace the trouble, and you will often find the source in the heart of the ministry leader. Dealing with issues is not enough. We must help shape the heart of our team.

Organizational culture directly impacts the way people experience the organization

Each principle builds on the preceding core conviction. The heart of the team member affects his ability to lead and directly affects the tone or culture of the team member’s part of the organization. The resulting culture determines how people experience that ministry and your church overall.

Often the greatest difference from one church to another is not doctrine, theological preference, ecclesiastical governance, or even worship style. The greatest difference is the culture — the way the group interacts with each other and those who enter into the group can be infinitely different.

Organizational culture, flowing from the leader, directly impacts how members and guests experience the organization. Think about your organizational culture. Is the culture coherent throughout the ministry? Or, is there a different culture in the children’s ministry as opposed to the ushers and greeters ministry? Is it the culture you desire as the senior leader?

You will have a culture in your ministry — by design or by default. As a leader, your role is to influence your team members to craft the same life-giving culture throughout the organization.

In the area of the country where I live, a chain of fast-food restaurants stands out from the rest. The stores are always clean, the food always prepared well, and the employees always courteous. In the hundreds of times I have eaten at one of their stores, I have always been welcomed graciously and have found the reply, “My pleasure,” every time I have said, “Thank you.”

Every team member — from the senior leader to the shift manager — reinforces its organizational culture.

There is an organizational culture in your church, and it affects the way parents experience the nursery, students experience youth service, and guests experience worship. How are you leading your team to shape that culture?

The Way People Experience the Organization Determines if the Organization Fulfills Its Mission

Pastor Bob’s heart has grown cynical after years of ministry. He no longer trusts the pastoral team, let alone the members of the congregation. He’s been wounded too many times.

His cynical heart sets a tone of distrust, lack of innovation, and the demise of open communication with staff and volunteers. The culture of the church becomes one of whispering behind each other’s backs and relying on the same programs, while hoping for better results.

Because of the lack of enthusiasm, members are hard-pressed to invite their friends or family to attend. As a result, the church continues to decline in attendance — creating more cynicism in Pastor Bob’s heart and more distrust and lack of interest among his team. In the end, the church disciples few for Christ, wins even less, and fails to participate in the Great Commission.

To be sure, the opposite can be true. Pastor Bob can maintain an innocent and innovative heart, leading to an open and life-giving atmosphere among the team. In that atmosphere, team members and volunteers experience grace and hope, leading them to invite their friends and family — and the church fulfills its mission.

The heart of the team members sets the tone for the organization. How are you creating culture with your team?

The organizational culture directly impacts the way people experience the organization. What are people experiencing at your church?

The way people experience the organization determines if the organization fulfills its mission. Is your organization fulfilling its mission? How’s the heart of your team?