Linus was comfortably seated before the television set minding his own business when Lucy pranced into the room. Lucy immediately demanded that Linus change the channel. Linus said, “What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?” Lucy formed a fist with her right hand and said, “These five fingers. Individually, they’re nothing but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold.” Linus responds, “Which channel do you want?” But then, turning away, he looked at his fingers and mumbled, “Why can’t you guys get organized like that?”

Have you ever desired the synergistic power of a church working together as a team? How do we build teamwork in the church?

Principle #1 is to VALUE PEOPLE: Someone has suggested three categories of people: plus-plus people, plus-minus people, and minus-minus people. Plus-plus people say, “I can do it and you can do it so let’s get it done.” Plus-minus people say, “I can do it, but you can’t do it, so get out of my way.” Minus-minus people say, “I can’t do it and you can’t do it, and who even brought it up in the first place.” Leaders who build teamwork are plus-plus people. They say to the church or to the staff, “I can do it, and you can do it, so let’s get it done together.”

This attitude is based on two biblical convictions. First is the conviction that every Christian is a vital part of the body of Christ. Second is the conviction that every Christian has been given a spiritual gift by the Holy Spirit that will enable him or her to accomplish something significant for the kingdom of God.

Whatever church we serve, we have on our staff or in our congregation people who can be a part of the ministry team that makes things happen. How can we build that team? Team building begins with the recognition that every member of the church is important.

Principle #2 is to COMMUNICATE WITH PEOPLE: Steven Brown in his book, 13 Fatal Errors Managers Make and How You Can Avoid Them, suggests that if a person is not doing his job, it is because of one of three factors: he doesn’t know what his job is, or he doesn’t know how to do his job, or something interferes with his desire or ability to do the job.

Two of those three factors have to do with communication. Many times these valuable, gifted members of our congregation are not a part of the team effort because we have not effectively communicated to them what the team objective is.

Have you heard what one man calls “the mushroom farm lament”? It goes like this:

We feel we’re being kept in the dark

Every once in a while someone comes

around and spreads manure on us.

When our heads pop up,

They’re chopped off.

And then we’re canned!

Church members often feel like that, and so do members of the staff. How can we get them on the team? We must communicate with them.

Principle #3 is to LISTEN TO PEOPLE: Communication is not just a one way street. Communication means not only to keep everyone informed. It also means to listen to what other people say.

Have you ever been introduced to someone and then as soon as they walked away you forgot their name? Why does that happen? Because we didn’t listen.

Have you ever been confronted by someone about something you said in a sermon, but you know you never really said anything like that? Why does that happen? Because they didn’t listen.

One of the best ways to build a team is to be a good listener. What does listening do? When we genuinely listen to people: it provides an understanding of what they are saying and it prevents misunderstandings, it enables us to learn something that will make our life better, and it allows us to affirm other people’s value. Teamwork is built when people listen to each other.

Principle #4 is to INVOLVE PEOPLE: For years we have heard people talk about “ownership.” For someone to support something, we have been told, they have to own it. Let me tell you why we have heard that over and over again from multiple sources. Because it is true.

So what does it mean to get people to “own” what is happening? It simply means that they have to be involved in every phrase of an idea – in the initiation of the idea, in the strategizing about the idea, and in the implementation of the idea. Let me illustrate the difference.

In one scenario the pastor stands up before the congregation on Sunday morning and announces, “God told me last night that we need to build a new sanctuary and we’re going to do it.”

Here’s a second scenario. The pastor has a growing conviction that the church needs more space for worship. He sets up a breakfast with three of his key lay people and shares the idea with them. They discuss it and commit to pray about it. A few weeks later, one of these lay people brings up the matter at the deacon’s meeting. They discuss the idea at length and decide to present it to the church and pray about it for three months. At the end of the three months season of prayer, they have a town hall meeting to discuss it. Out of that meeting, an ad hoc committee is formed to bring a report to the church on the cost of such a building. When the report is presented the church approves the concept. The process is then initiated that will eventually involve a capital campaign, a building committee, and the construction of the sanctuary.

Which scenario is most likely to call forth a team effort? Why? It is a matter of the involvement of the people.

Principle #5 is to ENCOURAGE PEOPLE: This young single bought a new dog and he explained to his mother how he was going to house break this dog. Whenever the dog did his business on the floor, he was going to whip the dog with a paper and then toss it out the kitchen window into the back yard where it was supposed to do its business. A week later, the mom asked how it was going. “Terrible,” the young single responded. “The dog goes on the floor, and then it jumps out the window.”

Something like that is happening in our churches. We beat up on our people verbally when they do something wrong, and then we wonder why they are jumping out of the windows and leaving the church. The missing ingredient is encouragement.

Mary Kay Ash says ever person is wearing an invisible sign that says, “Make me feel important.” We can do that with a word of encouragement.

I know that at times we pastors feel isolated and like Elijah we cry out to God, “Lord, I am the only one who is still faithful.” The truth is, none of us is alone. Every pastor has in his church the nucleus for a team if we are willing to develop the expertise and expend the energy to build that team.