3 Lessons I’ve Learned in Leading a Ministry Team

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3 Lessons I’ve Learned in Leading a Ministry Team

ministry team

Guest Post from Aaron Buer. Reposted with kind permission from Breeze.

Three big transitions have brought about the greatest growth in my life.

The first was my wedding day. I’m coming up on my 15th anniversary this fall and I can’t imagine who I would be without my wife and how our relationship has shaped me.

The second was the birth of my first child. Wow, was I not ready for the level of selflessness required for parenthood. The lesson was a tough one for me so we went ahead and added four more kids to make sure I really caught it.

The third was the day our church leadership asked me to take over our student ministry department. How hard can that be right? Hey, you try managing ten student pastors. It’s like herding cats!

ministry team

Ok, that was rude and mostly inaccurate. To be clear, I have an amazing team of incredibly talented and mostly responsible people.

Along the way, I have learned some tough lessons about leadership. I’ve had great mentors and incredible support from our leadership but it has definitely been a journey. In this post, I want to share three lessons that I’ve learned over the last few years.

1. Collaboration Always Leads to a Better Outcome

I’ve come to realize that what I create on my own thing, be it a program, a system, a sermon, a policy, or whatever, is never as good as what I create with my team. I’ve come to believe, heart and soul, in the power of collaboration. We always beats me.

ministry team

That sounds amazing doesn’t it? Collaboration for the win! Let’s all collaborate!

But, here’s the other thing I’ve learned about collaboration. It’s way harder than creating on your own. It takes longer. It’s messier. It requires harder conversations and a boatload of trust. But, if you’re willing to navigate all that, it ALWAYS leads to a better product.

If you want to “up” your game, whether as a leader, teacher, pastor, or whatever, invite others into the process. Give them permission to give you feedback and pitch their ideas. But be warned, some of their ideas will be better than yours and then you’ll have to admit that they are right and that is really annoying. Hey, I’m just keeping it real!

But, if you are willing to navigate the messiness of collaboration, the outcome can be beautiful.

2. Always Have the Hard Conversation

Here’s the truth: I hate conflict. I really do. I don’t like confrontations, carefrontations, or any other kind of –tation.

They are all stressful and I just don’t enjoy them. There is zero part of me that looks forward to leadership conversations that require me to tell someone something they don’t want to hear.

But, here’s what I’ve learned: Choosing to not have hard conversations always leads to a worse outcome. If fact, it is selfish. Ignoring problems is not leadership. Facing reality and speaking the truth is leadership because helping individuals and teams identify their weaknesses is the path to growth.

Choosing to not have hard conversations is selfish.

I’ve come to realize that hard conversations, when done well, are actually a gift. For example, if you take the time to point out to me something that I do that hinders the effectiveness of our team, you are giving me a gift because now I can clearly see a weakness and address it.

An unidentified weakness will remain a weakness. An identified weakness is a potential strength.

Leaders speak the truth and help others identify and grow beyond their weaknesses.

3. Teachability is the Game Changer

There is one character flaw that can short-circuit this entire process and it’s a lack of teachability. This is a career killer. Why? Because a lack of teachability is disguised arrogance. It’s a lack of humility.

A lack of teachability is disguised arrogance.

When I first started hiring, I would have placed teachability fourth on the list of important factors behind chemistry, experience and skill.

What I’ve learned over the last few years is that I would much prefer a teammate who is teachable and inexperienced to a teammate who is experienced, skilled and not teachable.

Now, teachable is my number 1.

The trouble is that it is terribly difficult to identify someone who isn’t teachable in an interview. Funny thing, people don’t come out and announce:

“I am not even remotely humble. I’m literally as arrogant as the day is long!”

Yeah, that doesn’t happen. So, how do you identify a lack of teachability in a prospective employee? It’s not exactly easy but there are a few techniques I use:

  1. Ask them about their weaknesses. If they say, “I work too hard” or “I care too much” or anything else that doesn’t actually reveal a weakness, chances are they are either unaware of their weaknesses or unwilling to admit them. Both options are bad news.
  2. Ask them, “Tell me about a time that someone gave you feedback that was painful” Just listen to how they talk about that person and that situation. Any sort of, “But they were actually wrong” is a ginormous red flag.
  3. Ask them, “Tell me about a time that you had to admit that you made a mistake.” If their story is lame, chances are they are not teachable.

We tend to minimize poor answers to these questions. We like to assume the best in people. I’ve made this mistake myself.

What I’ve learned is that it is better to keep asking questions until you hear actual evidence of humility and teachability. Teachability is the game-changer when it comes to a great teammate. My advice, don’t hire someone unless you are sure they possess the humility required to be teachable. Most of all, don’t assume and don’t minimize poor answers.

Well, there you have it, three lessons I’ve learned in leadership. I hope they’ve been helpful. We’d love to hear some leadership lessons you’ve learned along the way. Leave your ideas, questions and thoughts in the comments below.




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