The Need for Team Ministry in the Parish

By Glen E. Dawursk, Jr. February 25, 2004

www.yuthguy.com

 

Introduction

 

Team ministry is the best way to approach the diversity of ministry within a congregation.  After having worked in team ministries in several parishes, I have found that I prefer nothing else.  The diversity of congregational membership (ages, learning styles, environment, family units, and experiences) has greatly changed from 30 years ago.  The use of technology has caused much of our world to focus more heavily on self while claiming to be global.  The Post Modern congregation is based predominately upon four generations – each with their own individualistic nuances and sub-categorized groupies.

 

Generations: The Need for Team Ministry

 

Thirty years ago, a pastor would basically do everything within the church.  He was responsible for knowing everyone’s name; baptizing, confirming, marrying and burying; counseling, teaching, preaching and out-reaching to non-members and many pastor’s even ran every Bible study, some directed auxiliary organizations, and others even acted as the “school head master” as well. For a pastor 30 years ago, that was pretty much expected.  Today, experts tell us that we can no longer minister to more than 25 people closely and 200 at a distance.  The needs and make-up of the Post–Modern congregation are significantly different than three decades ago – yet many congregations are still expecting the same results from a handful of staff.  If we can understand the need for “diversity” in ministry, we will understand why we have a need for “team ministries” in the parish.  These needs were highlighted in a book by Gary McIntosh called “One Church, Four Generations.”  In his book he presents facts which divide our society and subsequently our churches into four generations.

 

The first is called the “Builders.”  This group ranges in age from the late fifties and up.  According to sociologist, the Builders are a “get-it-done” generation.  Currently they represent about 19% of the population – but probably just around 5-6% in my current congregation.  For this generation, life centered around three foundations: family, school and church. This generation has the most believers in God with 65% saying they believe in Jesus Christ.  This generation grew up with radio (1930-40’s) and television was not even a part of most of their lives until their late 20’s.  This generation has been highly critical of the media and the mixed messages it sends.  They are the most “Bible based” and see the media’s messages conflicting with their faith walk.   This is good, as we are told that the Bridgers (18 and under) have adapted many of the conservative and traditional opinions of the Builders.

 

The second group is called the “Boomers” and is those in their late thirties to mid fifties.  The Boomer Generation represents 26.5 percent of the US population.  While they are highly educated (25% have a degree), unfortunately they were also the first generation raised on television.  While this generation’s challenge of tradition increased the tolerance for race, gender, and age, it also can be credited with the overt permissiveness and violence we see in the media.  This generation holds the keys to media as the gatekeeper to most of the nation’s networks, recording companies and technology.  For example, Dr. Kennedy of Coral Ridge fame once presented statistics that 98 of the 100 most significant “media gate keepers” supported the gay agenda.  It is no wonder that the media has seen a significant acceptance of gay rights and gay messages over the past 5 years.  This generation has become so tolerant and even encourages such diversity of beliefs that the media has stereotyped Christianity as repressive, intolerant, outdated and uncaring.  It is also no wonder that sociologist find that this generation often moves from one church to another (seekers) and “church shops.”  Even in their workplace, Boomers are searching as they will experience 3-6 major career changes.  Statistics show that 35 % of Boomers say they believe in Jesus Christ.

 

The problem with this generation is that they have pulled away from parenting and have chosen to simply befriend their children.  They have also chosen to allow their children the freedom to make their own choices – even about the media.

 

The next group is the “Buster” (age 19 to mid 30’s) and if there had been no Roe versus Way, they would probably have been the largest generation of the four.  However, they currently represent 24 percent of the birth population.  This generation often has a difficult time discerning fact from fiction due to the significant influence of “reality” television and desensitization of the violence in the media – especially in video games.  For the generation of Buster, it is their peer groups and their workplace which is their greatest influence.  They often turn to their peers for support before family or the church.  This generation was also the first one to fear for the disease Aids.  A large percentage of this generation skipped college because they questioned the value of it.  Free time is more valuable than money and having a high salary or a title is not important to the Buster’s.

 

The problem with Buster’s is that more than 40% are the children of a divorce, most were latch key kids, and 40-50% lived in a single-parent home as teenagers.  For this reason, many lack relational skills due to their broken and dysfunctional families.    As many as 75% of Busters aged 18 to 24 still live at home and 35% ages 20 to 34 live at home.  They are afraid of marriage and pessimistic about their future.  Busters are very lonely, confused and searching and they see the media as the handbook directing their search.

 

Sadly, if history repeats itself, this group should be the “youth leaders” of the next generation – but currently most Busters are not in church.  They believe there are no absolutes and many are lost on a spiritual quest supported by the media messages of psychic lines, scientology and the occult.  Only 15% of Busters say they believe in Jesus as their Savior.

 

The concern is that as this group takes on the leadership of our country in 2015, will we be any better off?  This generation seems even more lost than their parents and as they were the first generation raised on the computer, they seek relationships which do not involve “real life contact.”  The media is not seen as a threat to them and they have embraced it as a source for their spiritual and relational quests. 

 

The last generation and most current is also the second largest – and unfortunately for most churches the least ministered to – it is the generation called the “Bridgers” those aged 18 and under.  Technology is essential to this generation and a teenager who does not have access to a computer, cell phone, e-mail and Instant Messenger thinks he/she will “die.”    This generation has seen change come quicker and has been able to adapt better than the others.  I liked the statistic that McIntosh presented that the fashion industry has had to re-create itself every 6 months just to keep pace with the Bridgers. 

 

The problem is that this generation wonders if absolute truth really exists. They are especially characterized by the phrase “post-modern youth.”  This means they no longer accept logical linear thinking and absolute truth.  For this reason, this generation more than any other, believes truth is not found in one faith, but a combination of all faiths and experiences – especially in a new age scientology idealism.  Studies show that the “post modern youth” desires spiritualism, but not from the traditional church.  Just like their Buster brothers, they are drawn to psychics, channeling, witchcraft and the occult. The problem is that this fast paced generation is also quickly becoming one of the fastest self destructing of the generations.  Columbine and Peduka are from this generation but it is not restricted to these select schools.  Listen to the following statistics taken from a Life Promotions brochure (Lenz): 


Everyday in America --

  • 7,742 students become sexually active,
  • 437 students are arrested for drunk driving,
  • 135,000 students bring handguns to school,
  • 1,512 students drop out of school,
  • 1, 849 students are abused or neglected,
  • 1,800 students attempt suicide.

 

67% of this generation believes that being good enough will earn them a place in some sort of a heaven but only 4% actually believe in Jesus as their personal savior.  This is especially alarming when you consider that experts tell us that 85% of people who receive Jesus as their savior do so before the age of 20.  What is alarming is that the percentage of believers continues to become less and less in each subsequent generation: from almost 70% for Builders, 35% for Boomers, 15% for Busters and just 4% for Bridgers.  I suggest that the media’s rise to influence during the Boomer generation (television) and its continued rise toward youth influence may have a direct correlation with these declining percentages. 

 

Team Ministry is a Solution

 

Rascal Flats, a popular Country band right now has a hit single called “Mayberry” about the popular fictitious town made famous in the 1960’s Andy Griffith television show.  This town at one time represented what small towns were like throughout America. The song goes:

 

Sometimes it feels like this world is spinning faster than it did in the old days.
So naturally, we have more natural disasters from the strain of a fast pace.
Sunday was a day of rest; now, it’s one more day for progress.
And we can’t slow down ‘cause more is best; it’s all an endless process.
(Well) I miss Mayberry, sitting on the porch drinking ice-cold cherry Coke.
Where everything is black and white; picking on a six string;
Where people pass by and you call them by their first name;
Watching the clouds roll by -- Bye, bye.  (Arlos)

 

Things have changed since “Mayberry.”  Scripture tells us that even though the generations change, Jesus offers a changeless hope for a future; but more than ever, our generations need to hear and feel that message.  Our LCMS churches like so many others have made headway with the first two generations but are failing miserably in effective ministry to the last two.  The diversity among not only the four generations, but also among the generations themselves is staggering. No longer can a single pastor effectively minister to a congregation and expect the same “Mayberry” results.  No longer can our ministries simply offer the same programs and expect the results we got 30 ears ago.  Diversity has called us to develop ministries which are more focused on the needs of each generation.  Diversity has called us to minister where the people are – not where we historically expect them to be. 

 

This is where team ministry becomes essential if our churches are going to accomplish the great commission and even more significantly minister to the needs of people as Jesus did.  This will require a “team effort-- experts in focused ministries working together to achieve the common mission of ministering to a person’s spiritual, physiological and physical needs within the context of a congregation and its community.  No longer can we expect society to “share” in ministry as we see media’s reflection of our society pulling farther and farther away from the morals and values of “Mayberry” toward a society of tolerance for sin and acceptance of New Age philosophies.  Author Laurie Beth Jones in her book Teaching Your Team to Fish stated that “Today, as never before in history, organizational leaders are realizing that to maximize performance people need to be organized in teams” (Jones, p. 13). Mayberry is gone and so should our view of single person ministry.

 

Things to know about Team Ministry

 

“Are Teams Biblical?”

Team ministry was not invented by man and it did not start just yesterday.  Team ministry was God’s plan for reaching the world.  It is ordained by God.

 

“Leading a Team”

Teams make the “mission load” easier.  Through reciprocal encouragement, shared creativity and mutual accountability, teams can get more done, usually more effectively, and with greater use of resources.  Overall, teams make a greater impact upon the congregation as they reach and involve more of the congregation through one-on-one relationships and individualized mentoring. However, teams can fail and an effective team will use failure as a learning opportunity not as a stumbling block.  Effective team ministry must have a shared vision and a leader who through accountability keeps the team focused on the task.  Teams need constant communication with each other and with their constituents. 

 

“Virtual Teams”

Team ministry is no longer locked to “proximity.”  With many churches having multiple locations and shared staff, a team ministry needs to be flexible to change and technologically savvy.  As team ministry is based upon a common mission and goals which fit together for a common purpose, it is not locked by physical barriers.  Therefore, team ministry can also be done from a “distance,” with meetings and communication being done “virtually” via internet or conference telecommunication.  The use of live cameras and audio would greatly enhance the team’s productivity and would allow for alleviation of potential communication noise (miss-interpretations and miss-understandings).

 

“Timelines and Plans”

The Bible shows that the process toward accomplishing any major project required planning; planning which involved goal setting with reasonable steps toward achieving those goals, delegation of responsibilities, and a continuing “checks and balances” process of evaluation along the way.  A reasonable set of mutually acceptable deadlines will keep the team projects on target and make it possible to anticipate project closure and a hope of achieving preset team goals.

 

“When Members Let You Down”

As we are all sinful, our “old Adam” may cause us to either not fulfill our commitment or we may not do it to the anticipated expectations of the other team members.  In a recent presentation I saw on Parish Team Ministry, the instructor said that this failure can: “take the energy and focus away from the important issues, decrease productivity, lower group attitude, hurt self-esteem and cause frustration and anxiety between people.” 

 

“Handling Conflict”

Conflict is inevitable and is to be expected.  If we approach our team ministries understanding this concept AND then have a pro-active plan to deal with conflict positively, then when conflict besieges the team it will have little or no lasting negative repercussions which could destroy or compromise the effectiveness of the team in the future.   This is essential for the survival of team ministry.

 

Satan desires to destroy productive team ministry and prefers stagnated or dying ministries.  He never wants people to have their needs met via the church.  He prefers to have them met by the New Age ideas of the world and loathes ministry professionals who work together to meet the needs of God’s children.  Therefore, Satan works hardest against team ministries.  He desires burnout, frustration and crisis –and team ministry helps offset those issues.   Further, Satan desires to create disunity, chaos and confusion among the team members – that is why it is so important to be “pre-emptive” in conflict management.  We need to learn the strategies before conflict becomes an issue so that we can deal with Satan’s “blindness’ before the team becomes dysfunctional or non-existent. I found that the Peacemakers approach to conflict management offered the most complete process for managing conflict, was more applicable and accessible to divergent situations, and it was overall, the most scripturally based.

 

Team Ministry is not Easy

 

Jesus mentored His disciples closely for several years.  They basically lived with each other.  Working daily with other professionals or staff volunteers at our churches sometimes causes us to feel like we also “live” with our team-mates.  Satan would desire for them to “grate on us.”  As we are human we will always develop pet peeves about team members, but we also need to offset them with contributions, talents and skills which we truly appreciate about each other.  An effective team will always make allowances for member deficiencies and emphasize the qualities or gifts where their strengths are. Just like a jigsaw puzzle – no part is exactly the same; however, when they fit correctly together they can make a beautiful picture.  That is what team ministry is all about: fitting together perfectly to serve more effectively.

 

I have been in team ministry all of my professional career and most of my ministry.  It is never easy.  It requires humility as we seek to be mutual servant leaders.  It requires consistent team and individual prayer, Bible study and worship.  It mandates a desire to work together – not just simply lip service.  It means that we have to seek to be more and more like Jesus in all that we say and do together.  It is through the releasing of our personal agendas and allowing the Holy Spirit to create comfort and satisfaction within ourselves, that He nurtures unity within a team.  It is that unity of Spirit which God uses to direct His church through us.  We become His hands and feet which minister to His people.  He puts the jigsaw puzzle together, not us.

 

Conclusion

 

While Mayberry may be gone, we can still live in the assurance that God does not change.  His blessings to His church are still intact.  His promise of being with us throughout our ministry journey is assured.  God is faithful throughout all generations and His plan for team ministry makes us available to accomplish His plan more efficiently.  Team ministry may be the best way to approach the diversity of ministry within any congregation, but with God all things are still possible.  God is still the source of ministry within any congregation even without team ministry; He always remains faithful to His church.  Congregations who do not use team ministry may have leadership who will become strained, fatigued or burned out – but God still will not forsake His people.  Proper stewardship involves using our people to their fullest, but not to abuse.  Team ministry is an act of stewardship for the health of any congregation.  This is critical if our churches desire to stay healthy and grow.

 

God’s Spirit will continue His work in any congregation, however as our world changes, team ministry is an effective answer to the current issues of multiple generations and intra-generational diversity.  While it is not the sole answer, it is a step in the right direction – a step in God’s direction.  For ministry is always a process directed by God and team ministry was always His idea.  Ministry is God.    As another verse of the song “Mayberry” says:

 

Sometimes I can hear this old earth

Shouting through the trees as the wind blows.
That’s when I climb up here on this mountain to look through God’s window.
Now I can’t fly, but I got two feet that get me high up here.
Above the noise and city streets-- my worries disappear.  (Arlos)

 

The focus of all ministries – team or otherwise always must be focused on God. For when it is, He will bless it – and it will be good!

 

May we always seek to see through God’s window as we work within the changes of our world and may we daily give all our earthly worries to Him as He desires to free us to minister to His children.  God is always good!  Amen


2

References

 

Jones, L. B. (2002). Teach Your Team to Fish. New York, NY: Crown Business.

Kennedy, D. James (1996). The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail: The Attack on Christianity and What You Need to Know to Combat it. Thomas Nelson Publishers.

 

Lenz, Bob (2000). Everyday in America. Statistics taken from a Life Promotions Flyer. Appleton, WI.

 

McIntosh, Gary L. (2002). One Church Four generations: Understanding and Reaching All Ages in Your Church.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

 

Smith, Arlos (2003). Mayberry. Lyrics from album “Melt” by Rascal Flats, Hollywood Records.