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Interactive Team Building

The Development of Team Building Concepts through Available Resources
The team-building theory reflected in this paper has been developed by integrating multiple interrelated areas. Significant factors to be considered include the ability of the group to forge a shared identity, the context in which the team operates, appraisals of leadership difficulties and inadequacies, and application of concepts of group systems theory and group health. Contemporary church activities in which it is considered desirable to apply team-building principles are to church ministry teams, ministry systems, missions systems, and leadership systems. The intent of this paper is to provide an Interactive Team Building approach which can be applied in a church or religious setting, making available applications to leadership teams, missions teams, work teams, and ministry teams, as well as other groups.

Applying team cohesiveness concepts from the business management field to a religious context requires the integration of team building theory and spiritual or religious resources which deal with church leadership, missions, and effective ministry. Helpful works include materials from the fields of ministry, church studies (especially church systems theory and church health), leadership principles, cultural and contextual concerns, human relational and communication theory, personality types and differences, organizational change and development theory, and team building. These converge to provide tools for assessing the ministry setting and assisting in the development of an effective, situational team building model. The bibliography provides information on the resources employed in developing this team building model, categorized by subject area.

Theoretical Foundations
A carefully researched theoretical framework undergirds this team building guide and provides the background for the exercises included. It is not essential that participants understand all of the dynamics of the team building model to benefit from these exercises, but it is recommended that participants read the introductory materials to develop realistic expectations of what can be accomplished through the use of this material. Facilitators who oversee the use of this workbook by various ministry or mission teams are encouraged to explore the resources more carefully, in part to help with the development of appropriate responses to the ministry needs and leadership issues. Team building and group dynamics are intricately intertwined. Team building and leadership dynamics also integrate in effective team building exercises. The team building exercises in this workbook draw from the following areas of study: (1) team building theory, (2) organizational change and development concepts, (3) secular and religious leadership concepts, (4) church leadership principles--church studies and concepts of ministry, and (5) relational and communication theories that address interpersonal relationships and personality differences.

Surveying the Resources and Factors
Studies of team building have accelerated in the past quarter century. Dyer suggests team development can be an effective change strategy. Varney sees team development as a catalyst or impetus toward increased effectiveness. The skills desired for the future marketplace--leadership, creativity, problem solving, interpersonal skills, negotiation, listening, communication, teamwork, and team building--all reflect a team orientation. Experience suggests that the skills essential for the workplace today and tomorrow are also desirable in the church, as the church seems unlikely to escape the cultural forms and frameworks that govern personal interactions. One team development model identifies progressive stages of awareness (forming), conflict (storming), cooperation (norming), and productivity (performing). Each team which uses this workbook will be helped by understanding the specific needs of the team based on the phase of the team development. It is assumed that most of the teams using this workbook will have successfully completed stages one and two. Thus the majority of the shared exercises of this workbook focus on the development of cooperation based on communication. The exercises are identified to help the user understand which exercises are most likely to be useful in what circumstances. Kormanski has explored the relationship between the Tuckman model and the Situational Leadership model of Hersey and Blanchard. Hickman and Silva identify essential skills--creative insight, sensitivity, vision, versatility, focus, and patience--which will be addressed by some of the exercises. The skills and qualities Kormanski and Mozenter identify as essential to building cooperation-- effective communication, constructive feedback, affirmation, coaching, networking, creativity, and fun--are also reflected in the exercises included in this workbook. That initial team building efforts in the corporate world are usually brief suggests the value of providing many brief exercises, some of which can be repeated, to assist in team building for teams who do not have ready access to a consultant or coach.

Burke and Hornstein identify three team building process interventions--data feedback, analysis and problem-solving, and group self-study. They suggest group maintenance and development (team building) can occur by understanding the team's "culture," i.e. its characteristics, relationships, and methods of leadership and conflict resolution. According to Hickman and Silva, this culture must inform and match the strategy to be employed in reaching the goals which are defined by a group's purpose or mission. This correlation is significant in the practice of ministry or missions because the strategy for accomplishing the goals of the group must be consistent with both the group culture and the leadership culture. Effective strategies are based upon and reflect the components of the leadership culture. Failure to understand and reflect the leadership culture is a major oversight in many team-building efforts. Resolution of leadership issues or problems and team development are mutually dependent. Schein sets forth the connection between the development of group culture and leadership. The works cited in the team building section of the bibliography will be helpful in understanding the nature of teams and the influence cohesion has on organizational change.

Any ministry intervention, whether understood as practical theology, ministry development, coaching, or spiritual mentoring, must inquire concerning its biblical foundations and spiritual effectiveness. A variety of principles and methods for understanding and effecting changes in church systems are outlined by Callahan, Hopewell, and Friedman. The latter applies systems theory to congregational life to better understand why various events happen in the life of a church or synagogue. The Handbook for Congregational Studies, although a bit dated, provides a helpful framework for understanding both the church and leadership cultures. Church leadership principles and methodologies are provided by Callahan, Dale, and Hendrix. These three works emphasize the importance of strong, united leadership for significant accomplishments. Leadership concepts from the secular marketplace are set forth in the works by Bennis, Bennis and Nanus, Schein and Bennis, Bennis and Slater, Blake and Mouton, Blanchard and Johnson, Carlisle, and Hersey and Blanchard. These concepts reflect our cultural milieu and provide background for understanding the challenges to and changes in leadership styles posed by secular forces. Distinctions between managing and leading, a balance between task and people orientations, methods for encouraging participation, a dislike for confrontation, and efforts to correlate situations and leadership styles are frequent refrains. Migliore's application of these principles to develop church strategies in several local church settings is insightful. Bellah's seminal work traces the development of "church" types in our society and offers both explanations and warnings against forging too close an alliance between church and culture. The current cultural context is reflected well in the Peters trilogy. Conrad, Parker, Myers and Myers, Keirsey and Bates, and Voges and Braund provide help in understanding relational and communication issues and the kinds of individual differences which should be addressed by a relational training model. Conrad's understanding of how one discovers the culture of an organization is especially helpful in addressing the relationship between the church and leadership cultures. Works on team building abound, but the works by Dyer, Varney, Francis and Young, Maddux, and Parker are especially helpful. The Human Resources Annual provides excellent insights into the methodologies of the corporate world. Likert, Guest, Fiedler, and MacGregor provide the soil out of which contemporary team building theory has grown. One of the more helpful authors in the field of organizational development and change is Chris Argyris. By building on his pioneering work in identifying double feedback loops rather than using only single feedback loops, the exercises in this workbook attempt to treat causes and not just symptoms. Also helpful is his description of participatory action research in which he holds out for relevance over rigor so that individuals in the system become both subjects and co-researchers.

Theological Foundations
A solid, biblical theology undergirds the material. The original development of the materials was guided by Lakey's description of the process: "One must build a sound theology for the project, build a program or model consistent with the theological factors, and then accurately measure attitudinal or other kinds of changes to understand the effectiveness of the model."

This material is informed by and consistent with biblical theology, although its genesis was not theological but practical. The initial studies were informed primarily by secular leadership concepts which are commonly used to develop team building models. Because of the desire to apply the team building materials in a religious content, theology served secondarily as a guide to keep distinctly in view how the church and world are separate yet correlative. A careful balance between doctrine and practice is maintained to avoid heresy and schism. This approach seeks to honor the unchanging message of Scripture as supreme while allowing dialogue between the Christian message and the experiences and language common to humanity.

Three theological perspectives are especially relevant. First, any material used to strengthen a ministry team must honor the contextual nature of ministry. Ministry precedes theology and is itself a theological task. Ministry as "ad-ministry" is valid as it enables and empowers others in ministry. Bennis and Nanus remind us that leaders empower followers by the way they invest themselves. Friedman describes the minister as "coach"--investing himself in the lives of others. Peterson's work gives helpful insights into an appropriate theology of ministry. Ministry must occur with respect to context and be capable of addressing crises, or it is of no value at all. The tasks of ministry have been variously defined or listed, but the ministerial task in view in this project is generally that of spiritual advisor or mentoring. Secondarily, the project recognizes that ministry serves the church as a factor in transformation and source of renewal.

The project is suggested by the convergence of a ministry need and a possible solution from organizational development and team building theory. The theology of ministry reflected in the project is not limited to professional ministry but includes the biblical concept of personal ministry as applicable to the church leadership team.

Second, the project seeks guidance from a biblical theology of leadership. If biblical leadership is "from among" and a major biblical image is leadership as servanthood, the model must be congruent with those descriptions of the nature and positions of church leadership.

The project reframes the church leadership team to include elders, deacons, and ministers, but does not seek thereby to redefine the biblical role of elders, deacons, or ministers. The project expands upon the concept of leadership as residing only in elders, a concept sometimes present in practice, if not in theology, among churches of Christ. This expansion of the leadership team integrates concepts of leadership and management. The theological foundation of the project makes no biblical distinction between leading and managing (cf. 2 Cor. 8:16-21 as a possible example of leaders assuming a managerial role). The project may contribute the most theologically in the area of understanding biblical leadership styles and alternatives. A methodology for implementing a more horizontal yet biblical model of leadership would be a welcome addition in the present cultural milieu.

Finally, the project is undergirded by a biblical theology of church. The project views both the church and the leadership team from a systems perspective. Lindgren and Shawchuck suggest this perspective requires an ecclesiology of church as "body of Christ." Of the seven organizational components of churches they outline in their study of church management, the model designed in this project addresses five: leadership styles, relationships, conflict management styles, view of "persons," and communication.

The project intervention is thus informed by biblical theologies of ministry, leadership, and church. Finally however, theology serves only secondarily as a guide to establish a frame of reference and to ensure consistency with biblical principles.

Attempts to produce change in an organization or group must identify the assumptions upon which hypothesis and intervention are based. First, this project assumes a church, ministry setting, or mission situation is the product of its past. Effective ministry must be informed by and build upon that history. In addition, a church (and its leadership team) are systems subject to intervention and change. Watershed events, congregational stories, structures, and identities affect a church, whether on a conscious or unconscious level. Therefore in implementing a change model, the theoretical constructs of congregational story and structure, organizational development and health, and general systems theory in the corpus of available research material are valid and must be applied.

Second, leadership cohesiveness, as a variable in church identity, process, and programming effectiveness, can be increased and is desirable as an important step toward a clear, well-articulated corporate identity and vision, and strategies which move toward that vision. Establishing a cohesive, empowered, equipped leadership team--elders, deacons, ministers--will lead toward a better focused church identity, more effective processes, and more informed programming. The project thus assumes the church leadership group is a team. Because cohesion, readiness, confidence, and satisfaction are interrelated characteristics of effective teams, leadership team building will result in increased readiness, confidence, and satisfaction. In overtly conflicted situations where the leadership lacks cohesion, other matters should be addressed prior to attempting a team building exercise.

Third, many church leaders know what to do or what needs to be done, but do not have the relational skills or connections to work with other leaders, nor the relational and delegative skills to empower and equip the members in the pew who desire involvement and personal ministry. This leads to frustration, doubt, and dissatisfaction among church leaders.

Fourth, the dynamics of a small group setting can serve as an effective tool for team building, for increasing understanding and relationships, and for encouraging an environment of trust.

Fifth, a cohesive leadership team shares relationships in mutual leadership but also shares vision and purpose. Since increased interaction, shared vision, and common purpose may all produce increased cohesion, the model purposefully seeks team building in a brief relationally- oriented intervention which does not specifically address vision and purpose. This approach is suggested by the assumption that a major shortcoming in most leadership development and team building is relational (inadequate human skills) and not didactic (inadequate knowledge).

Sixth, because church identity generally reflects leadership identity, focusing the leadership identity will help focus church identity. The need for a more focused church identity explains why many church leaders today are receptive to developing leadership skills. Generally, the church is also anxious to develop more leaders since future leaders appear to be few. Many observers believe that the church is at a critical stage in its life cycle that requires it move forward with a clear sense of identity and mission. Without such, the cyclical patterns of the past are likely to be repeated. A method is need that will enable a process so that sensitive areas in non-threatening ways.

Seventh, self-understanding and communication of that understanding (self-disclosure) can bring new ways of leading, new ways of looking at difficulties, and a broader view of options for church ministry, thus increasing the project's value.

Several terms frequently used in this project must be defined, not because their general meaning is unknown, but because their use in this context requires broadened understandings.

While wanting to avoid any artificial distinction, this project distinguishes team and group. The concept of team includes points of commonality not necessarily shared by a group. A church leadership system is more than a group of individuals if it is functioning appropriately. The concept of team applied to a church leadership system denotes shared tasks, purposes, and goals. The word group is generally avoided, although it is used in common phrases such as "small group dynamics." A diligent effort is made to avoid referring to the leadership team as a group, except when their shared goals and tasks are not in view.

The distinction between groups and teams help define the concept of team building as "a process which unifies diverse persons and tasks." Building team cohesiveness is different than building group cohesiveness in that the former demands one begin by working on identity issues and defining the team's mutual concerns.

Certain concepts unique to Hersey and Blanchard's Situational Leadership materials and the readiness instruments are defined by those materials. Those concepts and terms are used in this project as defined by the instruments. The same observation should be made concerning terminology unique to the other instruments used in the project--the Team Review Survey, the Parker Team Player Survey, and the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (all instruments are included in the bibliography).

Church, as used in this paper, should be understood as a system with identity, context, program, process, personality. Church leaders are part of a church system, and thus a group of leaders cannot be analyzed, nor intervention planned, without considering the whole system.

The concept of church leadership is reframed for the purposes of the project to include elders, deacons, and ministers. This reframing does not redefine the traditional roles of these leaders. The roles traditionally found in churches of Christ, and the works generally assigned, are assumed. The project does seek to reflect the truth that mutuality and interdependence exist in the distinct works of elders, ministers, and deacons. As a result, leaders of all three kinds are part of the leadership system and team.

The team building model in this project was developed specifically for the Fort Gibson congregation. Leadership issues in the local church informed and guided the choice of exercises used in the model. Only secondarily was the model informed by leadership issues and needs in the larger context of the churches of Christ. The elders agreed that all elders, deacons, and ministers should be invited to participate in the project, but the project was limited to those who chose to participate.

The project did not restudy church identity, processes, and program. These had been evaluated twice in the past two years. The project built upon that information but did not seek to verify it. An important component of these past studies is the Missions-Role Statement of the church. Since this purpose statement has been in place for almost a year, whatever cohesion may result from the common purposes, goals, and dreams reflected there has likely already occurred.

The Team-Review Survey is not used in the project to evaluate the twelve team factors included thereon, but is used as a qualitative measure of team perceptions of satisfaction and confidence.

The project addresses church identity and process only tangentially as they relate to leadership development and team building. Church context and program are not directly addressed as they relate to the challenges of leadership and congregational renewal, the focusing of identity and purpose, the identification of a team-oriented process, and team building.

The project is not based upon psychological testing but is primarily qualitative in nature. The project does not quantitatively measure the accuracy of the responses. The project depends upon individual perceptions and is valid only to the extent that these perceptions form a social reality for an individual or group.

It is beyond the scope of this project to analyze all of the relationships that may exist between the factors being measured. The project focuses on leadership team building, and collateral information is collected only for qualitative analysis to better understand the impact of the intervention.

Finally, the project assumes and does not inquire concerning the positive benefits of leadership cohesiveness. This both influences and limits the nature and the type of training used in the model.

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Last updated May 17, 2006