Monday, August 05, 2013

Bringing Out the Best In Your Team: Part I

First published on Facebook on Friday, June 14, 2013.

Strategic synergy is the invisible ingredient that divides prevailing churches from pathetic churches. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with me. It is. So listen! (And  dissent only clarifies the truth, so please let me know if you see things differently.)
Of course someone will quote Solomon (“Unless the Lord builds the house...”) and inquire, “Isn’t God the invisible ingredient?” No, and here’s why. God is constantly at work; He wants to bless every church; He wishes He could. But when He doesn’t, it is because He rarely overwrites His own laws. For example, God could force an 8-ounce cup to hold a quart of water, but don’t fast and pray in hopes He will do so. Instead, find three more 8-ounce cups and your prayer has been answered. Of course we need God’s intervention, but curiously, He intervenes most significantly in churches that line up the cups. 
It’s like my friend, Steve, who asked me to pray that his church would grow in spite of the fact that his church parking lot has 50 spaces and attendance has hovered around 100 for more than a generation. If you can’t park people, you won’t need to, I reminded him. (The exceptions: (a) If your church is in an urban area where more than half of the residents use public transit to get to work or school, and (b) If the majority of church attenders are first-generation immigrants to America.) Steve’s response: “Buying more land, moving to another location, or offering two services is hard. Just pray that God will grow our church without changing anything!” Reality check: When Americans come to church, they bring their cars.

Or how about my friend, Harold, who decided to start a church without a team. “Someday I’ll write a book called Church Planting for Dummies,” he grinned. “I don’t have a team and I don’t see that changing, so as soon as we hit 1,000 or so I’ll write the book and explain how even a dummy like me can do it!” Maybe his next book will be Skydiving for Dummies for enthusiasts who can’t afford the parachute. (Could God keep someone alive who bails out of an airplane without a chute? Sure. But you try it first, then let me know how it went.)

So back to strategic synergy. Some church leaders pray hard, read books, attend the Catalyst conference, and work so hard they neglect their devotions, their family, and their health, yet their results are so limited you’re not sure whether the church will survive. Other pastors spend every evening with their wife and kids, take two months off in the summer, and spend two hours in the gym five days a week and their churches prevail. The difference is the absence or presence of strategic synergy. 

When God wants to accomplish something, he raises up a leader. And that leader quickly attracts and coalesces a team of people with complementary gifts who tackle the task with the enthusiasm and optimism of a young couple at a marriage license office.

What Is Strategic Synergy?
So what is strategic synergy? Strategy is the art of devising or employing plans or stratagems toward a goal. Synergy is actually a Greek word that means "working together". It is defined as the interaction of multiple elements in a system to produce an effect greater than the sum of their individual effects.

Strategic synergy, then, is the ability of a group to significantly outperform even its best individual member in the shared quest to fulfill the mission.
  • Synergy happens when you tie your shoes with two hands instead of one. How long would it take you to tie your shoe with only your right hand (assuming you can do it at all)? Next try your left hand. Now tie your shoe using both hands. That is synergy. 
  • Say Judy and Rudy are both too short to reach an apple on a tree. Once Judy sits on Rudy’s shoulders, they are tall enough to reach the apple. That is synergy.
  • Imagine Fran asks Ron to empty the dryer and fold the sheets. Ron can do it, but he has to lay the sheet on the family room floor, pull the corners together, realign the creases - and it takes him forever. When Fran takes one end of the sheet while Ron holds the other, they fold it in no time. That is synergy. 
  • A Belgian horse can pull a cart weighing 8,000 pounds. Two Belgian horses can pull a 24,000-pound cart. That is synergy.  

What are the components? 

First, you need more than one Belgian horse. You need a team at the top. The Lone Ranger never planted a prevailing church, and he never will. I am convinced that you need at least three persons on the staff.  

Second, you need the right persons on the team. I covered that in The Pivotal Design document. 

Also indispensable are healthy DNA and healthy group hubris. Healthy DNA happens when everyone on the team is healthy spiritually and emotionally. It consists, in part, of healthy conflict, respect and admiration for each person on the staff, and clarity of roles. Healthy hubris is when the staff is not intimidated by the most ominous challenge. They lean on God for wisdom, and believe that Together, we’re a genius. The staff must be led by a person with the spiritual gift of leadership. He is not just a leader but a leader of leaders. 

But the epicenter of creating and leveraging strategic synergy is the staff meeting. Once all the ingredients are in place, the staff meeting is place/event/occasion when the strength of every person in the room is leveraged.

In my next blog, I will talk about how to shape and leverage the staff meeting. 

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