“Leadership works best when it is provided by teams of gifted leaders serving together in pursuit of a clear and compelling vision.” (Barna, 2001). This is George Barna’s thesis in The Power of Team Leadership. With two years of research, Barna delivers his data supporting the theory that America’s protestant churches are in need of a change in leadership style. Barna discusses today’s cultural challenges and the strain they cause leaders trying to respond to them. In The Power of Team Leadership, utilizing church lay people with leadership qualities to create an effective team ministry is essential to a church’s success.
The ideal team would involve a visionary motivator, a strategic decision-maker, a team-builder and a team member who oversees the operational aspects of the teams work. Barna makes a good argument for why team leadership is needed. It is of no doubt that a church will be a more positive experience when its members are involved it the decisions; especially ones which will affect them personally. According to a statement on the Barna Group website, “Among the benefits of using lay teams are reduce independence upon the pastor; elimination of the need for leaders to be broadly skilled superheroes; diminished stress experienced by leaders; and heightened synergy.” The one topic not addressed completely is the reason churches are having leadership problems. Although Barna mentions that pastors are not receiving leadership training while in school, it is a subject that should have been investigated more thoroughly.
The Power of Team Leadership is appropriate for today’s leadership issues. A change in leadership strategy has risen in many organizations, companies, and churches. The autocratic leadership style has been replaced by a more democratic, free-reign style. Our culture is changing in terms of population growth, morality, expectations, families and values. With these changes people are looking to participate more in the decisions affecting their current experience or future conditions. A rise in Christian self awareness has given church goers a reason for wanting to explore and share their spiritual gifts. Many overwhelmed pastors are willing to share their responsibility. A team leadership opens doorways to a new ministry experience; an open spirituality, new programs and a focus on church health rather than church growth. There are many reasons for the encouragement of team leadership. Barna’s hope in writing The Power of Team Leadership was to inspire ministries to embrace team leadership. It is my opinion however, that if the author focused more on the reason behind poorly led churches rather than a brief overview of the subject, The Power of Team Leadership would have been more informative and thus more useful.
Barna suggested to a lack of pastoral leadership as a main problem amongst the church. It is this theory which should have been examined more closely. “Barna’s research found that most pastors do not view themselves as being called or gifted leaders. His recent national survey of pastors revealed that less than one-quarter of them believe they are leaders; most say they have been gifted to teach and preach. That self-image affects the tasks pastors embrace and the energy they devote to leading the church.” (Barna Group) This statement supports the need for team leadership however it put’s doubt in peoples’ minds as to the abilities of their pastors. Barna writes that pastors are frustrated because they went to seminary school to learn to preach, not lead and church members expect leadership. Trust must be established between church members and pastor before changes can be made. With pastors feeling inadequate and members being frustrated, it is almost impossible to begin a new chapter in ministry leadership. Barna’s inability to grasp this logic caused me to question his professional opinion on team leadership.
Trust in the abilities of our church leaders is extremely important and necessary for spiritual growth. Angie Ward, a contributor from Christianity Today writes “Trust is critical to a church’s health and, ultimately, to its ministry effectiveness. When people in a church don’t trust each other or their leaders, the church becomes a diseased organism that will poison those who come into contact with it, or shrivel up and stop producing fruit—often times both. And while mistrust can and does exist at all levels within a church, its leaders generally set the tone for organizational health.” Although Barna touches base on trust between congregation and pastor, he does needs more evidence of the consequences of mistrust within the ministry. The bigger question that comes to mind when reading The Power of Team Leadership is why are students of seminary school graduating without adequate knowledge of leadership skills when they are so desperately needed?
The Power of Team Leadership was well researched in the techniques and reasoning behind team leadership. I agree with both the need for team leadership in the church as well as the need for pastors to change from a Senior Pastor/Preacher paradigm to one of a leader/trainer. The text was informative but lacking vital information. Barna missed an ample opportunity to expose the need for better prepared graduates from seminary school. I think a more positive change in ministry leadership would result from students of seminary schools graduating with knowledge of leadership skills. To first have a strong leader in place before attempting a change of ministry would cause the change to move more smoothly. The church ministry would be more confident and willing to begin a change towards team leadership with a trusted leader in place.
Barna skips through the necessary information needed to assist with renewing trust between pastor and church. As Daniel Aleshire from The Association of Theological Schools writes “We have not given enough attention to the demands on people whose first job entails a significant degree of leadership, even though the organizations they lead may be small. We know that failures in early ministry careers are not typically related to defective knowledge of Scripture or church history-but are most typically a function of relational problems or inadequate abilities as leaders. Leadership is good work; it is not only work that has to be done, it is work worth doing. If it is done well, it helps a community to accomplish purposes and goals that only a company of persons can accomplish. I think we need an inclusive perspective about what ministerial leadership is, and the educational imagination and skill to educate effectively toward that perspective.” Barna needs to recognize the need for educating pastors in leadership skills; readying them for the challenges of changing leadership styles of the church. Without addressing the lack of leadership qualified seminary school graduates, Barna’s argument of creating team leadership is incomplete.
George Barna was thorough in his discussion of what team leadership is; its benefits and appropriateness. He did not thoroughly discuss however the problem of untrained pastors in the field of leadership training; and why they are not trained for such an important skill in seminary school. There should have been more explanation as to the lack of leadership training causing mistrust within the church ministry. The Power of Team Leadership is recommended for churches with adequate leadership already in place. It will be beneficial to ministries looking to expand within its own church and for bringing in new members. The Power of Team Leadership is informative on a basic level, giving the reader a general knowledge of team leadership benefits. It is not as in depth as one would need it to be in order to address the issues of under trained pastors in leadership skills and building trust. However for the purpose of understanding team leadership and how to apply it, The Power of Team Leadership was informative and well constructed.
Aleshire, D. (Dec. 2002). What is the value of seminary-educated religious leaders? The Association of Theological Schools, The Commission on Accrediting Leadership Education. Retrieved on September 4, 2006 from http://www.ats.edu/leadership_education/Papers2002Aleshire4.asp
Ward, A., (2006) Leader’s Insight: Can I Trust You? Strengthening the three legs of trust.
[Electronic Version]. Christianity Today; Leadership Journal. Retrieved September 5, 2006 from http://www.christianitytoday.com/leaders/newsletter/2006/cln60814.html
The Barna Group, website resource page. Retrieved September 4, 2006 from http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=Resource&ResourceID=57