Team alignment can be well described through the sports analogy. Through middle and high school, I played basketball. While I wasn’t the best player you’d ever want to meet, I was pretty decent. In most games, I was a starter and got a decent amount of playing time. By 6th grade, I was 5’7” and incredibly tall in comparison to my teammates. Shaquille O’Neal had just made a big splash into the NBA (I think I just told my age). This was a great opportunity to align myself with the strength, leadership, and dominance of the center position.
As I towered over others physically, and I was stronger than the other girls on the count, my proverbial head was just as big and strong. I had no problem winning alone. I never really remembered the shots I missed or the rebounds I didn’t get. But, without a doubt, I could tell you what was going wrong with my other teammates on the court.
During my 8th grade year, we lost terribly to a rival school. On the bus ride home, while everyone else was down, I celebrated because my point and rebound count had reached an all-time high. My coach took this opportunity to remind me that while I scored great, the scoreboard still said we lost. Basketball was a team sport and one player cannot win the entire game.
Ministry silos can’t forget that, in children and student ministry, we are on the same team. We are on the same court trying to win the same game: producing adults with faith in God and a love for themselves and others. Bringing ministry teams out of silos into alignment provides for exponential opportunities for the spiritual development of the next generation.
Team alignment points everyone in one direction. It gives all moving parts one vision. In family ministry, it is a guarantee that babies will become preschoolers, preschoolers will become kids, and kids will become teenagers. Team alignment gives one vision that outlines where they should be at the end of high school. It provides the entire team with one goal and lays out the value at each phase for accomplishing the bigger picture. It brings unity and oneness and places everyone on the same court looking at the same scoreboard. Lay out a vision that is too big to be accomplished by just one component. A vision that requires all the moving parts to continuously work together. Then put a plan, or strategies in place, to accomplish it.
The plan—how the vision will be accomplished—requires strategies. Strategies are few in number and vary in possibility for execution so that they can be phase appropriate but easy to remember. If your church wants to develop kids and students who love God, themselves, and others, what strategies will you use to accomplish this? How will you get it done? Is it through large group experiences, small group life, or mission opportunities? The vision is overarching because that is the endpoint. The strategies are succinct and consistent to provide connection for all the moving parts. The players are then put in a position that suites their talents.
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Getting current people in line with new changes provides a security to families and leadership that is threatened when a new direction is evident. Some leaders that implemented the current plans may struggle with change. Let them help in new ways to move the ministry forward.
I went from the position of a center to a shooting guard over the course of six years. My skill of blocking out under the boxes had to be retooled so I could block out while dribbling on the floor. The one thing they didn’t have to teach was trust and chemistry because I was playing with largely the same group of girls I started playing with years before.
During a ministry transition from silos to alignment, trust is your greatest currency. Work hard to keep that in place. If positions have to be added or people have to be moved, keeping as many people as possible makes a profound statement that everyone on the team is valuable and we want to stay together. This will calm anxieties so that the team can be more positive about the growth that is taking place.
Secure the transition by putting a long-term plan (three to five years) in place to ensure forward movement. Produce the new goals together, ensure that the church leaders agree, make sure the goals are widely known. This gives a forward target that plays against backwards nostalgia. If we don’t give people somewhere to focus, it is easier to look back at what has already been accomplished.
The easiest thing for nextgen ministries to do is to look across the court and say, “you worry about kids and we will worry about students.” However, in actuality we are working together to grow adults with authentic faith. When we combine vision, strategy, and share people, the effects are farther reaching then we could accomplish on our own.
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