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REAL Teams

This article is written by Randy Bloom, US Regional Director

In the early years of my ministry I was mentored within an omni-competent pastoral leadership culture. You know the drill: the pastor had all the answers—how to run a youth ministry, how to minister to the elderly, how to reach out to the community, how to raise children, how to counsel for baptism, marriage, family issues, how to rebuild a carburetor. (Ok, a bit of exaggeration here, but not much.) Any team consisted of a group of people who could help the pastor get the job done.

Even though I was a young and dumb minister, I saw the problems inherit in this approach, but I was expected to “lead” as I was trained. I found it frustrating. I am confident the omni-competent approach only added to the sense of insecurity and incompetence I already felt as a new minister. After all, it was obvious to me that all people—including pastors—have shortcomings and grow by experience. But if we are expected to act as if we know it all, how can this not but add to our frustration (and the frustration of others) by trying to do it all. It didn’t make sense to me then, and now I understand why.

Much has been said and written in Equipper and on our GCI resource page about developing team-based/pastor led ministries. I highly recommend you watch the REAL Team videos that our new president has shared. REAL is an acronym for Relationally connected, Enthusiastically engaged, Affirming and Liberating leaders. But what are we talking about and why is there so much emphasis on this?

First , a widely accepted axiom of learning is that repetition enhances learning and retention. So, we continue to address the value of team-based/pastor led ministry and how it is lived out.

Second, we are striving in GCI to use the same language. (Next month we will discuss the importance of using GCI language.)

Third, we hope to help you avoid some of the problems we’ve faced over the years. Sadly, it took being employed outside the church environment for me to begin to learn the need and value of team-based leadership. (This doesn’t have to happen to you!) One of the first and most important things I learned about working with teams was that “team-based” is not purely democratic and certainly does not mean anarchy. Someone still needs to lead (in GCI, this is the pastor), but leaders need to learn how to lead. As Equipper Editor Rick Shallenberger mentioned last month, Healthy Church begins with Healthy Leadership. I had to learn to lead and thus, when I re-entered employed ministry with GCI, I was able to apply what I had learned (and continue to learn to this day) about team-based ministry.

For team-based leadership to occur, you need a team—a REAL team. We use the acronym REAL to describe the kind of team that is healthy and that provides the kind of leadership needed for a healthy church.

Relationally Connected

REAL team members live in a close relationship with each other and our Triune God. They spend time with each other outside of planning sessions. They pray together. They have fun together. They share the joys, challenges and tragedies of life together.

Enthusiastically Engaged

They are enthusiastic about participating in the ministry of Jesus within their congregation. While they may live with a keen sense of what are at times sobering realities, they trust Jesus to lead and provide. They work collaboratively together, and they do so willingly and with joy and a sense of expectation. Enthusiastic team members serve out of love, not for a title, recognition or out of a sense of entitlement.


REAL team members who are relationally connected and enthusiastically engaged are also affirming. They encourage each other and members of the congregation. They look for the best in each other and help fellow team members who stumble or need assistance. Affirming team members respect the absent. That is, they don’t talk negatively about others behind their backs. REAL teams have no place for nay-sayers or foot-draggers.

Liberating Leaders

REAL team members are always mentoring someone. They get joy out of mentoring someone and then they mentor to lead. They are constantly on the lookout for someone to mentor. This means they aren’t territorial about their ministry. They see themselves as Jesus’s bondservants who serve him first, with a recognition that the ministry they are involved in belongs to Jesus (not them) and eventually needs to be shared and passed along to others. Finding, mentoring and liberating leaders is part of building a healthy leadership team – and it leads to church growth.

REAL team-based/pastor led ministry is a challenge, but a great goal. REAL teams help a congregation in many ways. Overall vision and plans that need to be developed and decisions that need to be made are better done with the input of a variety of people with different skill sets, perspectives and personalities. This leads to healthy church. Can we do this? Yes, we can, with a humble heart, a willingness to learn, and the help of the Holy Spirit.

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