Different Types of Teams

Last Updated Sunday, June 7, 2015
By Rev. Micki McCorkle

Teams are an important part of ministries in the local church. But the number and kinds of teams you may need to tackle various tasks can be very different. Consider which kind of team you need as you discern the task at hand and the best way to handle the situation.

Project (also called a Functional Team) – This kind of team is formed for the purpose of getting a specific project done and is disbanded when the project is completed. The team members can be all from the same committee or group (Ex: Trustees form a sub-team to get the fellowship hall painted) or from various parts of the church. If the team comes from different parts of the church leadership, it is a cross functional team (see below).

Cross-Functional – People from different parts of the church come together to form a team to get a short-term or long-term project done (ex: A team for a capital campaign to raise funds for a new playground might consist of folks from finance, Sunday school, VBS and trustees.) Once the goal is met, the team disbands. There are long-term cross-functional teams as well. Church Council could be considered one. It is an ongoing team that keeps the church’s mission and vision in front of everyone and the church teams. Council also helps guide teams to focus their work in this way as well.

Self-Directed – This is a team that is given the authority by the church to complete a task or project on their own, meaning they are given a certain budget and are given the freedom to do the job as long they meet the agreed upon criteria decided at Church Council/Administrative Board.

Excellent Teams

(adapted from Katzenbach and Smith, The Discipline of Teams, Harvard Business Review, 1993. A classic article on teams and teamwork)

  1. Have a sense of urgency – that what they are doing is so important that it cannot wait
  2. Have team members who can do the work, or who have the potential to learn it quickly
  3. Have well-planned meetings around creating and building a team and a team environment, as well as getting the work done.
  4. Set clear rules for team operations and behaviors from the beginning, instead of waiting until someone breaks an unwritten rule.
  5. Lay out a clear purpose and goals – especially a few easy to reach goals to give the team early success.
  6. Infuse the team regularly with new information, materials and ideas. These injections keep creativity flowing and help the team more clearly clarify goals and process.
  7. Spend a lot of time together – especially in the early stages.
  8. Encourage one another and give each other positive feedback – not just the negative.

What is a team?

A team is a small gathering of people who focus to accomplish a specific task, goal or set of tasks or goals.

"A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they are mutually accountable." (Katzenbach and Smith, 1993)

The Tuckman Model of Team Development (developed 1965; adjourning was added in about 1975)

Teams do not instantly jell. It takes some intentional work and time for a team to become a true team. Bruce Tuckman was one of the first people to name the process a team works through to become a team.

Forming – In this first stage the team members need more guidance, direction and clarity from the leader/facilitator than they will later. In this stage the members are still figuring out the real purpose of the team, of each other and how to relate to each other and to the chairperson/leader/facilitator.

Storming – As a team forms, it is natural for conflict to arise – especially as a team gets used to each other’s styles and learns to work together. During this period it takes longer to make decisions than it could. Also, different team members may be vying for power or attention in the group during this time.

Norming – Team members begin to feel comfortable with who each other is and understand what to expect from each other. Team unity develops. Team discusses and develops its working style. Big decisions can be made by consensus without taking hours. The leader can direct less and facilitate more.

Performing – The team is clear on its mission and purpose and dives in. This is where the real work begins to get named and accomplished. Goals are set and the team creates a plan of how to execute. And, when conflict arises it is easily resolved within the team without a “referee” (without team leader). The leader no longer needs to instruct or assist; instead, the leader can delegate projects and oversee the work.

Adjourning – This final stage is relevant to the team members and their ability to move on. Adjourning, however is not directly related to the work of the team itself. Adjourning well helps team members move on to other teams or activities with closure, so as not to keep the old team alive in an unhealthy state.

Rev. Micki McCorckle is Small-Member Church coordinator for the Great Plains Conference. Contact her at mccorckle@greatplainsumc.org.

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