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7 Ways to Lead a Team That Goes the Distance

The work done by your team—your staff and volunteers—has eternal consequences. But your team members cannot serve effectively if they’re under stress; they won’t be able to go the distance. This is especially true during the holiday season—and even more so during a global pandemic.

That’s why I encourage leaders to cultivate the concept of relaxed concern. That may sound like a contradiction, but the quickest way to exhaust your team is to never let people relax. Although they need to realize their work is important, they won’t last if they never take their foot off the accelerator.

I’ve spoken to many pastors whose staff members and volunteers are becoming weary in ministry. It’s not because these leaders aren’t dedicated. It’s because they’re too dedicated. More precisely, their dedication isn’t tempered by the ability to relax—an important skill to learn in order to complete the task God has put before them.

Let me share seven leadership habits that will help your team cultivate relaxed concern and increase the likelihood of finishing well in ministry. 

Have realistic expectations.

Don’t expect every person on your team to work at the same energy level all the time. It is unrealistic. We were all made differently. Everyone you meet is either a racehorse, a turtle, or somewhere in between. None of those traits are right or wrong. They’re just the way God made us.

Be aware of external drains on energy and compensate for them.

When someone on your team is experiencing an illness or a personal crisis, realize it will drain their energy, and then compensate for it.

Plan your team’s year in energy cycles.

You can’t maintain a breakneck pace in ministry. Your team needs opportunities for rest. That’s one reason I’ve always believed in short, six-week campaigns. These campaigns, such as Transformed and 40 Days of Prayer, allow the church to focus intensely for six weeks and then relax a bit.

Allow flexible schedules.

Don’t get too focused on how much time people spend in the office. Pay more attention to your staff’s productivity than their timecards. If they finish their work, allow them to go home early. If a staff member works late, let them compensate for that time on another day. Even if your staff isn’t in the office regularly due to the pandemic, you still need to evaluate what works best for your team.

Work smarter, not harder.

Ecclesiastes 10:10 has always been one of my favorite Bible verses: “If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed, but skill will bring success” (NIV). To make the best use of your energy, work smarter, not harder. For example, when you have a dull ax, it takes more energy to cut wood. When your ax is sharp, it doesn’t take as much energy. You may have people on your team who are working harder than anyone else, but their productivity is low because they aren’t working smart. Encourage and support your staff as they look for ways to make their work easier.

Focus on the long haul.

Take an interest in long-term results when building your team. You want people who will be with you for a long period of time. When you have a team of people who have been with you for years or even decades, ego is no longer a problem. You know each other. You can read each other’s moods. You know weaknesses and strengths, and you can compensate for them. That will greatly increase your productivity—and decrease the chances of burnout.

Make your work fun. 

The most successful people in life are those who get paid for doing what they like to do. That’s the kind of team I want around me. Just because your team members commit to enjoying one another’s company, it doesn’t mean you don’t work hard. In fact, the more fun you have, the harder your team will usually work. 

For your team members to accomplish all that God has in store, they need to stick around. When ministry wears people down, staff and volunteers won’t last. Follow these seven principles, and you will build a team that goes the distance.

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