May 17, 2012 Tony Morgan

Strengthen Your Senior Leadership Team

Guest contribution from Dr. Ryan T. Hartwig and Dr. Warren Bird

It’s no secret: Churches are more complex than ever.  As a result, key jobs in the church are more demanding than ever.  Pastoring requires more specialized skills than ever.  And the need to develop leaders is as crucial as ever.

Senior Leadership TeamsAs a result, many churches have adopted Senior Leadership Teams to address these challenges. Great Senior Leadership Teams involve more people in leadership functions and share the leadership burden, bring experts face-to-face to strategize, and facilitate leadership development.   In fact, Leadership Network’s recent “Team Collaboration Report” noted:

The structure is changing from a single leader calling all the shots to flattened-hierarchy leadership teams that share crucial strategic and directional responsibilities…Steps to broaden the leadership platform [have resulted in]leadership teams with multiple strategic and directional leaders who not only use their gifts, abilities and varied backgrounds to oversee important facets of decision making and execution; they also share the load for visioning, strategic direction and communication.

However, just slapping the “team” term on a group of senior leaders doesn’t make it a true team.   But there are many things you can do to help your senior leadership group become a real team that offers outstanding spiritual and strategic leadership to your church.  Based on Ryan’s two-and-a-half year study of one church’s transition to a senior leadership team and the current literature on senior leadership team effectiveness*, we know that…

Great senior leadership teams:

  1. Know, believe in, and pursue a clear, compelling, and consequential purpose distinct from the church’s overall mission.
  2. Identify and focus on the crucial tasks it needs to accomplish (such as establishing vision, determining strategy, building capacity, etc.) and give the rest away to other individuals and groups.
  3. Are comprised of persons who possess, in a balance with others, the needed skills, experience, conviction, and perspective to accomplish the team’s purpose. Check out Tony Morgan’s post about this very issue.
  4. Utilize a solid team structure that keeps the team as small as possible, gets meaningful tasks on the agenda and trivial matters off the agenda, establishes healthy meeting norms, and holds team members accountable to them.
  5. Access and utilize important resources necessary for the team to do its work, such as:
    • meaningful information,
    • educational opportunities to develop not only functional skills but also team/collaboration skills,
    • reward systems that reward team-level performance as well as individual effort,
    • time, settings, and material resources that enable the team to collaborative effectively in formal and informal settings, and
    • coaching (not team building) to grow into a great team.

Clearly, developing a great senior leadership team requires thought, intentionality, and effort.

To help you strengthen your team, we have a free assessment tool for you. It’s an amazing, FREE, limited time offer where your team gets feedback, first compared to national averages, and then later against a norm of other churches. For more information about the assessment, please visit 

*For a great resource on Senior Leadership Teams, check out: Senior Leadership Teams: What It Takes to Make Them Great by Ruth Wageman, Debra Nunes, James Burress and Richard Hackman (2008).


Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

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