February 27, 2015 Ryan Stigile

Dealing With Team Tension? Develop Your Systems.

Do your team members ever struggle to work together? Many church staffs suffer from an unhealthy tension that is actively creating distance among their team members. As individuals disagree on how their team should be operating, their commitments to each other deteriorate over time.

The typical response to relational tension is to bring everyone together to talk through their differences. While that approach is often great, it doesn’t always generate a long-term solution. Many times, a similar problem rises again in the future only to recreate the same tension. In those recurring situations, it takes more than another conversation to address the issue.

The solution to many relational tensions may actually seem very non-relational at first. When you find tension is on the rise within your team, it may actually be time to take a fresh look at your systems. Many church leaders view systems as organizational red tape nearly opposite of relationships. That perspective could not be further from the truth.

Systems don’t replace relationships. Systems better define relationships.

A good system doesn’t get in the way. It removes the ongoing obstacles that prevent people from working well together. When a team’s systems are at their finest, everyone knows exactly what they can [and cannot]expect from others.

Wondering if your team might need a new system? Consider the following indicators:

  • Constant Surprises: Do unexpected issues come from seemingly nowhere and get in the way?
  • Missed Deadlines: Is your team or a member of it constantly behind?
  • Regular Miscommunication: Are conflicting messages floating around?
  • Chronic Unclarity: Do people often have different assumptions about what you are doing?
  • Conflicting Responsibilities: Are people generally on different pages about who is doing what?

If one of those indicators seems familiar, it’s probably time to take a fresh look at your systems. I recommend gathering everyone around the whiteboard and working through the following questions together:

  1. What are the regular sources of tension within our team?
  2. What is the true cause of each of these tensions?
  3. Where might we need to develop or redevelop a system?
  4. What steps, deadlines, or tools can we put in place to better define the relationships within our team?
  5. Who will be responsible for putting this system in place?

With a new system in place, your team will have a greater understanding of how everyone can best work together. Relational tension will always exist at some level. But clearer systems lead to healthier relationships that can bear the weight of conflict when it [less frequently]arises.


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Ryan Stigile

Ryan Stigile serves as the Executive Pastor of Rock Bridge Community Church, a 5-campus church with campuses in Georgia and Tennessee. Previously, as Director of Expansion at NewPointe Community Church (NE Ohio), Ryan led the launch and development of new multisite campuses. With Mount Paran Church (Atlanta, GA), he guided the leadership team through a strategic change initiative to simplify and align its ministries. Ryan has a Master of Business Administration from Kennesaw State University and degrees in business administration and discipleship ministry from Lee University. He lives in Dalton, GA with his wife Emily and their daughter, Addison.
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