Is your client working with an unhealthy team?
Recruiting volunteers has always been a touchy ministry subject. But since the pandemic recruiting and keeping volunteers and lay leaders necessary to run a ministry has become increasingly difficult. Here’s 5 reasons why. 

Written By Gary Reinecke

ICF Master Certified Coach, Resource Designer, Mission Strategist : InFocus
Is your team unhealthy? One of the realities of the last 12-24 months is the challenge of creating a healthy team culture. Simultaneously, there has been a drastic drop-off in volunteer ministry involvement. It’s time to take a hard look at what might be causing this. 

Each of the following 5 ways to build an UNHEALTHY team culture are significant on their own. But they make up a synergistic relationship. One feeds off of the other and the team culture becomes toxic. If you aren’t actively working on creating health in these areas you likely already have an unhealthy team.

5 Ways to Build an UNHEALTHY Team Culture

Unhealthy teams are ineffective

#1 Unclear expectations

You are on the path to unhealth if you haven’t discussed the expectations you have as the leader with your team. Just as important, fail to clarify the expectations members of the team have of you and of one another.  Neglect to create a simple list of “team values” or to remove ambiguity.   

Get on track to clear expectations

Overlooking the importance of clarifying expectations on the front end will create conflict and ambiguity that will erode trust over time. 

Healthy team cultures know what is expected of them and have core principles that allow them to make decisions with confidence.

Here are a few questions that can help your client assess expectations:

  • What are the most important ways you can demonstrate respect for each other?
  • What are the non-negotiable commitments you are making to each other?
  • How can you assess the health of your team?

#2 Meaningless communication

Does this sound familiar? Meetings are often canceled, tend to start late or run long. Maybe all three.  Or maybe they are too short…  crammed with more information than people can process or so vague that people don’t have enough to move forward with confidence.  In these conditions, it doesn’t take long  to erode trust, confidence and lose your audience. Patterns like these communicate a lack of value in content and in your team members.  Do it consistently and you will prove that you don’t know what you’re doing. Instead of cooperation and engagement you get silence, eye rolls, and lose respect.  

Get on track to Healthy Communication

There is no one-size that fits all for communication. Instead, communication needs to fit the culture and the individuals while providing the information necessary for them to make relevant decisions.   Make your communication count.  High functioning teams create purposeful meetings.  Set an agenda.  Start and finish meetings on time.  If you anticipate a meeting running long, ask permission to extend. 

Here are some questions to help your client establish regular and healthy team communications:

  • What issues do you need to stay current on in your team?
  • What is the minimum amount of time you can allow between communication (e.g. daily, weekly, monthly)?
  • What is the best forum for this type of communication (e.g. in person, virtual, e-mail or text)?

#3 Failure to celebrate

Show me a low-performing team and I can anticipate the team does not celebrate.  When someone does something innovative, it’s not noticed.  When a small win is made no one recognizes the person(s) responsible.  Reach a major milestone and ignore the opportunity to give a “high 5” or plan a party.  

Get on track to celebrate with compelling rewards

Celebration is normal for a healthy team.  Make excuses to celebrate.  Genuine celebration lifts team morale, creates a supportive environment, and makes ministry fun!  Discuss ways to celebrate with your leaders, recognize team members, and enjoy one another.  A kind word or personal note goes a long way to affirm the contributions team members make.  

Here are some questions to help your client determine appropriate and meaningful celebrations:

  • What are some meaningful ways you have shown appreciation for your team members?
  • What do you want to reward in your team?
  • How will you reward qualities or achievements?

#4 No accountability with no real consequences

When’s the last time you made a significant step toward making the vision and mission of the church a reality? Deadlines slide.  People aren’t challenged to set and reach goals. Leadership fails to show up for events. It seems like the staff is giving the bare minimum and you just don’t know how to motivate them.

Get on track with real accountability

Conversely, set clear boundaries with felt consequences.  Reinforce team values by calling attention to actions that honor the values.  When a boundary has been ignored or broken it is critical to acknowledge what has happened to build a high-trust team culture.  Just as important is following through on a consequence when a team member fails to observe the commitment they have made to their teammates. For example, if a person is habitually late and one of the stated team values is punctuality, enforces the consequence for the impact the tardiness has on the team. The action you take (or fail to take) communicates your commitment to the team. 

Here are some questions to help your client determine appropriate accountability procedures:

  • What behaviors will your team not tolerate?
  • What will the consequences be?
  • Are you willing to enforce those?

#5 Low trust

A lack of trust always results in an unhealthy team culture. Allow gossip to spread throughout your team. Break promises and commitments. Constantly change your staff’s job descriptions. Announce new initiatives from the pulpit before discussing with your staff or even your elder board. Overspend on your budget!  Your church will lose trust in you fast.

Get on track to a high trust team environment 

The speed at which you can develop trust within a team will determine how fast you are able to move toward your goals. The higher the level of trust, the faster your progress as a team toward the vision and the greater the impact!. 

Here are some questions to help your client discover where trust is lacking and how to build it up:

  • What is the most effective way you have built trust within your team?
  • What has eroded trust?
  • What can you do to increase trust within your team?

In the last 12-24 months, leaders have had to be more intentional in building healthy team cultures, recruiting and supporting volunteers. Ignoring these five aspects of a healthy team–or failing to give attention to them–has exposed the cracks in many organizations and churches. The healthier the culture, the stronger the organization.

Take your coaching to the next level!

If you found this post helpful, imagine being in a cohort with the author! There are still a couple spots open for the coaching cohorts! Christian Coaching Essentials begins on September 27th and Coaching Excellence on October 5th. Want more information? Email to set up a time to talk about your best next steps in your coaching career.

More Resources

Help your clients identify their strengths and areas for development with the Goal Setting Effectiveness Profile. Then walk them through the steps to better more effective at setting and achieving goals with the Goal Setting Coaching and with Storyboard.

Help clients set and achieve goals     Discover strengths and weaknesses when it comes to goal setting

Cover Photo by Yan Krukau

Photo by Nathan Cowley

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