Team-Based Leadership


Forward Leading | Mark DeYmaz

Mark DeYmazIn the 20th century, responsible (often final) authority for the church rested in the hands of a single person—a senior pastor to whom all volunteer and/or vocational staff reported. More often than not, governing boards or committees followed the pastor’s direction and lead. In the secular world, this is often described as an “authoritarian” management style. 

Collaboration, empowerment and inclusion, however, are values of the 21st century and thus critical for effective leadership today. Such understanding suggests the need for a much different style of organizational leadership, one postured more for the future than the past, namely, “team-based leadership” (TBL).

Of course, many senior or lead pastors will say that they already have a team, are part of a team, and could not otherwise do what they do without it. Yet in most if not all cases, the fact remains that the buck stops with the senior pastor who is hired, vested and expected to set direction and to make all of the important final decisions.

Rather than being led by a single individual, however, churches in the future will be better served by establishing a small team of people charged collectively with responsible authority for the organization and who then function together as one in the strength of their gifting. 

For example, instead of empowering a senior pastor at the top of the organizational chart a church might empower a team of three to share authority, comprised of the following:

  • V (a gifted visionary), i.e., a directional leader
  • S (a gifted shepherd), i.e., a senior pastor
  • X (a gifted administrator), i.e., an executive pastor 

Sharing equitable responsibility for the organization, each one recognizes and affirms the role preferences the others and yields to one another’s gifting in times of discussion, debate, and decision-making. 

Practically, this means that at any given moment, if the issue or area of ministry being discussed is visionary (or futuristic) in nature, S & X (having spoken their minds) will look to V to summarize the discussion and provide next step directives. If what’s being discussed is pastoral in nature, S will summarize the discussion and provide next step directives as will X when the issue is operational or administrative. 

Figuratively, think of each person as having equal voice and vote but in recognition of specific gifting, experiential knowledge, and proven intuition, one of them getting two votes (so to speak) at any given moment, depending on what’s being discussed and/or related decisions that need to be made.

Beyond the structural practice of TBL, and for the model to be effective, individuals (such as V, S, and X) must know who they are, who they’re not, and be okay with it. In other words, TBL breaks down wherever personal insecurities are in play. As importantly, individuals on the team must learn to trust one another by remaining committed to one another (as well as to the model) whenever inevitable clashes of personalities and/or preferences arise, particularly in the first 4-5 years of intentional collaboration. 

Among other benefits, TBL fosters mutual accountability, helps to mitigate the perils of power and/or Christian celebrity, and provides for a “sooner-than-later” overcoming of obstacles, problems, and conflict. 

Whether via volunteers or vocational staff, those at the highest levels of church leadership (i.e., senior pastors and governing boards) should consider adoption of TBL as a model to maximize individual and organizational efficiency. Looking to the future, TBL can help churches better address complexities and avoid the pitfalls of authoritarian management.

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Mark DeYmaz
Mark DeYmaz

Mark DeYmaz is the founding pastor and directional leader of Mosaic Church (Little Rock) and co-founder of the Mosaix Global Network. He is the author of eight books including Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church, Disruption, and The Coming Revolution in Church Economics.