Teams That Thrive: The 5 C’s of a Compelling Purpose

“Without a 5C purpose, a team will never reach its potential or be able to set meaningful performance goals.”

Teams That Thrive: Five Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership
By Ryan T. Hartwig and Warren Bird (InterVarsity Press, 2015)



Rick Warren’s bestselling book The Purpose Driven Life repeatedly asks, echoing its subtitle, “What on earth are you here for?” He challenges individuals to determine their unique calling that best utilizing their strengths and impacts the world around them.

Teams need to ask the same question: What on earth are we here for? What is it that we must do? What is it that only we, as a senior leadership team, can do for this church?

Ryan has found that great teams coalesce around a 5C purpose. The idea comes from an alliteration he developed from both church and marketplace research. Carl Larson and Frank LeFasto, luminary researchers and authors of the classic book When Teams Work Best, found that great teams held a clear and elevating purpose. Likewise, Harvard research Richard Hackman identified that the best teams pursue a compelling direction that is clear, challenging and consequential. And in faith-based contexts, the best teams don’t ask their members to check their callings at the door; rather, they enable them to pursue calling as part of the team’s work. Pulling these concepts together yields these five Cs:

*Clear. Does the team’s purpose paint a clear picture of value?
*Compelling. Do team members view the purpose as consequential? Does it address something that truly matters, drawing people into it?
*Challenging. To accomplish the purpose, is each member of the team required to contribute in a meaningful and interdependent way?
*Calling-oriented. Does accomplishing the purpose help members accomplish God’s calling on their lives and pursue their goals?
*Consistently held. Do the members of a group truly know the group’s purpose and pursue it with fervor?

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The purpose of your leadership team must be crystal clear, as everything else hinges on purpose. With that in mind, you might want to adopt clarity evangelist Will Mancini’s five characteristics of viral vision statements, also stated as “five Cs,” as you articulate your team’s purpose. A purpose statement is clear if a teenager could understand it, concise if it can be stated in one breath, compelling if people want to keep on talking about it, catalytic if it drives action of all members of the team, not just the team leader, and contextual if it specifically fits the particular church’s vision and personality.

If you forget everything else, remember that all teams form around purpose, and they bond by pursuing that purpose. In fact, true teams are differentiated from mere work groups based on (1) the extent to which the collective purpose is shared among the group, (2) the level of commitment members have toward that purpose and (3) the clarity of and commitment to performance goals that drive toward the purpose. By contrast, members of work groups don’t share any overarching purpose and vary in their commitment to the group’s task and goals.

“A common, meaningful purpose sets the tone and aspiration” for any real team. Does your team have one? Without a 5C purpose, a team will never reach its potential or be able to set meaningful performance goals, which transform the broad purpose into specific and measureable performance challenges, focus the team on pursuing results, facilitate decision making and constructive conflict, and drive the development of an approach to get the work done.

Six Benefits of a 5C Purpose

A 5C purpose offers extensive benefits for your team, as the following points illustrate. A 5C purpose:

1. Narrows your team’s scope. It’s easy for senior leadership teams to equate their purpose with “leading the church.” The problem with that, however, is that nothing is excluded from that purpose. If everything is supposedly the team’s purpose, then in actuality nothing is. Teams that don’t narrow their focus end up trying to do too much, which typically results in actually accomplishing very little. These teams spend seemingly countless hours meeting, leaving little time left for accomplishing key elements of their work outside of team meetings, such as meeting with staff or volunteers, building teams, executing strategies and the like.

2. Creates space for staff or volunteers to contribute at a high level. When a leadership team takes on all leadership functions, they don’t leave any of those functions to others, ultimately disempowering others at the church. A leadership team with a too-broad purpose takes on too much, tends to overmanage and prevents others from feeling that they’re making an important contribution to the church’s mission. At one church with a leadership team that took on too much, staff pastors who were not on that senior team indicated that they couldn’t see their own fingerprints on their ministry. Combined with working long, hard hours to serve a burgeoning church, more than one of these pastors expressed thoughts of leaving to go to another church where they would have the opportunity to more meaningfully contribute.

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When a leadership team limits its role of leadership, it takes seriously Paul’s instruction in Ephesians 4:12 for pastors and teachers to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” rather than do all ministry themselves. When it doesn’t, it prevents others from doing crucial ministry work. In chapter eight on membership, we discuss how key leadership functions can be spread among a few different pastoral staff and volunteer groups.