How To Strengthen Your Church Leadership Team


I visited with Warren Bird and Ryan Hartwig this week about anew leadership assessment tool for church leadership teams.Warren is the Research Director at Leadership Network, an organization that helps high-influence churches connect with each other in ways that help them move from ideas to implementation to impact. Ryan is the Assistant Professor of Communication at Azusa Pacific University where he researches and writes about teamwork, collaboration, and leadership in nonprofit organizations.

Holly: Tell us more about the “why” behind this leadership assessment. What needs did you see on church leadership teams that inspired you to conduct this survey?

Ryan: My interest in senior leadership teams began as I worked on my doctoral dissertation. I studied a church that clearly needed help in becoming more effective. It seemed that other churches could benefit from similar help, but I didn’t find many others doing work on the topic. This led me on a journey to do a bigger study involving hundreds of churches. I wanted to understand who makes up these teams, what they do, and how they do what they do. Could we find out what differentiates great teams from the rest? Would a new model of senior church leadership team effectiveness help all kinds of senior church leadership teams make a greater impact for God’s kingdom?

Warren: When Ryan contacted me and asked Leadership Network to partner with him on this study, I knew this topic was an important one, as I was in the process of doing hundreds of interviews with young and up-and-coming pastors of large churches. Over and over, they were telling me that one of their greatest challenges was building their church leadership teams.

Holly: What has been the most surprising discovery you have found through the project so far?

Ryan: I was fascinated to learn that teams ranked the Consequentiality of Team Purpose very high, but Clarify and Challenge of Team Purpose as very low. In other words, the pastors agreed that their team’s purposes were extremely consequential, but not very clear or challenging. Though they believed their team’s work was really important, they didn’t clearly know what it was nor did they believe their purpose was that stretching.

Warren: We were surprised to learn that many church leadership team members don’t have a clear understanding of who else is on their team. Also, senior leadership team participants listed “coordinating leadership activities” and “making critical, church-wide decisions” as the most important purposes of their teams, but their teams actually spend less than half their time on these activities.

Holly: That's really important for senior leaders to be aware of because one of the most common reasons we find staff members feel discontent is when there is no clear vision to follow. What have you discovered to be one of the most common patterns among the participants thus far?

Warren: Roughly two-thirds of the pastors who lead these teams (mostly senior pastors and executive pastors) indicated they have no formal training in team leadership. From this, we know there’s lots of room to help pastors become more effective in developing and leading these senior leadership teams.

Holly: Not only is your first report available for download, but you are also offering one more opportunityfor churches to participate in the study.  Why should churches participate in the survey?

Ryan: You get to assess your senior leadership team for free because we were able to negotiate a special arrangement with the creators of the Team Diagnostic Survey. Once your team completes the survey, you’ll receive a report rating your team on five conditions of leadership team effectiveness, as explained in the book, Senior Leadership Teams: What It Takes to Make them Great. This assessment tool was developed by Harvard Researchers and Hay Group consultants and is normally only offered to corporate senior leadership teams through a consulting arrangement with the Hay Group.

Holly: That's exciting! So what does a church leader need to know to get started?

Warren: To begin the assessment, simply register your senior leadership team at You will need the following information to successfully complete the registration:

• Some basic information about your church’s senior leadership team, including names, e-mail addresses, and positions of each team member, frequency of meetings, and who leads the team
• Your church’s average weekend attendance from the past 3 years
• The age of your church and of your senior/lead pastor

Holly: Thanks, Warren and Ryan! We appreciate all that you're doing for churches and the Kingdom around the country. I'm excited to see what we learn from the report!