Sticky Teams, part 1 I was first exposed to Larry Osborne and North Coast Church in Vista, California when I attended a conference on multi-site churches sponsored by Leadership Network a few years ago. The conference was outstanding and Highland Oaks used some of the knowledge gleaned at that conference to conceptualize and launch what eventually became the Plano Campus. Over the last few years, I have become a big fan of Larry Osborne's presentations and writings on leadership. I'm currently a part of the Next Generation Pastors learning community of Leadership Network and Larry Osborne is a mentor pastor for our group. I missed our first gathering for the best of all reasons — the birth of our youngest daughter, Norah. But, I'm really looking forward to hearing some more of Larry Osborne's insights on leadership and ministry in person.

Larry Osborne's Sticky Church was published 18 months or so ago, and is one of the best ministry books on church health/growth I've read in the last several years. It's also one of the best books on Small Groups I've read in the last several years. So, when I heard Sticky Teams: Keeping Your Leadership and Staff on the Same Page was coming out, I put the release date on my calendar and bought it the second it was released. This one is about healthy church leadership—a subject which, as those of you who read this blog regularly, is something about which I'm deeply passionate. If leadership ain't healthy, the church ain't gonna be healthy. It's that simple. If leadership is healthy, odds, are the church will be healthy. Sticky Teams is a great book to give to people who would find Edwin Friedman or Peter Steinke too heady, and would find other books on church leadership a bit too theoretical.

I'm reviewing this book because I believe it's an accessible, common and counter-intuitive-sense book of wisdom on cultivating a healthy leadership team that EVERY church leader should read. I'll do some more evaluating tomorrow…here are some quotes to give you a feel for the book. Keep in mind some of these are pulled from context…so keep that in mind. Also, the term "board" in the polity of Churches of Christ and Christian Churches should be substituted for "eldership."

  • "One thing, however, has not changed in the least: my deep conviction that the health and long-term effectiveness of any ministry begins with the health and unity of its primary leadership teams." I say, "Amen Brother."
  • "As things steadily got worse, it finally dawned on me that we were never going to change the world out there if we couldn't solve the conflicts in here. So I did something I never thought I'd do. I set aside all of my ministry and church-growth goals and, for the next two and a half years, focused on molding a cohesive leadership team. I made it my number one priority. It was a move made out of desperation, but it was one of the best moves I ever made. It changed everything. So much so that to this day I consider maintaining the unity of our board and our staff as one of my most important leadership priorities, far ahead of other worthy goals—including even evangelism, church growth, and community outreach—because without unity, everything else falls apart."
  • "But unity doesn't just happen. You have to work at it day after day, because if you don't, it quickly slips away. And once it does, it won't matter how clear your vision is or how gifted your team is. When the foundation rots, it's not long until the whole house collapses."
  • "Mark my words. If the board room is a war zone, it doesn't matter what kind of revival you're having in the sanctuary. If the infighting continues, it won't be long until there's a coup d'état or a resignation. I guarantee it."
  • "Some boards steadfastly resist any changes in their role. They'd rather cap their growth and turn over pastors and staff at a steady clip than lose their tight control. Obviously, these are the boards that most need this book, but alas, they are the least likely to ever read it."
  • "As a pastor, it's my job to help people move along to spiritual maturity, to make sure that as a church we're fulfilling both halves of the Great Commission: leading people to Christ and nurturing them on to full obedience. I used to think that could be accomplished by putting together challenging sermons, forming great small groups, and helping people to identify and use their spiritual gifts. I still consider these things to be important. But I now realize that I was leaving out a vital first step: creating an environment conducive to spiritual growth, which means removing the divisions, turf battles, and bitterness that sabotage the work of the Spirit. As a farmer needs to clear the land before planting his crop, a pastor needs to clear out any conflict within the board, staff, or congregation in order to plant and reap a spiritual harvest."
  • "Wise pastors and leadership teams know an important paradox of leadership: church harmony is inversely related to the amount of time spent oiling squeaky wheels."
  • "The strongest indicators that it's time to consider changing the primary role of the board are (1) a marked increase in conflict and frustration while making decisions and (2) meetings that drag on forever."

Tomorrow I will put forth some leadership lesson I took away from the book. The quotes I've used are those in the opening chapters used to describe reality as Osborned sees it. The latter chapters (which we'll look at soon) offer some how-to's. This book is truly fantastic and more than deserves your ten bucks. In fact, you would do well to buy 20 copies and pass them out to elders, staff, and those who serve on a volunteer basis. It's a book that names problems commonly felt in churches, and more importantly, offer real solutions to them. You can click on the book icon in my "What Tim's Reading" bar to do it quickly. More tomorrow.