Sticky-teams In his book, Sticky Teams, Larry Osborne suggests three marks of a sticky team: Doctrinal unity, Respect and friendship, Philosophical unity.

He nailed it. However, I wonder which of these is most important. I think you could make a really good argument for all three. However, the one that seems to undo churches the most are the latter two. Here's what I mean:

Often, when church leaders argue about "doctrine," the argument has more to do with personality issues or differences on ministry philosophy than on doctrine. In my time in ministry, growing up in church, and experience consulting with other churches–I can count on one hand the number of conflicts above 5.0 on the church scale that have actually been about doctrine.

For instance, slippery slope concerns often have more to do with a lack of trust in those espousing a change than it does the doctrinal content of that change. Respect and friendship also help cultivate unity of philosophy for the same reasons. Yet, many church leaderships spend virtually no time cultivating respect and friendship…the oil that allows the church engine to move responsively toward mission. If it's missing, good luck. If respect and friendship are there–it will smooth out doctrinal and philosophical disagreements.

How does it happen? Here I paraphrase a few recommendations Osborne gives:

  • Pay attention to the timing, setting and content of your meetings. Try to limit church "business" to one meeting per month. Spend any other meeting in prayer, training, and fellowship. Move the business meeting to a businessy environment, and the others to a different environment.
  • Decide in advance what you won't fight about. Man this is huge. Decide on your core doctrinal beliefs and on issues the leadership feels it must take an official position on. Then, avoid killing yourself by arguing about the same thing over and over again.
  • Clarify roles of the "board" and the ministers. Osborne offers 3 pretty good roles for the board. Wise counsel, brakes (the ability to stop anyone or anything run amuck), and a crisis team in waiting. Ministers make operational and tactical decisions to further the mission of the church. These may not be the roles you would like for your elders/ministers. But, clarify them, whatever they are, and respect them.

 Question: Which of the three elements of a sticky team to you think is most important: doctrinal unity, respect and friendship, or philosophical unity? What systemic barriers keep church leaderships from becoming "stickier?"