Why Teams Fail

Why Teams Fail

Teams have a lifespan that is often way too short. The glory days. The wonder years. Camelot. Utopia. The three-year span where everyone worked together, communicated, found their niche, talked through problems, focused on the future, and hit performance goals out of the park. If you’ve never had a season in your ministry like that, I’m sorry. Because it’s a beautiful thing. It really is. When a team is hitting on all cylinders, it’s glorious and exhilarating. But often times, things fall apart. For no obvious reason at all, a team that was working just fine a year ago has totally run off of the rails. People are quitting, they’re backbiting, they’re contentious, they’re gossiping, and they haven’t hit their performance goals in far too long. What happened? True teamwork is hard to achieve but easy to lose. Several years ago, my wife and I were driving home from vacation. The summer sky was clear; the highway wasn’t too busy. It was a beautiful day and everyone on the road seemed to be driving along in rare summer-driving bliss. No speeders or traffic weavers; no semis going too slow or left lane hogs. But in my rearview mirror, I suddenly noticed an SUV that took a slight turn. Perhaps the initial jerk happened because of a dropped coffee or to change the song on the radio. But then the driver made that irreversible mistake: overcorrection. The SUV swerved out of control, hitting the barrier in the median and made three full flips. Several cars stopped and emergency crews made their way to the scene. A once serene drive took a sudden,...
The Shortcut to Build Team Unity

The Shortcut to Build Team Unity

“I am praying for them… that they may be one.” – Jesus Unity is the most foundational element to the long-term success of any team. From the disciples in the early church to the staff at your church today, teams that lack unity will lack longevity. There’s no way around that fact. This past week, I had the joy of attending my first annual meeting with The Malphurs Group. This was a particularly different year for TMG as three of us have officially joined the group in the last year. Note: any time you add or subtract team members, the dynamics fundamentally shift. As a result, whenever you onboard new staff, it’s critical to return to the fundamentals of the organization so everyone is on the same page. This is exactly what we did last week. For all of the old hats, our journey through the mission and vision of TMG was a healthy refresher. For those of us who were new, it brought a wave of enthusiasm as we “caught” the vision for what we aim to do for churches and leaders. This isn’t the primary point of this article, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you this: the entire team at The Malphurs Group, from top to bottom, is not only talented but fully committed to our mission of equipping churches to break through barriers, and maximize their impact for Christ. I’m not saying this because I’m on the team; I simply couldn’t recommend more highly a consultant group. Having now spent the time to get to know each of the consultants’ and staffs’ hearts and passions,...
Five More Warning Signs of Narcissistic Leadership

Five More Warning Signs of Narcissistic Leadership

The most dangerous tendency in church leadership is towards narcissism. No other topic I’ve addressed on ScottBall.net has attracted more attention, questions, and conversations than the issue of narcissistic leadership in the church. Back in 2015, one of my most popular articles was “Five Warning Signs of Narcissistic Leadership,” and was picked up both by ChurchLeaders and The Malphurs Group. The reality is that this issue is so wide-spread in the church that I felt the need to revisit it. The sad truth is that ministry positions, perhaps only second to positions in the medical field, are the most susceptible to narcissism. People rely on clergy for guidance, hope, wisdom, and comfort. The words of pastors carry weight because they’re (allegedly) Spirit-filled. Church leaders stand on the authority of Scripture (rightly) but sometimes (wrongly) abuse that authority to manipulate people. Since writing the first article, people have asked me dozens of times if it was written with anyone in mind. Truthfully, no; unless that person is myself. Any leader reading this article right now will hopefully admit that the pull towards narcissism in leadership is strong, and only by God’s grace do leaders minister in humility. Further research on this topic, though, has led me to understand that narcissistic leadership left unchecked, can wreak havoc on a church. I’ve seen and heard the tragedies, and don’t want anyone to be unaware of the warning signs of narcissistic leadership run wild. Some of the most helpful and eye-opening research I’ve come across on the topic has come from Dr. George Simon, Jr. In his writing, he indicates that there really are two different types...
Why Churches Die a Slow Death

Why Churches Die a Slow Death

Left to itself, the universe tends towards chaos. This is the fundamental truth behind the Second Law of Thermodynamics. “The state of entropy of the entire universe, as an isolated system, will always increase over time.” Even when a productive reaction occurs in chemistry, there is always a byproduct of randomness and chaos. The arc of the universe is towards a slow death—the very life and energy being sapped away. A rolling ball will lose its energy until it stops. A rubber band will break or snap back rather than be infinitely stretched. And a church that exists within a closed system will tend towards a slow death: void of energy but filled with chaos. In physics, chemistry, and the church, the only thing that stems the affect of entropy is intentional, outside energy that works to accomplish a specific outcome. In Robert Quinn’s book Building the Bridge as You Walk on It, he states, “Given the choice between deep change or slow death, we tend to choose slow death.” Deep change requires outside energy, intentionality, and genuine leadership. The concept of change threatens the status quo, a sense of normalcy, and the perception of equilibrium. However, what most churches refuse to accept is that change is always happening. In a closed system, a church will always be changing towards entropy. While the externals can be managed to look like things are going well, the internal reality is that the organization is unraveling. Let’s be clear: if your church remains a closed system, resistant to the outside energy required for fundamental and deep change, your church will inevitably die. Quinn further states in his...
Top 10 Qualities of Successful Church Planters

Top 10 Qualities of Successful Church Planters

If you want to be successful at church planting, start by counting the cost. Four thousand new churches are planted every year, finally stemming the tide of church closures each year (3,500/year). Church planting has seen a resurgence in the last decade, and a vast number of new churches that are planted are becoming viable and self-sustaining within five years. However, church planting isn’t a sure deal. Passion, heart, and desire are admirable qualities, but not necessarily the only ones that are necessary to be a successful church planter. The numbers don’t lie. More than three out of ten church plants will fail within five years, and even more will never break through that critical 100 attenders barrier—meaning that funds will always be an issue, the church will be chronically understaffed, and the gospel impact you once envisioned is endangered. NOTE: If you’re a church planter already and you’re reading these statistics becoming discouraged, don’t be. This website and my work is dedicated exclusively to helping leaders and churches like you to achieve the breakthrough you long to have. It is never too late, and you’re never too far gone. Breakthrough is just around the corner. If this is you, stop reading this article and contact me straight away so we can start praying through and strategically planning your breakthrough. For those of you reading this article right now who are aspiring or potential church planters, I want you to come face-to-face with the statistics so you can count the cost now. It’s far easier to become a breakthrough church intentionally from the beginning than to have to re-visit...
5 Risks Your Church Should Take

5 Risks Your Church Should Take

Nothing in life is a sure deal. You make plans, do the leg-work, and research the details. Some things, despite the planning, just don’t work out. This inherent risk of failure sidelines a lot of churches from making bold moves that could really launch them into greater influence and gospel impact. But there’s a balance, right? A big move isn’t always a smart move and the pay-off isn’t guaranteed. When I was a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary at the Charlotte campus, I was always floored by the number of churches in the Queen City. Yet it wasn’t just the number of churches, it was the volume of churches with massive campuses. One church in particular has a massive cathedral-like appearance on a campus that seems to stretch for dozens of acres. Thousands of parking spaces line up around a beautifully built and even more immaculately landscaped facility. Being from out-of-town, I asked a local student about the church. “Empty,” he said. “Or, at least it feels like it given the size.” When I was growing up in Dallas, I went to a weekly Bible study for young adults at a huge megachurch. Several hundred students showed up from week-to-week at the event, but the place felt empty because it was built for thousands. That church did in fact fill-up on Sundays, but I can only imagine if things were to go south how hundreds of people in a room for thousands would be demoralizing. The Charlotte church had taken a risk, and over time, it hadn’t paid off. But these cautionary stories should not hold you back. This isn’t an...