Transitions, Part 1: Constructive or Destructive?

A Team’s Tone Can Be Constructive or Destructive!

I know which kind of team I prefer. I’m sure you do, too. If you’ve worked or volunteered at any level in a church, ministry, or organization, you have experienced one, the other, or both firsthand.

This is part 1 of a 5-part series where we will examine the four inescapable transitions a team faces … and the specific ways God has provided for your team to thrive through them, rather than merely survive.

team of 3 working togetherWhy are some teams a hotbed of discord and strife? Or a place in which conflict is not articulated but seems to simmer beneath the surface in a status quo environment … one in which the team appears to be unable to accomplish much of anything.

Yet other teams work in sync together and achieve more than individual members do separately, truly modeling the principle “the whole is greater than sum of its parts.”

The exciting news is that a team dynamic can be realigned, moving from destructive to constructive. The answer lies in understanding some key elements at work in any transition.

What are Transitions?

Transitions are movements in ministry. They involve the passage from one “place” to another. And they involve both process and people. This is where things start to break down.

Transitions Create Turbulence

Each transition must pass through the following grid, no matter how big or small.

1. Processing information
2. Problem solving
3. Managing change
4. Facing risk

In this series, we will call these the “Four Inescapable Areas of Transitions.” Yet while this list may look like a simple four-step process, the reality is that each person on the team will approach these areas differently.

  • Some people will look at the information through the lens of optimism,  think the problem is simple, and believe that a quick fix is in order. Their approach: “Let’s make the change now!”
  • Some will want to validate and analyze the information more thoroughly, concluding that the problem might be more complicated than it appears. Their approach: “Let’s consider this carefully and create a well thought out plan before making a change.”

Teams face transition even when they don’t choose to do so. Consider a traditional congregation. Attendance has remained consistent over a couple of decades. So has its worship style and humanitarian work in the community.

No change, right? Wrong. The average parishioner age is now 15 years older than two decades ago. The congregation has aged. The needs for that population are different than they used to be. Further, some members are eager to reach out to younger people in the community, while other members want to continue their ministry as is saying, “It’s always worked this way – we don’t need to change anything.” This church is in the midst of transition – and cannot escape the need to face it.

Turbulence Creates Team Work

It is God’s design for each team member to approach the transition in a unique way. Naturally, a team is a combination of these individual approaches. Members can be most effective when they’re aware of the strengths they offer the group. But each member’s self-awareness is just the first step in building an effective team. What if each member clearly understood what strengths others brought to the team – and truly valued their contributions? This is where a team moves from destructive to constructive.

In 1 Corinthians 12 the Apostle Paul likens a team to the human body. He explains that each person plays a unique role in allowing the team to function well. “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12, NIV).

Together, the parts of the Body – and the members of your team – are stronger together than they are separately. The whole, in actual fact, becomes greater than the sum of its parts. And God has uniquely arranged them to work together to face any transition.

Growth Point Teams face four inescapable transitions daily.ScriptureThe body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12, NIV)

Prayer Points

  • Ponder the teams you’ve been a part of – and whether they were destructive or constructive.
  • Think back over your last few weeks of serving on a team and name some of the transitions your team faced.
  • Consider what approach you took and what you might do different in future transitions to be more constructive.

More articles in our Transitions series

Transitions, Part 2: Processing Information
Transitions, Part 3: Solving Problems
Transitions, Part 4: Managing Change
Transitions, Part 5: Facing Risk