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Keeping a happy team

Phillip Alston, from All Saints Church, Marple in Cheshire, shares some tips about building a team that people are desperate to join and hate to leave.

A perennial issue that group leaders have to address is the need to recruit competent and effective teams. One way of dealing with this is to reduce the number of people who leave the team to spend their energies elsewhere. There are, of course, many reasons why our helpers leave and move on to new things, but some do so simply because they are dissatisfied, unfulfilled or unhappy. Here are a few ideas that will help keep your team members fulfilled, happy and motivated.

• Set and refuel the vision. People need to know why they do what they do. Organise an annual vision-setting evening for your team, inviting and encouraging each member to attend. Bill Hybels writes in his book Axiom, “vision leaks”. He insists that if you don’t keep talking about your vision for the group then people will forget it and lose sight of it.

• Create a happy atmosphere. A happy team has a climate that is open and encouraging, and is one where members are comfortable with each other and people aren’t afraid to take risks. Mutual trust is an important characteristic in creating this atmosphere.

• Keep in contact and celebrate what is good. Contact team members on a regular basis. Consider emailing every member weekly, whether they are on the rota that week or not. This message should have information about the upcoming session but can also be a team building exercise, so thank each person for their contribution the previous week, highlighting and celebrating anything of note. When we celebrate the things that we want to see happening we will get more of them.

• Value the team and let them know. People want to feel they are valued by those around them. Don’t overwork the team, don’t drain them, and allow them to rest. If you are their team leader, ensure they know they are special to you. Do special things for them. Celebrate their birthdays, give them a small gift at Christmas, and call them if they or their family are ill. These little acts of kindness mean so much and say so much.

• Eat together, meet together. At regular intervals, invite all the team to meet before the session and eat together. Depending on the times of your meetings, this could be breakfast or simply a coffee and cake. Hold these gatherings prior to your normal meeting so it doesn’t mean extra sessions for the team. These social times allow the team to get to know each other, share and relax together.

• Be generous with your gratitude. Remember to appreciate your team. At the end of each session make a point of thanking each team member for what they have contributed, try to be specific and recognise what they added to the group. You cannot thank people too much.

A team ethos like this will communicate itself to others, attracting them to the group and encouraging them to become involved.

When you need to recruit new people, ask God to place on your heart those whom he has chosen. Listen to him then gently approach those he names to you. Don’t push them, simply say, “As we prayed, someone wondered if God is calling you into this ministry.” Then leave it to them and God – you will get a better response if you do.

As people consider whether or not to volunteer, make it easy for them to try things out, perhaps suggesting they join you for a short time to get an understanding of what you do and the cost of the commitment. Make sure they do not feel trapped or pressurised. A gentle approach like this and a happy and welcoming team means that we are much more likely to recruit long-term helpers who are glad to be fully involved in our group.