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March 9, 2009

Small-Group Covenants: Part 2

The covenant components that team-building experts agree have to be in there

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I’m a member of our local church’s senior leadership team. We’ve been re-exploring our group covenant together. It’s important to us because we are team led—we don’t have the traditional senior pastor role in our org. structure. The process has prompted me to do some fresh research into group covenants, particularly as they relate to leadership groups. I wanted to see what some leading folks in the area of team-based leadership said were the critical components of a group covenant (over and above the basic small group covenant components I mentioned in my last post).

I chose six folks I considered experts in the area of leadership groups and read their stuff (if you’re interested in names, these folks were: Pat Lencioni, Ken Blanchard, George Cladis, Dave Ferguson, Dan Reeves, and Bill Thrall). It’s interesting that not all these folks advocated the use of a group covenant when it came to forming leadership teams, but they all advocated having values defined, mission buy-in, and behavior expectations in place within the group.

There was not universal agreement about every component to be included in a leadership group covenant/agreement/understanding, but here are the components that were common to each expert’s perspective:

  • Trust—specifically trust to be vulnerable with each other

  • Performance/Sacrifice—commitment to achieve measurable goals

  • Purpose/Mission/Vision—commitment to common values and methods

  • Empower/Collaborative/Accountability—freedom to make decisions in area of giftedness to accomplish goals, but at the same time accountable for those decisions

  • Welcome Conflict/Engage Spiritual Battle—see conflict as useful to grow, yet see our common enemy and not each other as enemy

My take-away: We can include many things in our leadership group covenants, but we better make sure we have these five in there and have good understanding about them from the entire group. After all, the church’s senior leadership group is a model of community life for other groups in the church. If our leadership group is sloppy with developing covenants, I wander if our small groups will be sloppy with their covenants also?

posted by Dan Lentz at 10:05 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

March 5, 2009

Small-Group Covenants: Part 1

Why it's vitally important that your leadership group has its act together

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Like many of you, I'm part of the leadership team of our local church. As a Servant Team (that's what we call our leadership group), we've been re-exploring our covenant together. Many of you will already be familiar with small-group covenants or agreements. There are many versions of covenants, however, most all of them include these basic components:

  • Why we exist (life-change, Bible study, task group, fellowship, etc.)

  • What we do (socials, service projects, outreaches, retreats, eat snacks, etc.)

  • How we relate (including expectations about the priority of participation and attendance, confidentiality about group discussions, accessibility of members to each other, accountability between members, and openness of the group to new members)

  • When we meet (frequency, time, do we take breaks, etc.)

  • Where we meet (location, how we handle childcare, etc.)

Let's be clear—the values behind the covenant are far more important than the covenant itself. Personally, I don't think having a written covenant is much better than having a verbal one (unless your memory-challenged, like me). The key is having values, expectations, and mission defined and understood ahead of time so that—as time goes along and issues come up that leave everyone with that "what do we do now" blank stare—you have a clue as to why you are all together in the first place!

And hopefully, re-orienting around that original covenant will keep your group headed in the right direction.

In the context of a leadership-team small group, these basic components still apply. However, the "catch" to a leadership-team covenant is that not only does the covenant have bearing on how the leadership group behaves, but it has a trickle-down impact on the folks who are being led by these leaders.

Here's an example: If I promote the value of everyone in my small group having an accountability-partner relationship with another person, I may be able to create some internal motivation within the group—possibly even to the point where accountability relationships are added to the group covenant. But as soon as someone asks, "Does the church leadership have accountability partners?" the value behind the practice of having an accountability partner will either be dramatically diminished or enhanced, depending on the answer.

So here's what I'm currently taking away from the discussions around my own Servant Team covenant: make sure you have your most basic components of "church life" built into your leadership covenant/agreement, so that it sets a baseline for your small-group covenant/agreements.

Otherwise, things could get a little sticky.

posted by Sam O'Neal at 11:01 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)