13 specific ways to increase your team's capacity and performance


13 Ways to Develop Abundantly Capable Leaders (Part 2 of 3)

This is the question …

What if you don’t have a team of capable leaders?

Small church or large, this can be one of the biggest leadership barriers to church growth. One thing is for sure. When asking, “how to grow the church,” reaching people and building God’s church cannot happen with just one person.

In this post we’ll look at the following 13 specific ways to increase your team’s capacity and performance:

Pray for them
Encourage personal development
Expand their network
Expand their thinking
Challenge them to think bigger
Talk about raising your own bar
Challenge them incrementally
Create incentives
Invest in their personal growth
Help them believe for the impossible
Encourage risk
Talk about success stories
Keep raising the bar

This is the second of our 3-part blog series on church growth where I “open the vault” and reveal what I’ve seen after working with thousands of church leaders.

In the first post, I shared how many times churches plateau because the church’s leadership has unintentionally created certain barriers to its growth. You can read it here: 8 Leadership Barriers to Church Growth. In part 3, we share The Step-By-Step Process to Develop Any Church Team .

Pastors tell me all the time…

While they have good people around them — staff or volunteers — they frequently feel like those people do not sense the urgency to grow the church in the same way the pastor does.

They say things like:

My youth pastor just wants to “hang out” rather than develop as a leader …

My worship leader thinks their growth over the last two years is sufficient for the next five years …

Our volunteers don’t seem to own their area like they should …

Believe me, statements like these are major obstacles to church growth.

When you feel like you have to frequently “hold people’s hands” it stifles the church’s ability to grow, but when the capacity and performance of your team increases, your church is positioned for growth.

When the capacity & performance of your team increases, your church is positioned for growth. Click To Tweet

So… how do you take ordinary people and develop extraordinary leaders? When you ask how to lead the church, you really need to ask how can you bring out the best from those you lead.

Here are 13 specific ways to increase your team’s capacity and performance:

1. Pray for them

It’s easy to get frustrated or complain when staff or volunteers don’t perform like you desire. But truthfully, have you prayed for the individuals who need growth?

Pastors who really want to remove pastoral leadership barriers know that the people around them are their greatest asset. And to intentionally pray for each of them is critical to the growth of the church.

While I understand you cannot be buddy-buddy with everyone, I do think you can have a general understanding of their personal and professional lives.

Pray for your staff and volunteers by name. Pray scripture over them. So many of Paul’s epistles are chock full of prayers he prays over the believers. You can do the same for your team.

And when you pray individually in this way, you can communicate to the Lord your desires for the team. Pray for their development in areas where you know they can grow.

The smart and savvy leader will always go to God to seek His mind on the best way to expand the world of those he leads. Ask God for wisdom on what you can do to help them develop.

You can talk about growing the church all you want, but when considering areas for church growth it all starts with prayer.

2. Encourage personal development

Do you encourage others to continually develop? As we often hear, leaders are readers. It may not always be books in the traditional sense, but you want them continually filling their minds with new ideas and concepts that can move their ministries forward.

Personal development can look very different for every team member. The issue is for you to encourage their personal development.

If you are asking how to grow the church, one of the major ways to do so is by encouraging personal development of volunteers or staff. When they get better in whatever role you’re asking of them, then the ministry as a whole gets better.

It’s like a basketball team with five players on the court. If only one player can shoot over 50% from the field, that team will not perform anywhere near a team that has five players shooting over 50% from the field. Therefore, in this case, the coach will do everything they can to help as may players as possible improve their shooting percentage.

You’re the coach. Forward them blogs or podcasts that you recently discovered. Talk about personal development during staff meeting. Show them the value of personal development. When you do, you’ll see the individual ministries and the church as a whole grow to the highest level possible.

Want to know how to lead the church?  Encourage personal development.
You might be interested in the blog we wrote “How to Create a Culture of Continuous Improvement” as you are encouraging personal development in your team.

(NOTE: Is your church positioned for growth? Take the 3-Minute Church Growth Audit to find out! Click here)

Take the Church Growth Audit for Pastors in Ministry

3. Expand their network

One of the major pastoral leadership barriers I find in churches everywhere is the individual pastors’ lack of a personal network.

And one of the greatest gifts you as a leader can give your team members is helping them learn how to grow their own networks.

Some pastors naturally network with others, while some do not. And that’s true of your team members, as well. No matter what their natural bent, however, your team needs to be networking with their counterparts at other churches if they are to fully develop into the leader God intends for them to be.

Unfortunately, too many in ministry are one-man, one-woman shows. That simply cannot work. If you are going to learn how to lead the church, you’ll do it faster with a network to help you.

Even Jesus, although he didn’t need to, was wise enough to put a dozen guys around him to multiply His effectiveness and launch the greatest mission ever undertaken on earth.

Wise and discerning lead pastors will help their staff and volunteers connect with others in the same field of ministry; youth pastors connecting with other youth pastors, children’s workers with other children’s workers, etc.

To do so, demonstrates a humility in learning. To not do so, says you or they already know it all. Really?

You network, and regularly take time to help your team learn to do the same and expand their network.

4. Expand their thinking

How far do you go with restricted thinkers? Not very.

Henry Ford said it well, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t… you’re right.” Then he followed that up with, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

Let me be clear. When you’re looking for areas for church growth, you can start with the way your team thinks.

Frequently, pastors, staff and volunteers see the world as inside the walls of their church, or if they really branch out they see it as inside the “walls” of their community. Why?

I just spent a half a day down at a local coffee house in town and overhead a small group of 20-somethings talking in ways and concepts way out of my frame of “church community,” and I live in a very churched town.

I need you to think outside your four walls. And so does your team. You have to regularly communicate this expansion to your team members.

If you really want to help your team members have an expanded world and increase their leadership capacity, you need for them to expand their thinking. Help them see the possibilities rather than the limitations.

5. Challenge them to think bigger

Want to know one of the biggest pastoral leadership barriers I see?  It is that of small thinking. I’m serious!

Here’s the deal. Most everyone gets comfortable in their work and ministry over time. So it is your role as the leader to challenge volunteers and staff members in this area.

I come across way too many pastors who think small. Why do that? Doesn’t our mission to reach spiritually lost people mean ALL spiritually lost people? That is NOT small.

When you think small, then your team thinks small. It is your role as the leader to help them see their ministries way bigger than they are currently.

I find a helpful exercise to use with team members is to have them quantify their ministries; i.e 40 students in youth ministry or 11 people in worship ministry.

Then, have them double the number and have them specifically tell you how they will lead differently at the higher level. And an answer doesn’t include the church spending more money on stuff or staff because they are doubled in size.

When they have to think this way, they are forced to think bigger and communicate the implications of doing so.

Challenge them to have bigger goals, to have bigger dreams, and to believe God can do bigger things — not just the same as He did previously. We serve a God who has more He wants to do and when your team thinks bigger, it paves the way for God to move.

6. Talk about raising your own bar

You can look at all sorts of areas for church growth, but I can tell you one that rises to the top for me and lots of growing church pastors. It is that of raising the bar for us as leaders and doing so ourselves.

You always have to model. You cannot expect to raise the leadership capacity of everyone else if you don’t do the same.

So, what does that look like?

I suggest that you determine the spiritual disciplines you’d like to see manifested and grow in your own life. Spend time with the Lord to be sure you are thinking and growing in these disciplines in just the way He desires for you.

Then, take time to talk with your team of staff and/or volunteers about how to lead the church in this area of their lives.

Too frequently, paid professionals (pastors) and hard-working volunteers fall prey to just doing church or just doing the ministry. That doesn’t work.

Pastor, when you raise the bar for yourself, you set the bar for others. Click To Tweet

You’ll find your team getting better when you get better. You can take that to the bank!

While pastors need to challenge others to grow, they must also raise their own leadership capacity.

7. Challenge them incrementally

You have to make sure the bar is set just a bit over their head. Generally, you cannot expect a 23-year-old to operate like a 45-year-old. Incremental growth has to take place.

When challenging a team member incrementally, you’ll need to do an accurate assessment of where they’re at on the continuum. In doing so, you can then determine at what level you’ll challenge them to get better.

If your youth pastor has a mid-week group of 40 students, work with them to see what it would take to get to a group of say 50 students. While you may think or wish they had a youth group of 125, don’t put that goal in front of them at this point.  Incrementally go from 40 to 50 to 65 to 80, etc.  Make sense?

Some of your team members who are overachievers can stretch higher faster. That is part of your role as the leader to know the difference between those who can and those who can’t. It’s not a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all deal.

Identify where a person is on the development continuum and set the expectations just one notch higher than their current performance level. This will challenge them, AND it will be obtainable. Then after they’ve succeeded, do it all over again with a new expectation. That’s what lead pastors of growing churches do all the time.

You might be interested in the blog we wrote “How to Create a Culture of Continuous Improvement” as you are encouraging personal development in your team.

(NOTE: Is your church positioned for growth? Take the 3-Minute Church Growth Audit to find out! Click here)

Take the Church Growth Audit for Pastors in Ministry

8. Create incentives

People love to be rewarded for doing well. Some in church leadership erroneously think, “Well, they’re doing the ministry, so the approval of the Lord should be enough.” Back in the day, when I was the keeper of the church’s funds (Church Business Administrator) that is exactly the way I thought. But I was wrong!

While that feels really spiritual, it ignores human nature. Remember … what gets rewarded gets repeated. Whether it’s a financial bonus, a special gift, or even a nice dinner, incentives have high value for increasing your team’s performance.

Even in ministry, what gets rewarded gets repeated. Click To Tweet

To be honest with you, truly smart, spiritually-attuned and business-savvy pastors use incentives in incredible ways. They are smart enough to know how to motivate their teams to the highest levels of performance. And they do so by creating incentives.

All incentives don’t have to be monetary. Your staff and volunteers oftentimes do ministry for great intrinsic motivations. Having said that, just don’t forget that tool of money the Lord has given us can be a great and proper motivator for team members to perform to the task you’ve laid out for them.

When you get serious on how to grow the church, you’ll create incentives.

9. Invest in their personal growth

Now this is a point where leaders too frequently fall short. Without the investment of the leader (financial and otherwise), team members cannot always step to their potential like they would if they were equipped.

Part of your role as the leader is to invest in your team. Yes, it takes time. Yes, it takes resource. And yes, it’s easy to put off. But if you want the church to grow, you have to have a team that is growing.

This is a point where too many pastors move into a scarcity mindset. You cannot let that happen. Even if your church is not flush with money (and most aren’t) you have to find ways to invest in your team members’ growth.

One of the things I see really business-savvy pastors do is they pick up a resource that can be used by multiple team members. Maybe you’re getting an online subscription. Be sure when you do that the subscription can be used by multiple team members.

A huge part of investing in your team members, is simply the knowledge of the team members that their pastor believes in them enough to spend time and/or money on their development. That goes miles to helping team members be better in their ministries.

10. Help them believe for the impossible

If the people you lead can only see what is possible, you have your work cut out for you. Of course, that means you need to be leading the way by living out this kind of faith-filled journey.

For goodness sakes, of all entities on planet earth, the Church should be the one that believes for the impossible. God is a god of the impossible.

Some of your team members would call themselves optimists. These folks have zero problem thinking and believing for the impossible.

Others, however, see themselves as way more practical in their orientation. In other words, they’re pessimists. They don’t like that term. They think they’re realists, but I’m telling you they’re pessimists.  These folks can be really good folks, but their attitudes can be real obstacles to church growth.

Pessimists need extra help getting to the point of believing for the impossible. With the right leadership on your part, you can get them there.

You want your team members to get out of their boxes and begin to see the world as big as God sees it. When that happens, you have set the stage for your church to grow.

Believe for the impossible.

11. Encourage risk

One of the greatest leadership barriers to church growth is the lack of taking risk. Click To Tweet

Back in 1977 I married the definition of risk-averse. God blessed me with an amazing wife, but I can tell you she was the last person on the planet to have any interest in risking anything.

However, in the last year or so, we’ve done a considerable amount of reading on personal finances and how to grow the nest egg everyone hopes for as they near retirement.

As I write this blog today, that gifted women with whom I have the privilege of doing life together, is open to risk. Now, she’s still not wild and crazy, but she has clearly loosened up as the years have gone by.

Nothing big happens in life or ministry without someone taking a risk. Encourage risk-taking. The ministry of your staff or volunteers is too valuable to just sit comfortably by.

But … if someone takes a risk and it doesn’t go as planned, be sure not to squash them where they never take a risk again. Celebrate the taking of the risk. Talk through what went wrong, how they could mitigate the risk, and how they can try again.

As the pastor of the great church you serve, the pastor who wants to remove obstacles to church growth… encourage risk. You’ll be glad you did.

12. Talk about success stories

I was at an event recently and heard a series of communicators talk about stuff. These were really smart people with a lot of knowledge and understanding. At the end of it all, I didn’t remember anything.

At about the same time, I was reading a business book by Donald Trump and Robert Kiyosaki. In it the authors were telling the story of a group of prospective military recruits having to sit through the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marine recruiters all trying to communicate why the recruits should pick their branch of service.

The first four recruiters went to the podium and painted pictures of going into the Army, Navy, Coast Guard or Air Force to get a great education, learn great skills and be able to help lots of people.

After a serious pause, the Marine recruiter went to the podium and without batting an eye said, “If you join the Marines, we will teach you how to kill people” and sat down.

You don’t have to guess which recruiting table was full at the end of the five presentations. Why? Because four recruiters soft-pedaled what it meant to be in the military, while the fifth just said it straight…. That’s the power of telling even a very short story very well.


Tell stories to those you lead and tie your stories to mission. Help them hear of one success story after another. It builds faith and helps them BELIEVE that it could actually happen to them. In fact, they’ll actually strive for it to happen!

Some of the best communicators and motivators in business and the church are master storytellers.  And, of course, the master of all masters of storytellers was our Lord Jesus.  His parables have rocked this world.  His ability to captivate an individual in conversation or a crowd in preaching says to me, follow His example.

You might be interested in the blog we wrote “How to Create a Culture of Continuous Improvement” as you are encouraging personal development in your team.

(NOTE: Is your church positioned for growth? Take the 3-Minute Church Growth Audit to find out! Click here)

Take the Church Growth Audit for Pastors in Ministry

13. Keep raising the bar

Let’s assume in a perfect world all your team of staff or volunteers are stepping up to new levels. Once they’ve done that, some will say, “I’ve arrived.”

No one ever arrives. Once your team members arrive at a destination, the cycle starts over. You and your team must start striving to reach the next level in your capacity and performance.

Keep raising the bar. Raise your own bar and raise that of individual team members. You simply cannot afford to do anything less.

When I survey the church landscape for the obstacles to church growth, not raising the bar jumps right out at me. When you continually raise the bar, you are continually saying to your team, “We have NOT arrived.” Because they haven’t.

You’ll find in your continued effort to get better yourself and to challenge your team to get better, the church will actually advance in all areas of church growth.

This is a journey well worth taking.

In Summary

These are great development areas for church growth. Along these lines, I’d also encourage you to look at a blog we wrote on the Top 8 Areas of Ministry to Improve. No one has arrived, so this one is worth the read.

When you think about these 13 ways to develop your team, you might immediately be thinking this is a lot of hard work. And the reality is, you’re right! These are serious leadership barriers to church growth.

You desire to do this, but who actually has the time for it? Frankly, there’s too much ministry to be done and your time is strapped already.

Here’s the deal. Whether you like it or not, you have to take the time to do this. I would argue you simply cannot afford NOT to do this.

When you increase the capacity and performance of your team, you set the stage for your church to experience more growth than if you don’t make the investment in them. This is how to grow the church.


Okay, good! So, it’s time to begin, but a question might be asked …

How do you begin developing your team in a regular and ongoing way?

Where do you start? How much time and resource do you invest?

While you may be ready to take these good, ordinary people and help them become extraordinary leaders, it might be hard to see the path to their full development. So, what do you do?

In part 3 of this blog series, I share the exact step-by-step process to implement for development so your team gets where you want them to be. Click here to read it now.

Did you miss part 1? Click here to discover the 8 leadership barriers to church growth.


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