7 Reasons Staff Teams Sometimes Fall Apart

I’ve seen it in local churches, and I’ve seen it on the mission field. When I ask church leaders what they most struggle with, it’s not uncommon to hear that interpersonal relationship battles are the biggest problem. In fact, I know folks who walked away from their calling because the relational issues took too big a toll. Here are some reasons that teams so often fall apart:

  1. Our selection processes don’t include enough time and interaction to know potential team members. I understand the logistical difficulties of finding that time, but enlistment that includes only a few meetings is surely insufficient. Long-term staff problems are often a front-door issue.
  2. Potential leaders aren’t always who we thought they were when we hired them. Even when we’ve spent time with others (years, even . . .), we still don’t always know them. Some potential leaders show different colors once they’re officially on the team; the faithful, humble church member sometimes changes his tune when he becomes a leader with authority.  
  3. Many of us avoid honest conversations until the conflict is deep. Paul’s admonition to deal quickly with our anger (Eph. 4:26) is a wise one, but we too often preach it to others more than to ourselves. We shouldn’t be surprised by an explosion when we’ve chosen not to deal with the sparks.
  4. Our training doesn’t always include conflict resolution. I’m a seminary professor, and I know we include that topic in our pastoral training curriculum – but I’m sure it’s still not enough. While churches and seminaries train future pastors to speak to culture, we also need to train them to speak to each other.
  5. Some leaders have unhealthy homes that affect their work relationships, too. Particularly when marriages are rocky but pastors are unwilling to admit their struggles, their stress comes out in other areas. Somebody bears the brunt of the turmoil – and that “somebody” is often other staff members.
  6. Even as believers and leaders, some of us still wrestle with jealousy. We don’t want to think that way—and we know it’s a wrong attitude—but our sinfulness rises to the surface when other staff members get more attention or credit than we do. Our subtle, verbal jabs at them are often a clue that we’re not dealing with the issue in a Christian way.
  7. We don’t pray for each other until we learn of a problem. I’ve written much about this general problem in churches (see here and here), but it’s especially an issue among staffs. Leaders are by nature achievers, so we don’t think much about praying for each other unless we have to—and we miss an opportunity to build team unity on our knees.

What other reasons would you include? 


  • Jerry Watts says:

    Good article Chuck. My observation is this: in regards to #3, #4, #5, #6, Ministers have no healthy place to air conflict of any kind. “To air is to fear – termination” – I have prayed for years for us (as Baptists) to discover a way to assist ministers in crisis…..I know that several churches and individuals have personal ‘get away’ for ministers facing difficulties, but not a truly helpful system or process for the hurting minister. Candidly, I have watched (in almost 50 years of ministry) many ministers who could have been helped, healed, and more be set aside because, too often, that is our “spiritual response.”
    As a DOM these days, I am watching, praying, and doing my best to assist all ministers. But I continue to seek out a great process for recovering hurting ministers.
    By the way, #7 might need to be #1, but then again #1 & #2 done with more intentionally might assist both the church and the minister.
    Thanks for your insights.

  • Vadim says:

    The problem is that there is no proper communication between the brothers.
    And what prayers can be about each other, if the believers have nothing to talk about?
    And the inclusion of conflict resolution in the program, especially when it comes to jealousy, but there can be not only jealousy, but also a simple thirst for primacy. And here the understanding of trust is naturally not considered, because such people arbitrarily become blasphemers, because of the desire for primacy, and naturally there can be no discussion with such people.
    Therefore, it is quite good that, nevertheless, the resolution of conflict situations was included in the program, even before it was possible to correct the situation, that is, they had not yet reached the point of no return.

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