What do you do when your ministry team or committee is storming?

By Colleen Webb and Cindy Jansen

We’ve all been there! We are trying to lay the best plans to conduct ministry or move a project forward, but not everyone is on the same page. John wants to do it this way, and Paul is adamant his way is best, and Sue just backs out all together because she feels she is not being heard. Words are said. Feelings are hurt. Plans are stalled. The team is stuck. Did you know this is all a normal part of a team’s life cycle? This team is in its storming stage.

Teams start off in the forming stage. Everyone has their own ideas and is eager to get to work with their mind set on “me” and what I can contribute to the team. Ground rules are laid, roles, responsibilities, mission and goals are discussed. As the team develops these goals and mission team members may “storm” as conflicting ideas and processes are hashed, and people vocalize their concerns or become critical of the team. The focus shifts from “me” to “me vs. you” in the storming stage. Conflicts arise due to different behavior styles, and some may even throw snowballs questioning the leader’s authority or the group’s intent. The team is shoulder high in the conflict.

Often the response to this storming stage is avoidance. Stick your head in the sand, and go about your business as best you can avoiding the elephant in the room. BUT the storming stage is the most critical stage. It makes or breaks a group’s cohesiveness and their ability to meet their goals. If these issues are not dealt with, they ferment into having issues with people. It is far better for the group’s sake to acknowledge the conflicts now, and find constructive ways to work through them. 

If you are a leader or team member observing this, here are a few practical ways to help get the group past it.

  1. Observe the conflict.
  2. Make sure expectations are clear. To be unclear is to be unkind. Discuss what the expectations are for the group and clarify.
  3. Restate what everyone’s responsibilities and their role is. 
  4. Re-clarify what the missions and goals of the group are. Have the conversation, and get everyone on the same page.

By having these difficult, but crucial conversations you can have healthy team outcomes. We must remember these are our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and show respect as we share and process different ideas and opinions. It does require patience, active listening and a lot of work, but once you do your team has a much healthier prognosis of moving on to the norming and performing stages of the team life cycle. 

Want to learn how your ministry teams can function better? Visit Faith Unleashed Consulting, or sign up for FUEL your Leadership, our yearlong, 12-session virtual leadership academy to help you and your church staff and ministry teams become more confident, capable leaders. Learn more by clicking HERE!