Starfish & Spiders & Team-work

Much has been written about doing church as a team.  We see all thru the New Testament Church Planting adventures that Paul was surrounded by others who were all-in with the vision of God to reach the world with the Gospel.  Yet, within the nature of the modern church planter resides a subtle issue that can cause us to isolate and work independently of others as well as God’s Holy Spirit.

I am preparing for my family’s first ever Sabbatical that will be 85 days away from all forms of the church plant that is near and dear to my heart.  I have been planning it now for almost 6 months.  That preparation has caused me to look at team in a whole new light that has been aided by a popular leadership concept: starfish vs. spiders.

You see, my former style of leadership would have me at the top with the best information and best plan and have each team member connected to me individually where I can delegate and control.  That is much like a spider that has a head and then a bunch of legs. The issue is that if a spider loses its head then the legs are of no effect.  Ministry leadership that has too much stored in one head will find that to always be a bottleneck and can even be destroyed if the head is lost.  That leadership style has been a slow change for me over the last few years and I have yet to arrive but the looming sabbatical has helped accelerate the progress.  Can you imagine 85 days in a church plant in the spider structure – with NO Head?

Thus, the starfish leadership illustration has become my newest favorite.  A starfish is unique.  Each leg has independent function from within the whole.  You can cut one piece off and not only do the rest of them function just fine but the one will become a new starfish!  Their decentralization doesn’t mean isolation but does mean they are always ready for regeneration.  This means that every leg has the ability to work together and separate.  While together, they carry out one primary vision.  Once sent out separate (however that happens) they have the tools to work within a new independent vision and generate new legs that work within that new vision.  For a guy heading on sabbatical, I want to be a starfish styled organization and leader.

To lead in this way, information can’t be bottled by any one head but must be shared both horizontally and vertically.  Vision must be imparted early and often and repeated regularly so that the flag can be waived by many in the absence of one.  Details must be generated by the stake-holders even if one leader helps cast the vision for the need of such detail.  Assignments must be made that are not ‘orders from on high’ but are ‘opportunities to thrive’.  Leaders are made in this type of environment where as followers are made in the prior.  God’s Church needs leaders thus God’s ministry leaders must change their leadership development strategies.  Can we?

Published: Jun 2, 2016


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