It’s March Madness season in Indiana. In the current NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament, we’ve seen some highly ranked teams suffer defeat, while we’ve also seen some low-ranked teams like the St. Peter’s University Peacocks achieve great success. Why do some teams excel, and others underachieve? I agree with those leadership experts who say team alignment is the key—all the players must be pulling together unselfishly to help the team succeed.

What are the signs of a church team that isn’t properly aligned? Thom Rainer has said in a recent webinar that you’ll see team members playing for different reasons, a team that never reaches its maximum potential because it’s divided by conflict, and leadership that struggles with ineffectiveness. During our past SCBI High Impact Leader Labs (H.I.L.L.)* we’ve illustrated this concept with the picture of men rowing a boat in different directions from Pat MacMillan’s book entitled, The Performance Factor; if the rowers don’t agree that the task of moving the boat ahead is important, they will pursue their own goals—pulling against one another rather than together. It’s not long before those tired, frustrated team members conclude that it’s not worth the wasted effort and they decide to quit.

After the stresses of the last two years, many of our churches have found that their leaders and members are no longer aligned. How can pastors and their leaders address this situation? As Pat MacMillan has said, “It takes more than a well-crafted purpose statement to have high-performance teamwork.” Alignment can’t be attained by just expressing your demands or making passionate pleas from the pulpit. It requires investing time with team members to pray together, to discuss where they’re at, where the team needs to go to accomplish God’s purpose, and how they can work together to get there (see Philippians 2:2-4). Togetherness in one direction will always be better than separateness in multiple directions.

Effective teamwork involves every member having buy-in, which is acceptance of and willingness to actively support and participate in the team’s task. This means that leaders need to make sure that the team’s purpose remains clear, that members see the personal and team benefits of where they are heading, that they come to believe that there is an achievable strategy and urgency for accomplishing their God-given task, that they understand what success looks like (“the win”) and what is needed from them for the team to see their “boat” move ahead.

If you would like to have coffee soon to discuss your next steps for addressing alignment in your church, contact me at In the near future, SCBI will also have Next Step Networkers available in your area to partner with you in discovering and fulfilling your next steps.

* This year’s SCBI H.I.L.L. on May 2-4 at Highland Lakes Camp will feature Dr. Michael Wilder and other church leadership experts addressing “Effective Pastoral Leadership in Changing Times.” It has been re-designed for all SCBI Pastors and Pastoral Staff—even if you’ve attended the H.I.L.L. in previous years. For more info and to register now, see