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Teams That Thrive: Five Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership

May 6, 2019

The most effective churches in America today have strong leaders who surround themselves with a smart team of leaders. This week, Ryan Hartwig and Warren Bird have a very special offer. They will be giving away 5 copies of Teams That Thrive to someone who posts a photo of your team/workplace along with the hashtag #myteamthrives by May 12th.

Below is an excerpt that I contributed to this book.

Jim Tomberlin

Collaboration produces the best decisions, creates more ownership for the outcomes and fosters deeper community. teamsthatthrive

The day I started working at Willow Creek Community Church, the senior pastor pulled me aside and said, “As a senior team member, I need you to show up with an opinion. I don’t want to hear what you think I want to hear. I want to hear your thoughts, your opinions, your ideas. I need you to bring your best thinking and ideas to our team meetings.”

Behind every great leader is a team of leaders. Why? None of us is as smart as all of us.

It takes a team to lead. The greater the cause and the more significant the outcome, the more important the team. Why? Everything rises or falls based on leadership, and a plurality of leaders united under a common cause is stronger than a lone-ranger, solo leader.

Collaboration produces better decisions, and better decisions lead to better outcomes. Healthy teams move beyond authoritarian leaders and departmental silos. They become idea factories where the best idea wins and gets improved through collaboration. True collaboration moves beyond the sharing of information or even cooperating to creating something better together. Collaborative teams create synergy where the sum is greater than the individual parts. When the best idea wins, the whole church wins.

Great leaders get ownership from their teams. How does that happen? Collaboration. When people feel like they have been heard, have contributed and have helped shape a decision, they own it. They have skin in the game and will work hard to make that decision a reality. If a leader doesn’t have ownership from his or her team, he is not leading; the leader is just taking a walk, or, worse, becoming a target.

The most effective churches in America today have strong leaders who surround themselves with a smart team of leaders, and in the process they become a community of leaders. They become a band of brothers and sisters who will take a bullet for the cause and each other. They recognize that they rise or fall together, that they are only as strong as the weakest link on the team. They will pat each other on the back and kick each other in the butt to get the job done. They push each other to be and do their best. They bond deeply through the crucible of collaborative leadership. True collaboration not only produces better outcomes; it generates deeper community.

The church team model is not a new innovation. It’s as old and effective as the church of Antioch in Acts 13. It was led by a diverse team composed of a Jewish rabbi (Saul of Tarsus), a Jewish marketplace leader (Barnabas), a North African (Niger), a Jewish aristocrat (Manaen) and a cosmopolitan Roman (Lucius). Maybe that explains why the church at Antioch is the best example of a high-impacting, life-giving, sending church recorded in the New Testament.

Local church ministry is best played as a team sport. Effective church leaders surround themselves with a team of leaders. Build your team, invest in them and become a stronger, healthier and more effective church in the process. Go team!

Excerpted with permission from Teams That Thrive: Five Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership by Ryan T. Hartwig and Warren Bird, InterVarsity Press, 2015. Visit for the book itself, exercises, and other tools to help your team.

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"Jim Tomberlin was a huge asset to us during our recent move to multisite. His experience and expertise helped us navigate our staff and church through a church merger and greatly assisted us in the union of two churches. I highly recommend Jim to anyone prayerfully considering either mergers or multisite churches."

Senior Pastor, Cornerstone Church

"Jim came along side Celebration Church from the very beginning of our multi-site journey. His insight, strategy, and understanding of what it takes to be a healthy church was huge to us as we began this new journey. Since partnering with Jim, we’ve gone from one church meeting in a single location, to five campuses meeting throughout Wisconsin."


"Not only did he bring a depth of knowledge, insight and wisdom but he also helped to bring clarity to our strategy which will keep us healthy and growing well into the future. Jim brought to our team a pastor’s heart with a strategist’s mind for how to understand church growth through multisites."


"Jim is one of the country’s leading thinkers on the multi-site movement."

Craig Groeschel – Lead Pastor

"If you’re planning to go multisite and want someone to walk you through implementing your strategy successfully you’ll want to connect with Jim…you won’t be disappointed."

Community Christian Church
Dave Ferguson – Community Christian Church, Naperville, IL

"He is a veteran leader, who is able to combine a wealth of knowledge with an intuitive grasp of the needs of the local pastor."

The Chapel
Scott Chapman – The Chapel, Lake Country, IL

"If your church is thinking about going multisite make sure you have Jim on your team."

Sagebrush Church
Todd Cook – Sagebush Community Church – Alberquerque, New Mexico
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