Healthy Teams: Build People, Not Programs

What’s most important in our work is not the buildings or programs we build, but rather the people we develop into healthy teams.

healthy team build people

If you want to have healthy teams, you need to learn the skills of a coach. Ministry leaders are usually better quarterbacks than coaches. 

They like to be out on the field personally leading the charge. They like to call the plays and direct the team. But coaches are all about developing people and getting the very best out of them. While quarterbacks make plays, coaches make players.

If we want to have healthy teams, we have to learn the skills of a coach. 

The greatest multiplication and impact of your ministry will be through the people you develop. Parachurch ministries often seem more dialed into this truth than those of us who lead in the church. Years ago a friend who leads a parachurch college ministry taught me a valuable principle. He said, “More time spent with fewer people equals greater impact.” That certainly was the strategy of Jesus. 

He found a handful of followers and for three years he poured himself into them. Your staff are your handful. How are you doing at developing them?

Healthy Teams: Build People, Not Programs

One of the most definitive passages of Scripture about discipling and developing people is found in 1 Thessalonians 2:11–12 (NIV). “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.”

This passage is a good reminder that our first priority is to build people, not build a program. Notice that this passage oozes with relationship. Just a few verses earlier Paul said that he had been like a mother caring for her children and that they had not only shared the gospel with these believers, but they had shared their very lives. And, now Paul likens himself to a father who encourages, comforts, and urges.

All three actions Paul mentions in this verse are crucial in developing people. 

  • Encouraging people is all about affirming and blessing them. It is finding them doing something right and praising them. It is helping them discover their unique gifting and contribution.
  • Comforting is all about helping people through the difficult things. When life gets hard and when ministry gets hard, we walk alongside them to provide comfort and support.
  • Urging is all about challenging people. It is about nudging them and pushing them to improve and grow. It is about stretching them and not letting them settle. 

So, how do you know when someone needs to be encouraged? Or comforted? Or urged (challenged)? The only way you know what they need “right now” is to be in relationship with them.

Relationship gives me the right and insight to encourage, comfort, and urge the people on my team.

Developing people has obvious implications for your schedule. To get intentional about this may require some serious adjustments to how you spend your time. But I can’t think of anything that has greater long-term benefits than developing your team members.

When Paul concludes 1 Thessalonians 2, a chapter largely about developing people, he says, “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

Paul says when Jesus returns the one thing he will be most excited to show Jesus will be these Thessalonian Christians. 

I’ll say it again: what’s most important is not the buildings or programs we build, but rather the people we develop.

Questions to consider to build healthy teams

  1. What do you do with your team to nurture personal spiritual growth?
  2. What are som e things you could build right into your team meetings that would help create a spiritually vibrant team?
  3. Who played a development role in your life? What did they do with you that was developmental?
  4. Instead of being a better “player,” how could you be a better coach for your team?


This article about healthy teams is an excerpt from Replenish by Lance Witt.

Lance Witt
Lance is a pastor and a friend to leaders. He is passionate about helping people live well so they can lead well. Lance served 20 years as a Senior Pastor before serving 7 years as an Executive/Teaching pastor at Saddleback Church in Southern California. He is also the founder of Replenish ministries and for more than a decade has been serving leaders and organizations of all shapes and sizes. Lance has written two books, Replenish and High Impact Teams.