What’s a Plumb-line?

plumb - line

What’s a Plumb-line?

As I mentioned in my last post, last week I was privileged to present a workshop on Senior Leadership Teams and share about a forthcoming research project, which includes an opportunity to take a Senior Leadership Team Assessment, at the 2012 XPastor Seminar.

In my workshop, one thing (on a pretty big list) we talked about was the importance of possessing team norms (or plumb-lines) – shared expectations for member behavior – and then holding team members accountable to them.  Most of us are familiar with norms, and all teams and small groups possess some norms, but often, those norms are unhealthy rather than healthy, or more implicit than explicit, creating an opening for confusion and making it really difficult to hold people accountable to them. 

So, I suggested that we thoughtfully think through and determine team or small group norms and make them more explicit.  You might want to try the same thing.  Norms commonly address issues such as:

  • Values, such as respect, openness, consistency, transparency, commitment, and so on
  • Expectations for communicative responses with others
  • Communication practices in meetings (how to speak, technology use, divided attention, etc.)
  • Principles for working together

One of the weekend’s keynote speakers Jarrod Jones, Lead Pastor of Grace Community Church in Washingtonville, New York, shared several of the norms he’s tried to create for his church.  Whether or not they qualify as norms – in the sense that they are shared by the members of his organization and/or leadership team – I don’t know, but I was impressed by some of what he calls his “plumblines for ministry.”

Here are a few that hold great promise for increasing effectiveness in teams and small groups in the church, in no particular order):

  • We’re a team.  We treat, love, confront, and receive challenge from each other as such.
  • Excellence is a non-negotiable.  Pursue it.  There is no other standard.
  • Display humility, grace, and patience in response and tone when confronted and/or challenged by anyone (even if wrongfully challenged).
  • No cell phones (texting, calling, taking calls, tweeting, emailing, facebooking) during meetings.
  • Be a peacemaker but do not “avoid” conflict. (I’m not sure why avoid is in quotes).
  • Resist allowing any “elephants in the room.”  Do not sweep anything under the rug and look the other way for anyone or anything.  Courageously, and gracefully, deal with it head on.
  • Prayer is the air we breathe.  We are desperately dependent on the Holy Spirit.

Reflection Moment

So, what are your plumblines?  What are your team’s or small group’s norms?  Are they commonly understood and shared by all group members?  Are they mostly implicit or explicit?

If you don’t have m(any), give them some thought as a group.

If you have some expectations but they are not shared, engage in some crucial conversations with your team.

And if you do have some norms (or you think you do) but they are primarily implicit, put them down on paper, share them with the group, and find out if they are really shared.  Then (start) holding each other accountable to them.

And by the way, if you are involved with church administration and don’t yet know about XPastor.org, check it out.  David and his colleagues are doing great stuff!

Photo Credit: Ron Gonzalez 



  1. […] among the group.  Teams are able to work together.  Leaders help that happen.  Leaders help set team ground rules (norms), encourage (and demand, at times) other team members to act cooperatively and work out their […]

  2. […] What’s a Plumb-line? (ryanhartwig.com) […]

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