Why Teams and Small Groups Fail

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Why Teams and Small Groups Fail.

Effective, joyful teamwork and group life is hard.  Really hard.  That’s why hundreds of books have been written offering advice on developing, building, leading, and managing great teams.  Each one, of course, takes a slightly different approach, prioritizing, for instance, building team relationships, identifying and managing team member diversity, getting the right people on the team, cultivating trust through team-building activities, managing conflict, or improving team communication so that everyone is on the same page.

Unfortunately, most of these approaches miss 3 crucial points:

  1. People fundamentally come together to accomplish something they can’t accomplish on their own.
  2. People bring their own agendas and desires to teams and small groups; they don’t put aside their self-interests in favor of a team’s purpose.
  3. A lack of commitment to the team and its purpose is the leading problem facing most teams.

You see, people commit to and give their best to a team when they clearly understand how accomplishing the team’s purpose helps them reach their own individual goals. 

Go ahead, stew on that one a little while.  It’s simple, but profound.  Think about it: are you wholeheartedly serving on any team that does not help you achieve your personal goals and/or God-given calling?  I doubt it.

That’s why I believe that teamwork rises and falls on a team’s purpose.  So, for the team you are on, or for the team you lead, take a few minutes to assess your team’s purpose. Is it:

  • CLEAR: Does your team’s purpose paint a clear picture of value?
  • COMPELLING: Does your team’s purpose address something that truly matters, drawing people into it?
  • CALLING-ORIENTED: Does accomplishing your team’s purpose help your team members accomplish God’s calling on their lives and pursue their goals?
  • CONSISTENTLY HELD: Do the members of your team truly know the team’s purpose and work towards it with fervor?

Take stock, and stop trying to get the members of your teams to dismiss their own goals and desires in favor of the team goals.  Find a way to invite people to accomplish what God has put on their hearts through COMMITTED service on ministry teams and/or participation in small groups.

You’ll be amazed what can happen when people are committed to teams and small groups.  You won’t even need to read a bunch of books to learn how to experience true collaboration.


Photo Credit: Mariel Jaye Lacson



  1. michael November 1, 2011 at 10:58 am - Reply

    I especially appreciate point 3: “A lack of commitment to the team and its purpose is the leading problem facing most teams.” So often I’ve been on teams where the “culprit of the collapse” of the team or the task is labeled as lack of outside support, lack of funding, lack of logistical connections, etc. rather than a lack of commitment on the part of the team members. If a group is seriously passionate about the purpose of a team, and members are able to work together and trust the others, there’s not much on earth that they could not accomplish.

    • Ryan Hartwig November 2, 2011 at 11:11 am - Reply

      So true. We like to blame external circumstances for our failures, when mostly our failures are due to our lack of commitment. Thanks for the comment Amy.

  2. Timothy Kellogg November 2, 2011 at 10:47 am - Reply

    Good post man. I think your blog is going to be quite useful for me.

    • Ryan Hartwig November 2, 2011 at 11:10 am - Reply

      Thanks Tim. Glad to have you aboard. Feel free to share with your friends and colleagues in ministry.

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  7. Tom February 2, 2012 at 6:21 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on WordPress Sand Box.

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