Avoiding Sunday School Class Dysfunctions

Monday 19th February, 2007
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I am reading a book by Patrick Lencioni entitled The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. While only halfway through the book, I would recommend it to you and your class leadership team. I believe it could help you to evaluate your teamwork in order to address some stumbling blocks to effectiveness.

Before sharing the five dysfunctions, let me add a sixth dysfunction that supercedes Lencioni's list:  lack of prayer. For a class to work without prayer is work without God's leadership and in our own strength and power. It is doomed to poor results at best and absolute failure at worst. Prayer unites us with God and with each other. It gives us direction and help. In many ways, it is the oil of the machinery of team functionality. Without prayer, the engine seizes up.

While I don't have space to detail each of Lencioni's dysfuntions, I will share his list (in all capitals) and add my commentary.
1.        ABSENCE OF TRUST. This is important for a Sunday School team as well as for a class. Without trust, discussion will be shallow, and as a result learning will be minimal. Trust is foundational for relationships and effective work together. Have you gotten to know one another? This takes time invested outside of class in addition to class time. Are there multiple individuals in the class you would be comfortable calling in time of personal need? If not, that may be a sign of an absence of trust.
2.        FEAR OF CONFLICT. In every group, there are peacemakers who have a distaste for conflict. They work to avoid conflict and help groups in which they participate to do the same. This can be counterproductive. Healthy conflict is a natural part of relationships. However, in order to feel comfortable airing differences of opinion, trust must have been established first. Working through differences and conflict leads a Sunday School team to dealing with issues rather than avoiding them.
3.        LACK OF COMMITMENT. Without commitment, it is difficult for a leadership team or a Sunday School class to function effectively. With conflict in a medium of trust, team members are able to "own" decisions. They make commitments not only verbally but also with the heart and will. They really commit. This can be true of faithfulness in attendance and so much more. Real team members are committed to each other and to what they are doing together.
4.        AVOIDANCE OF ACCOUNTABILITY. Accountability is merely helping others keep "their" commitments (they made the commitments in the first place). The scriptural admonition to "encourage one another" is a challenge to help one another keep our commitments. A trusting team, committed to each other and to what is being done will desire accountability in order to give their best to God, each other, and the Kingdom. Otherwise, we don't always do our best individually or as a Sunday School team. God deserves our best!
5.        INATTENTION TO RESULTS. Frequently, team members pursue individual results in order to attain personal status. This produces fewer "wins" than when the individuals "play as a team." What are the goals of the entire team? Where are you heading? What are you trying to accomplish? How many lives do you want to touch? How many lives changed? How many leaders developed? When results have been agreed upon and pursued, each Sunday School team member is then able to pursue his/her part in achieving desired team results.

I would love to give you a scale to measure your team effectiveness around these six dysfunctions (including lack of prayer), but lack of or weakness in any of these six areas hurts all teamwork. Prayerful evalution is healthy. Examine yourself and your team. Be honest with yourself and each other. Take steps to adjust and change. Don't settle for a dysfunctional team. Be revolutionary!

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