Warren Bird on Church Leadership Teams
Date: May 17th, 2015

What makes for successful church team leadership?  Dr. Warren Bird of  the Leadership Network, and a frequent listener to Research on Religion, discusses his new study (with Ryan Hartwig) on team leadership within Protestant denominations.  The study is based upon a survey of over 1,000 church leaders encompassing roughly 250 churches in a variety of locales.

Before we dive into Hartwig and Bird’s book, Teams that Thrive, we discuss a recent report issued by the Pew Research Center claiming a significant drop in Christian affiliation in the United States over the past several years.  While noting that some millennials are attending church less, we dig a bit deeper into the data to see that most of the losses are coming from mainline denominations, whereas evangelicals are holding their own or gaining slightly.  Warren offers some of his observations on this topic, including his thoughts on churches that try to adapt to a changing culture.

We turn next to the issue of team leadership and Dr. Bird notes the growing importance of groups in managing churches of all size, though as the number of attenders increases for any given congregation the use of teams in managing the church also grows.  Warren defines what a “team” is and reviews some of the ways in which they are used.  We review the methodology of the study he and Ryan Hartwig conducted, talking about the sample and some of the questions that were used.  They based their study off of Harvard’s Team Diagnostic Survey, which is used frequently to analyze businesses, and modified it in a second round to be more applicable to faith organizations.  Warren points out that they also did several site visits to churches within their sample for direct observations.

The discussion then focuses on a number of the findings from the study.  There are five key disciplines that they identified that work enhance team leadership: 1) a focus on purpose; 2) inspiration favored over control; 3) leveraging the different skills of team members; 4) having a structured decision-making process; and 5) a process of regular and continuous collaboration.  He illustrates these features with Faith Promise, a large multi-site church in Tennessee.  Our discussion closes out with some general thoughts on how a focus on congregational leadership can help churches adapt to a changing religious environment, wrapping around to our discussion at the outset of the podcast.  Recorded: May 15, 2015.


Warren Bird’s personal website (with links to books and other material).

The Leadership Network.

Teams that Thrive: Five Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership, by Ryan T. Hartwig and Warren Bird.

Next: Pastoral Succession that Works, by William Vanderbloemen and Warren Bird (featured on RoR — see below).

The Emotionally Healthy Church: A Strategy for Discipleship that Actually Changes Lives, by Peter Scazzero and Warren Bird.

The Other 80 Percent: Turning Your Church’s Spectators into Active Participants, by Scott Thumma and Warren Bird.

Viral Churches: Helping Church Planters Become Movement Makers. by Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird.

See Warren Bird’s Amazon page for additional works written by him.

The Pew Research Center Study on America’s Changing Religious Landscape.

Baylor ISR’s Symposium on the End of Religion.


William Vanderbloemen on Pastoral Transitions.

Mike McBride on the Economics of Church Leadership.

Larry Osborne on Church Finances and Growth.

William Wubbenhorst on Serve, West Dallas and FBO Evaluation.

Thom S. Rainer on Baptist Conventions and Church Health.

Matt Boswell on Redemption Church, One Year Later.

Matt Boswell on Starting a New Church, Really Fast!

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