What Makes Life-On-Life such a Difference Maker?

Obviously, during these early years of the church, I was practicing TEAMS (without the use of the acronym). But I had never realized the advantage this approach was having compared to other small groups.

Great insight came to the answer of this question several years later while meeting with the same group of pastors from around the country. This meeting was sponsored by Bob Buford of Leadership Network. Bob had invited us to Colorado to be resourced for three days by Ken Blanchard – a noted business leader, author, and years later the head of “Lead Like Jesus”.

When asked by one of the pastors to what he attributed the success of his many books and companies, his reply got our attention. He said, “Oh that’s simple. Every company I build and every book that I write is based on my “situational leadership paradigm.”

Ken then went to a large board and explained as he drew. He put the following on the board.

Ken Blanchard Square

He explained it suggesting that when you hire a new employee, you initially have to give “directives” – where your office is, how to use the equipment in the office, how you…when you… etc. He went on to say, “But if you are still giving directives months down the road, you’ve failed as a leader.” He then explained how you must move from directing to coaching. The employee watches you. You watch the employee. You give feedback. The employee asks questions and the employer coaches the newcomer into effectiveness.

Ken explained to us that at some point, its time to be near for “support” but not daily “coaching”. Just being an email or phone call away is important to address that rare and unusual situation that arises. But at some point the leader needs to “delegate” full responsibility to the employee. He or she is now good to go on their own – in fact, qualified to give the same leadership he or she had received to a new employee entering the ranks.

After relating this to the need of the church in helping our members, he made a statement that I will never forget. He said, “Never, never take your church’s people from directive to delegation. Always coach and support them first. Because if you skip coaching and support, you will produce disillusioned learners.”

Then he said, “By the way, I know of no organization as notoriously guilty of producing disillusioned learners than the church!”

My observation is that this is so true.

Remember my story of asking pastors at Pastor’s Conferences to write down their four or five best offerings that helped their people in spiritual formation? Check them out – virtually all, if not all, are ministries of “directing”. As important as these are, they are not sufficient without “coaching” and “support”!

Let me now end our story involving Ken Blanchard. By then, we were numerous years into embracing TEAMS at our church. When I was listening to Ken speak, and as I observed his presentation of his “situational leadership”, I could now easily answer the question as to why TEAMS used with life on life relationships is such a difference maker.

The diagram below illustrates the answer:

TEAMS Discipleship Square

Directing is the same as “Truth”. Coaching is the same as “Equipping”. Support is the same as “Accountability”. And delegating is the same as “Mission”. Just add “Supplication” and you have the operating system for spiritual formation.

I admit that this comparison is not a perfect one. When I overlay our term “mission” over Ken’s term “delegate”, I don’t want to be confusing. Ken uses “delegate” to refer to the last step in training or developing leaders. Life on Life uses “mission” to refer to embracing Jesus’ mission in both word and deed. So in reality, each term in Ken’s leadership paradigm applies to all aspects of learning and development – whether it be the doctrines of suffering, how to personally worship, or how to take on the “mission” of Jesus.

So let me conclude with this summary thought. If you have the right leader (a mature and equipped follower of Christ), who labors well in the lives of a few hungry followers (life on life), with a gospel centered, biblically based, well thought through curriculum, and an effective “operating system” like TEAMS, you have a formula for building strong spiritual leaders.

And oh, by the way, this is a description of the ministry of Jesus with his small brotherhood of disciples.