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The Relational Leader S5: What in the World is a Life Team?

It's amazing how many church leaders go through life with people all around them, yet they feel a loneliness that just won't go away. It is actually fairly common to find a leader who is easily triggered by emotional circumstances. These individuals find themselves in a negative state of mind for a whole day or sometimes even days at a time as a result of one of these triggers.

So, what's the solution to the loneliness or the extended, negative rollercoaster of emotions? I want to propose to you today one solution that has helped me in a great way. Let me share with you the idea of creating a Life Team.

I’m pretty sure the question you hear in your head right now is, “What in the world is a Life Team?”

One of my good friends and coaching clients texted me late one night and asked, “Why do I beat myself up after a sermon?” I was literally lying in bed almost asleep, exhausted from my day, and honestly, there was no gas left in my tank.

I knew I was scheduled to meet with him the next day, so I just bypassed his question and asked him if he was still able to meet me the next morning. When he said “yes” I said, “Good! We can discuss this in the morning.” I hung up the phone and went to sleep.

Yikes! What a great leadership coach, I’ve turned out to be! My friend needed a relational nutrient in that moment. It probably, in reality, wouldn’t have taken me long to engage in a brief and encouraging discussion with him. However, I was too focused on how tired I was and how close I was to going to sleep. Instead of just pausing for a minute and giving him that relational nutrient I put him off until the next day.

You may ask, “What could you have said to him, Ryan?” He asked, “Why do you think I beat myself up after a sermon?” Even though it seemed he was asking for advice in that moment, in that particular moment he didn’t really need or want advice or an answer to the “why?” Because I know him so well, I knew in that moment he really just needed acceptance. He needed someone to give him the relational nutrient of acceptance.

Sometimes, even in the midst of our failures and flaws, we just need someone to accept us as we are. I know that may sound overly simplistic, yet, it is a powerful and profound need within every one of us. When I woke up the next morning, rested and in my right mind, I knew my friend just needed relational nutrients. I wished I would have given it to him in the moment. However, I was able to somewhat make up for it by apologizing to him and then giving him the acceptance he needed when we met in person.

Another friend called me a week later. He’s one of my Life Team members. He understands the relational nutrients concepts. He said, “Ryan, thank you for taking my call. This shouldn’t take long, but I really need your help right now. I’m feeling down because I haven’t made much progress on my goals these past few weeks. Can you just tell me that you accept me anyway and maybe encourage me a little?” So I immediately put my Life Team hat on. In a short period of time I gave him the acceptance and encouragement he needed. It literally took about ten minutes. I had a scheduled meeting with him later in the week where we met and evaluated our lives as we do quite often. It was amazing the difference that acceptance and just a few days had made for him. He was already moving forward again in accomplishing the things needed in his ministry and life.

The right relational nutrients

at the right time has a healing power

that can change a person’s mindset

in an instant.

I’ve had to call my Life Team members at times and ask for attunement or validation or hope or clarification or perspective or any number of relational nutrients vital to me as a person and a leader. (I’d love to share more about those relational nutrients - and I will in the future. If you want to know more about them immediately, read Dr. John Townsend’s book called People Fuel... It’s a phenomenal book; I highly recommend it.)

I want to zero in more on the Life Team concept... this is also in more detail in People Fuel. I just shared with you two stories of me providing relational nutrients to two ministers. This is the primary purpose of a Life Team.

A Life Team, is a term Dr. Townsend uses to refer to "an intentionally selected set of people who become your primary source for relational nutrients."

I can tell you from my own personal experience, it is truly amazing how much better I am doing in my life personally, relationally, spiritually, and emotionally since I established my Life Team a few years ago.

In the past, some major rejection or ministry issues or whatever in my life would be a source of unusually high stress or anxiety. That would sometimes make me spiral emotionally, sometimes for days. Now, after establishing my Life Team, if this does happen, the spiral time is usually just an hour or two and I find it much easier to right myself. This is because I understand the value of a team of people who know how to provide those relational nutrients so vital to life.

Right now, I have six primary Life Team members who know just about everything there is to know about me. I also have a number of people within a slightly bigger circle of close friends who can easily step in and help at times as well. With the exception of a few, these people are not coaches. I haven't hired them to help with my growth or development. These are my comrades. Most are fellow ministers engaged in a mutual growth process with me.

Read what John has to say about this: “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” (John 15:15)

These people are friends I don't have to hide anything from. They know me - they know my vulnerabilities - they know my weaknesses - and yet they still love me. I can tell them things that "feel" embarrassing, knowing they will still love me. They can handle the raw and undesirable parts of me. They know my dark side and failures and yet they just “get” me. They understand me and accept me. They don't ignore me or withdraw from me or judge me. They love me and help me and challenge me and give me advice and encouragement.

This is what the family of God is intended to do with one another, the relationship with each other He desires for us to have. This is discipleship and the family of God at its best.

There's a lot more that can be said about Life Teams. However, this is a good stopping point for now. (We’ll pick up this conversation at a later time.) Meanwhile, here are some practical things to contemplate:

1. Name two people in your life that you think you can be transparent with and they would still love you.

2. Make a to-do item for yourself to reach out to those two people this week and ask them to join your Life Team.

I know this is a bold move. For some of you, it feels really tough. However, I promise you without doubt you will be glad you did it!

Copyright © 2021 Ryan Franklin. All rights reserved.


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