In retrospect, these two types of teams could not be any more different. Something I wish I could have understood way back when.
Here are some differences between the two.
1. Church staff teams work very close to one another, while academic department teams have lots of internal space.
Church staffs usually share the same calendar with everyone fighting for dates. They also have to share resources from the same budget, utilizing the same key people, reserving the same facility space, and sometimes even the sharing the same office. Everything is close; everything is shared. One thing done by a particular staff person effects everyone else in some way or another. No one is an island unto themselves.
Academic teams are very different. There is more internal space between the faculty members. While they may have to share the departmental budget, they usually function from their own calendar, working independently from their own class schedule, making improvements to their own degree programs, and even separating their own students from others in the department. The internal space within provides more individualism and less shared resources. This can be both a good thing and a source of conflict if not managed properly.
2. Church staff teams meet frequently, while academic department teams may meet once or twice a month.
Again, this promotes more internal space between faculty and their day-to-day activities. Church staffs have to communicate with each other. They have to know what the other team members are doing, so not to disrupt the delicate balance of everything. Significant time meeting one-on-one with your senior pastor or sitting down together as a team is essential.
Academic teams do not have this requirement. As long as you are doing your thing, teaching your classes, meeting with your students, you are good to go. You also have the academic calendar and its scheduled breaks like fall break, Christmas break, spring break, and summer break. There are times when it might be two or three months before I see any my colleagues on a regular basis.
3. Church staff teams must be unified and functioning in a semi-healthy dynamic in order to succeed. Academic department team don’t require the same level of unity.
The indicators of success are so wildly different. For the church staff, success might be measured in spiritual growth or programmatic advancement or development of an effective outreach strategy. For the academic dept., success is mostly measured in numeric growth, graduation rates, retention from year to year, new program development, and adding of faculty members.
The academic dept. team can say, “Hey, we had a great year” and really not be united behind a singular vision or even enjoying spending time with one another. That is not the case with a church staff.
A seasoned faculty member once told me that teaching on the college campus is like playing on the Ryder’s Cup squad – Everyone is collectively on the team, but you still play your match by yourself. As long as you personally are doing your part, you don’t have to really like or even play along with your academic team mates.
4. Lastly, church staff teams live in a highly emotional environment, while academic dept. teams only experience high emotion once or twice per year, usually around the end of term.
The discipleship and soul-care of saints and expanding the kingdom through evangelism form a very emotional environment for the church staff. Everything is personal. Relationships are personal. Church politics are personal. Team dynamics among the staff is very personal. Not to mention living life together with church members whom you love and who love you in return. The heart is always engaged.
Academic dept. teams are not like this. While there are personal relationships among colleagues and meaningful relationships with students, the environment is not nearly as emotional. It can be at times, but it usually is not. Students move on. Semesters move on. Graduation comes every December and May. The fall semester becomes the spring semester and then everyone leaves for summer break. We start again in the fall and follow the pattern year after year.
As I look back over the past eleven years, these two types of team stand in stark contrast. I never knew how different they really are. I wrongly assumed the team I joined on the college campus would be very similar to the team I left from church. I was wrong. They are two completely different environments. I don’t think one is better and the other worse; they are just wildly different.