The care plan

The CARE Plan

The CARE acronym can help leaders to clarify their mission and goals. It’s been a huge help to me as I've led a growing ministry team and is really useful as you move from rotas to teams.

It was gold dust. In twenty pages and in twenty minutes I learnt more about running good teams than in a decade of my good intentions. What was it? The CARE plan1.

Great leaders run great teams. But I am not a great leader. I am an ordinary leader aspiring to be a ‘good and faithful servant’ leader. I guess you are too. What I needed was help – not so much more inspiration to serve, but practical transferable wisdom to make things better. And it came in the shape of the CARE plan.

Used by an average leader, a team’s life and performance can become outstanding. More than that, it can be achieved almost independently from any individual member’s brilliance. The CARE plan really does turn the ‘Together Everyone Achieves More’ acronym into reality.

What is it?

It's not quite painting by numbers, but it can give a team leader a framework, which if followed, will help the team get balanced outcomes. Like a good recipe it has all the ingredients, so if you include them all you end up with a delectable dish.

C – Clarify the mission

When a team comes together, talk at first about the big picture of what the team is aspiring to achieve. Not just ‘We make the coffee at church’, but ‘We are part of a team that puts people in heaven.’

Tell the stories of visitors whose conversations were enabled to flow better because of the provision of delicious real coffee. Tell stories of volunteers who not only served it but were learning the life skills of warmly affirming others with a smile as they passed the cup over.

Celebrate those who notice the apprehensive person and follow them up by a conversation that said ‘I noticed you look worried, can I help in anyway?’ Tell stories of the church growing, and how encouraging it is that the Lord is blessing lots of other teams too.

Think of ‘What might be?’. What if, one day, our coffee team had to serve 1000 cups in 10 minutes? It might feel ridiculous, daunting, or impossible, but what a day that would be for the team! Don't say, ‘It can't ever be’ – remember Acts 2:41 – Pentecost was unique, I know, but notice also other passages in Acts (4:4; 6:7; 11:21). Could we be part of something like that? The ‘bigger vision’ really gets the imagination going.

A - Agree on goals

Here is where a leader gets everyone in the team talking about practical steps forward. All can chip in to answer the questions, ‘How are we going to do a task, and do it better?’ The answers shouldn't be predetermined by the leader. The leader utilises everyone's views. Let concerns and criticisms be aired. In this kind of creative tension Christians learn both to listen to and respect others’ viewpoints, and to come up with optimal solutions as a group.

It is also really important in medium-size and larger churches for another reason. For as the whole church group grows (Acts 6:1) not everyone can possibly have an input on everything. Responsibilities have to be handed over to teams who get on with particular tasks (Acts 6:3b). Exactly how they do the task can be left to them.

Some pastors and leadership teams can be tempted to micromanage. Resist that! Our experience is that when a team is given trust to come up with their own specific goals, the members get ‘buy in’ and ‘ownership’ of church life in real and tangible ways. They may not set overall policy or direction, but getting members to input in a team is a key to getting people involved in a larger church. It isn’t enough to attend church or a home group, we need all to be active in service. Teams is how that can be facilitated. It will deepen ‘belonging’ as nothing else can.

The team, if it really wants to achieve, needs to get specific – who is doing what, by when, with what expected outcomes, and at what cost – in terms of time, effort, and energy and money.

Writing it all down and circulating to the whole team, to leaders of other teams, and to the church’s oversight also really helps. It is what is called ‘360° leadership’ – not just to people who follow my lead in our team but other co-leaders of other teams, and those I lead up to. They all need to know that our team is on the job.

R – Review

How can we do what we do better? This is often neglected.

A team needs to stand back and reflect on, ‘How are we doing, what could have been done better, and how can we improve?’ Feedback is crucial. And all should take part. If you only give very occasional comments, people can feel as if they are just being told off, and become defensive or even resentful. But if you build in regular review by the whole team where everyone contributes, then all get used to honest assessment with an eye to get better.

Preachers can get better from this too (See Acts 18:24-26; 2 Tim 2:15-16). So can teams. It just needs the humility to commit to being life-long learners.

Sometimes the review can come solely from within the team. At other times seek out non-team members’ reflections. We have groups of people who give our service leaders and preachers honest feedback on a weekly basis. They do this for three months before we ask others to take a turn. It can help to pinpoint recurring weaknesses that can be worked on.

Review isn’t just sharing negativity. We often use a ‘two good, two bad’ framework: two positives to thank God for, and two things to work on. Like my golf swing there are usually more than two areas of improvement for most teams. But two at a time is manageable and will lead to observable improvements. Serving like this is a reward in itself (Col 3:23).

E - Equip people

The group then discusses what it needs to achieve its tasks and to serve more effectively. It may be a bit of kit needs to be bought, a training day could be held, a curry together needs to be enjoyed where we talk it all over in a relaxed way.

The team might see the need to recruit new members. Others might want to move on to other ministries in the church. The team of Acts 6, for example, soon had members like Stephen and Philip who moved onto other roles. It might lead to discussions with the senior leaders about the need to recruit and train new team members. Such a commitment to equipping keeps the group fresh and delays the plateau stage of group life.

Implementing the Plan

Working through the CARE plan can be covered in a couple of hours, perhaps two or three times a year. Don't settle for ‘just rotas’ when you can have a team CARE plan instead. And don't forget the adage, “If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together.”

The CARE plan helps you achieve that. Highly recommended!

1. See Ray Evans, Ready, Steady, Grow (IVP, 2014) p135-138, and also Walter C Wright, Relational Leadership (Paternoster, 2000) p160-181.

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