BOOK REVIEWS · Leadership

STICKY TEAMS: Keeping Your Leadership Team and Staff on the Same Page – Larry Osborne (2010)

Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne is a leadership book with an emphasis on team-building.  The author maintains, “Sticky teams stick together.”  And sticking together in difficult times is an indicator of health.

Osborne divides Sticky Teams into three parts, each designed to promote long-term unity and health in local church, which a special emphasis placed on the elder council, staff, and congregation.

Osborne stresses the three pillars of unity which includes doctrinal unity, respect and friendship, and philosophical unity.

He alerts the reader to transition points when growth takes place within a church and recommends different approaches (or “changing the game”) for different contexts.

PART ONE: Landmines and Roadblocks

The author sets his sights on five roadblocks to unity: 1) meeting in the wrong place, 2) ignoring relationships, 3) not meeting often enough, 4) constant turnover, and 5) too many members.

Principles of protecting the unity of an elder council and church staff are discussed, what the author refers to as “guarding the gate.”  Osborne insists on maintaining high standards at the leadership level.  Spiritual maturity is central.  Leaders must be on the same philosophical page – they must agree on the overall direction of the church.  Finally, leaders must work as a team relationally.  There must be a relational match.

Osborne spends time focusing on clarification of roles at the board and staff level.  “Healthy teams have great teamwork,” he writes.  “There’s little role confusion, and everyone knows what the ultimate goal is.”

PART TWO: Equipped for Ministry

Part two develops the importance of ministry alignment, mission, values, and methods.  Healthy churches employ creative training opportunities for elders and staff members alike.

Osborne recommends scheduling monthly “shepherding meetings” to deal with “important but neglected priorities” and should focus on team building, training, and prayer.

The author discusses the importance of staff alignment which helps ensure the team agrees with the core values and priorities of the church.  He argues that healthy teams are committed to a plumb line which may vary from church to church.

He also focuses on congregational alignment and includes five keys for maintaining the health of a given church:

1. A clear and simple mission statement

2. A front-loaded pastor’s class

3. The drip method of preaching (where the core values and vision of the church are included in the regular preaching diet).

4. Sermon-based small groups

5. Short congregational meetings

PART THREE: Communication

Part three includes a host of practical suggestions for vibrant communication.  Controversial topics are broached such as setting salaries, money management, and dealing with difficult staff members.


I am certainly glad I read Sticky Teams.  The author shares  many stories that are rooted and tested in personal experience.   I appreciate Osborne’s heart for leadership development and his “down-to-earth”approach to ministry.

One critique is especially worth mentioning.  The author places a great deal of attention on the importance of small groups, even to the exclusion of formal theological education.  While I wholeheartedly embrace and endorse the use of small groups in the local church as a strategy of discipleship, I resist the notion that theological education should play “second-fiddle” or be excluded from the “performance” all-together.

I have seen first-hand the value of developing a strong theological education department in the local church context.  The Christian mind must be educated, the affections must be engaged, the whole person must be equipped, and God-centered living must be encouraged.  Therefore, the development of a rigorous theological education track is essential for biblical discipleship to take place.

3 stars