The Value of a Backstory in Team Building

When coaches develop a team, they want to create chemistry—by finding the naïve genius (talent and intelligence) of the players and by knowing each player well so that each one can function optimally in the execution of the play book. 

Teams in churches are not dissimilar, as youth leaders can best lead when vision is shared and team members feel safe to express ideas and be creative in implementing the vision.

kids baseball team iStock 000010352362SmallTeams often function like a family and individuals are prone to play the same role on the team in the present as they did in their family of origin growing up. For example, the star of the family may want to still be in that role. Or the peace-maker may still play that role on the team. Someone experiencing violent family conflict may be aggressive or have aversion to conflict.  The cultural background regarding rules of how to fight may play out over and over in the present, i.e. no emotion is ever shown, or wild abandon with emotion is the norm— or no one younger can ever win.

Back stories also provide insight into behavior. An individual’s own trauma experiences may  influence his behavior on a team, and a leader may react poorly without understanding why someone is so controlling or overbearing, or why someone always defers to everyone else, or why there seems to be no tolerance for mistakes. Knowing that someone had been abandoned by a father, for example, may help the leader understand the need for someone to have constant reassurance before making a decision.

Even the youth leader’s own background may play out in how he/she leads.  When leaders have been praised for having lots of ideas and getting the job done efficiently and quickly, they may tend to take over, make decisions alone and quickly, micro-manage, or problem solve or work quickly, leaving others behind.

Knowing personal stories about team members growing-up experiences helps leaders understand and interact with more compassion and wisdom, and be more vulnerable about sharing their own mistakes.


Kathy Elliott


Kathy Elliott was guest speaker at the Northeastern Seminary Youth Ministry Summit in February 2014. She has counseled hundreds of individuals, couples and family members since founding Agape Counseling Associates 35 years ago

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