6 Signs That Your Team Chemistry is Crumbling

This is a guest post from Mark Riggins. Mark is the Community Life Pastor at ENCOUNTER | Bible Fellowship Church in Ventura, CA. His new book STUCK When You Want to Forgive but Don’t Know How is available now on Amazon. Sign-up HERE for a FREE 30-Day Online Forgiveness Devotional. You can follow Mark on his blog: www.markriggins.org.


How healthy is your team . . . really?

I enjoyed an unusually close relationship with my pastor for 12 years. Unfortunately, it completely severed and we didn’t talk for several years despite being close friends.

My former pastor and I later reconciled. I’m so grateful because I love this man. In retrospect, we both agreed that there were warning signs we missed that indicated our chemistry was declining. (That broken relationship and my struggle to forgive, led me to write STUCK When You Want to Forgive but Don’t Know How.)

As you evaluate your team, here are 6 warning signs that your team chemistry is crumbling.

Warning Sign #1: You stop dreaming together

A vision is enlivening, it’s spirit giving, it’s the guiding force behind all great human endeavors. Vision is about shared energy, a sense of awe, a sense of possibility. –Benjamin Zander, Conductor, Boston Philharmonic Orchestra

During our first several years together, my former pastor and I dreamed of revitalizing a traditional church. Our dream came true and the church’s growth required us to move to a new location, increase staff, and church services. That shared dream galvanized all of us!

My former pastor recently told me, “When a team agrees on the dream and the path to achieve that dream, chemistry is a natural by-product.”

We never said, “Let’s stop dreaming together.” But as we focused more and more on our daily ministry our galvanizing dreams faded into the background. When there’s not a mutual dream, the team lacks energy and is no longer fueled by a sense of awe, a sense of possibility.

Question: What mutual dream is your team pursuing together right now?

Warning Sign #2: You stop sharing your individual dreams

You have professional dreams (pursue an advanced degree, improve your leadership, write a book, grow your ministry, etc.) and personal dreams (improve your marriage, run a marathon, learn to play the guitar, etc.)

Great team chemistry gives you the confidence to share your individual dreams!

Visions thrive in an environment of unity; they die in an environment of division. –Andy Stanley

When you stop sharing your individual dreams, it’s a warning sign that team chemistry needs attention.

Question: Are you sharing your entire individual dream with your team? When was the last time a team member shared an individual dream with you?

Warning Sign #3: You stop doing life together

My former pastor describes our chemistry when we were clicking, “In a real sense, it was merely existing friends seeing each other everyday and getting paid for it.”

The team that plays together stays together. Team that don’t…don’t.

For years we went to countless sporting events, concerts, ministry conferences, and ate way too much Mexican food together.

We never made a conscious decision to stop doing life together. Somewhere along the way, our schedules became too full.

Your team is made up of people who love to laugh, play, and connect. Staff meetings are limited in their ability to allow people to laugh, play, and connect.

Question: When was the last time you and your team had fun together?

Warning Sign #4: You complain more than you celebrate

We all bring life or death to every team meeting with our words. (Prov 18:21)

How do your staff conversations sound?

Does your team complain about the insufficient parking or celebrate the growing attendance? Do you complain about the need for more volunteers or celebrate the volunteers who are serving?

Shawn Achor says, “Happiness is a work ethic.”

In the same way, “Celebration is a work ethic.” You must intentionally look for the wins and stories you can celebrate.

However, when a team member feels the freedom to complain more than they celebrate, chemistry is crumbling.

Question: Do your meetings consist of more celebrating or complaining?

Warning Sign #5: You let others complain to you about a team member

You know better than to criticize your team members. But when you let someone else complain to you about a team member, your chemistry crumbles slowly eroding trust and unity.

Just as hypocritical parenting (do what I say, not what I do) produces children without convictions or a clear moral compass, creating a work environment that includes inconsistency and dishonesty results in a team that lacks confidence, is insecure, and is divided. –Jack Monroe (my Executive Pastor)

Question: Does anyone feel comfortable complaining to you about a team member?

Warning Sign #6: You start complaining to others about them

This may be the fastest way to destroy your team chemistry. After violating Warning Sign #5, it becomes easier to share your own criticism of a team member with others.

God tells us to use our words to build up (Eph. 4:29) and that one day we will be held accountable for every word we’ve spoken (Matt. 12:36-37).

Caution: Guard your words because “a great forest is set on fire by a small spark”. –James 3:5b

A quick filter before speaking is to ask yourself, “Is what I’m about to say necessary and helpful?”

Question: Are you finding it easier to criticize anyone on your team?

In the last moments of Jesus’ life, he was burdened for unity. In the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed, “May they all be one, as You, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be one in us, so the world may believe you sent me.” (John 17:21)

Are there any other warning signs that you would add?

6 Signs That Your Team Chemistry is Crumbling


  1. isha on August 26, 2021 at 10:26 am

    This article is really good.

  2. molly cook on December 3, 2019 at 3:25 am

    i love this blog and i love the ways you tell the blof

  3. […] How healthy is your team . . . really? As you evaluate your team, here are 6 warning signs that your team chemistry is crumbling . . . (to continue reading click HERE). […]

  4. […] Team chemistry is huge, especially when it comes to leading teams. But a lot of times, team chemistry is poor and needs to be improved. The question is: how do we recognize poor team chemistry? Here’s Mark Riggins on Carey Nieuwhof’s blog with six signs of crumbling chemistry. […]

  5. Links for Leaders 3/6/15 - Eric Geiger on March 6, 2015 at 7:45 am

    […] Team chemistry is huge, especially when it comes to leading teams. But a lot of times, team chemistry is poor and needs to be improved. The question is: how do we recognize poor team chemistry? Here’s Mark Riggins on Carey Nieuwhof’s blog with six signs of crumbling chemistry. […]

  6. Rich Grof on March 5, 2015 at 8:51 am

    Thanks Carey and Mark. I’m sure that many of us can use these simple points to help determin the health of our leadership teams. These points can be used as a simple test that will quickly show what is really happening. Great stuff!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 5, 2015 at 2:55 pm

      Thanks Rich. So appreciate all your hard work and the coaching you do for leaders.

    • Mark Riggins on March 5, 2015 at 9:20 pm

      Thanks Rich!

  7. PG Tips on February 28, 2015 at 12:24 pm

    Wow !!! Thanks Mark and Carey, for this eye opener. It’s easy to take one another in your leadership team for granted over the course of serving together for a number of years.

    • Mark Riggins on February 28, 2015 at 1:11 pm

      Thank you. I agree. Strong chemistry is powerful but we’ve got to be intentional.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 1, 2015 at 8:34 am

      Thanks PG. Loved Mark’s tips. 🙂

  8. George Ochse on February 28, 2015 at 5:55 am

    I am confused! I am quite sure that I have never made any critical comments on what you have said. I am 79 years old and live in South Africa. I am not even sure what constitutes a “blog”, or even how to make one! I have always read your articles with interest, considering your views and advice to be most helpful. The reason I have not, and will not try to “blog” as you put it, is because I take very seriously the command to “judge not”. Frankly, I would not trust myself to take up the practice! I am too old to start learning the “blog” etiquette now. Making use of social media very extensively, I have decided, is not for me! It is too much like putting oneself “down in print” for my liking. I will content myself with just praying for you. No, I don’t listen to your podcasts … I’m not even sure I could get them in a place as far away as South Africa! So, my best regards and bless you. George Ochse

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 28, 2015 at 7:15 am

      George…So good to hear from you. And no…in that email I was NOT criticizing you. People like you make the world a better place. I was just saying there are cynics and trolls who leave comments that really harm the mission, not to mention other people and themselves. I think I can tell from your comment that you are the opposite of those people. Appreciate you George. Thank you so much for your prayers. I admire your resolve not the judge. God bless you George!

  9. Pastor Hal on February 27, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    Thanks Mark and Carey for these very important thoughts. I have just started a series on the Holy Spirit in tandem with our mid-week bible study where we are using Jim Cymbala’s “When God’s Spirit moves” video. Total submission to The Holy Spirit among other things for me involves pausing and allowing Him to go into each situation whether it be private thoughts, leadership interaction or public worship first and then I follow. He does a lot better job of setting the tone than I could ever do. If I want trust, then I must extend trust. If I want to share my dreams with others then I must sincerely allow them to share their dreams with me and so on. Your posts are very encouraging. Thanks!

    • Mark Riggins on February 27, 2015 at 4:26 pm

      Thanks Hal. Good stuff! The Holy Spirit guides us to Truth. Submission to the Spirit and each other is key isn’t it? Thanks for reminding us Hal.

  10. Jacqui on February 27, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    This article provides me with a point by point explanation as to why our team (church council) isn’t working! I’ve got a lot of prayer to pray and lot of goals to implement now with a view to making our team work! The pastor has been trying with a view to build team morale but people wouldn’t come to his suggested “retreats”. Finally he left! I’m heart broken and I have said that things on the team must change. Thanks for a great article which confirms the warning signs and ways to change.

    • Mark Riggins on February 27, 2015 at 3:19 pm

      Jacqui change is hard but change is possible. Go for it!

      • Jacqui on February 27, 2015 at 4:31 pm

        Thanks Mark, you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free! I think I’ve got no choice! 😉

      • Jacqui on February 27, 2015 at 4:33 pm

        Thanks Mark,
        so true! And “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free!” . I know it’s the only way!

  11. Maryland Bob on February 27, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    Excellent article, excellent topic. Chemistry of course goes beyond just the “team” of staff members but extends to ministry leaders (lay and clergy working together) and even to the whole congregation. Very important to enable, build and nurture good chemistry throughout all of our ministry. Relevant article for an important topic.

    • Mark Riggins on February 27, 2015 at 3:21 pm

      Bob you are so right! Thanks for adding that.

  12. Marisa Anderson on February 27, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    Great thoughts. Working at creating a great team atmosphere has been a priority over this past year within our staff. It’s helpful to read things like this as encouragement of where we’ve come from and where we’re going. Thanks for sharing Carey!

    • Mark Riggins on February 27, 2015 at 3:22 pm

      That’s so great to hear Marisa. Way to go!

  13. Todd Stevens on February 27, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    Great stuff! I’d suggest that another warning sign is when the team members begin to view each other with suspicion, rather than trust. When team members’ default response is to question your motives or you realize you’re assuming other team members have a hidden agenda, team chemistry has definitely entered the danger zone. It’s nearly impossible to be creative or collaborate when you feel you have to be guarded.

    • Betsy Strain on February 27, 2015 at 1:34 pm

      I agree with this. Hard to be honest and offer opinions or suggestions or visions when you already know you will be shot down. Or you are no longer even involved in visioning and planning because of mistrust. So easy to just jump ship!

    • Mark Riggins on February 27, 2015 at 3:25 pm

      Thanks Todd. That is an important warning sign to add. Not only does distrust destroy chemistry, when someone distrust me it tends to bring out the worst in me.

  14. Ben Salter on February 27, 2015 at 11:57 am

    I would like to encourage you to continue sharing this type information. It’s eye opening and although, many may not like to hear it, we need to. Thanks for sharing!!

  15. Doug on February 27, 2015 at 11:52 am

    Carey, this is such a well-timed blog! I have just been pondering the status of our leadership team, and this encouraged me to take action and spend more time dreaming with them and inquiring they are doing on a personal level. I really value the things the Lord lays on your heart to share. Keep up the good work my friend!!

    • Mark Riggins on February 27, 2015 at 3:30 pm

      Thanks Doug. Time w/your ministry team (especially connecting with their hearts) is an investment into the Kingdom. Great job Doug!

  16. Bob Kells on February 27, 2015 at 11:47 am

    I’m a little more than 18 months into my first pastorate (and loving it), and still building the leadership team. These warning signs give me some great things to watch out for ( and to work on now) to keep team chemistry on a positive track. Thanks for the insights.

  17. Widggget on February 27, 2015 at 11:20 am

    Thanks for this thoughtful piece, as well as the all the helpful blogs on CN!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 27, 2015 at 3:05 pm

      Thanks Widggget.

    • Mark Riggins on February 27, 2015 at 3:37 pm

      Thanks Widggget. I too enjoy Carey’s blog and podcasts!

  18. CJ on February 27, 2015 at 11:09 am

    This article has relevance not just for church communities, but for the workplace and even marriage and family. Very thought-provoking.

  19. […] By Carey […]

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