15 Mar Leading from the Sandbox – Book Review
Leading from the Sandbox:
How to Develop, Empower and Release High-Impact Ministry Teams
T. J. Addington
Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2010
208 pages, $14.99, paper
Reviewed by Justin A. Irving
Professor of Ministry Leadership
Director, Doctor of Ministry
Bethel Seminary, St. Paul, MN.
Built upon his previous work in High Impact Church Boards, T. J. Addington provides a thoughtful and practical book addressed to those wishing to develop, empower, and release effective ministry teams.
Addington introduces his discussion of teams with the observation that while most people actually do want to be a part of teams, they often have encountered unhealthy and negative teams in the past. These negative experiences where individuals faced teams in name only tend to keep people from encountering the real thing. Addington wrote this book to expose people to the power of effective teams and to help people understand how healthy, collegial, missional, and passionate teams are developed, empowered, and released for ministry.
Leading from the Sandbox is a practical “how to” manual for developing highimpact teams which utilizes the metaphor of the sandbox for unpacking its practical team concepts. Addington talks about the sandbox as the place where creativity and fun are synonymous, and argues that ministry should similarly be both fun and challenging, using the best of our gifts and creativity. In Addington’s words, “Leading a team is all about understanding the gifting of those we lead and then releasing them to ‘play’ to their strengths, literally to play in their work” (15).
Structurally, each chapter begins with a helpful summary, and each chapter ends with “H. I. (High Impact) Questions for Team Discussion.” In addition to the H. I. Questions for Team Discussion, each chapter also includes a variety of other stand-out sections including H. I. Moments, H. I. Definitions, and H. I. Best Practice. Each of these H. I. sections, along with the chapter summary, provides literary structures which help the reader quickly identify key points in each of Addington’s chapters. For leaders who are busy in ministry and service, an easy-to-read format like this is uniquely valuable. The structure of Leading from the Sandbox is both accessible and user-friendly, and is a very real selling point for busy ministry practitioners.
Building upon his description of what high impact teams are and what they are not in chapter one, Addington goes on to focus on the importance of team clarity in chapter two. Addington argues that an organization’s clarity around their mission, guiding principles, central ministry focus, and preferred culture is vital for creating a context within which high-impact teams may flourish and align with the broader organization. Simply put, Addington argues that the sandbox metaphor and model becomes a “simple tool that allows for alignment around ministry philosophy rather than methods” (33).