Living and working on a team is: arduous, fulfilling, exhilarating, risky, beautiful, dynamic, stretching, joyous, and much more. For the past two years, I have been privileged to live and work on a team in a missions setting. This experience has served to teach me how much more I have to learn about working alongside other laborers in Christ’s kingdom. I am no expert, or even qualified to speak on this topic, but I want to share some of the lessons I have been taught and am still learning about effective teamwork.
We are not designed to accomplish projects autonomously. Whether working in church, work-place, or missions environments, we need the help of others to be successful. If we are going to be effective in these endeavors, we need to know how to function in team contexts.
Follow Christ’s Example
Jesus’ ministry on earth is my favorite example from which to learn about team life. Even though He was God – not in need of anyone’s help – He recognized the value of having others join Him. Then when He had trained the disciples within the confines of the group, “He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two” (Mark 6:7a).
Christ not only worked with His disciples as a team in His own ministry; He trained them to work together so they could be effective in their own personal ministries. Jesus clearly demonstrated the worth and efficiency of Christians cooperating together for Kingdom work.
Study for Success
Being competent in team environments is not a skill that can be acquired overnight; it will require a lifetime of learning and humbling in order to see growth. Studying Scriptural examples and listening to the advice of those wiser than us are the best sources for learning how to operate in a team.
The following principles are ones that I have either been taught by people older and more experienced than I, or by falling flat on my face and failing miserably at being a good team player. This list is by no means exhaustive, but merely some of the important things that come to mind when contemplating what I am learning on this journey.
Vulnerability and honesty are a must. Being open to the point that we could be hurt is essential for healthy growth in a team. If we cannot be honest about the weaknesses in our lives, we will inhibit the group from reaching its full potential. When we become vulnerable with each other, we allow others to be open, as well as providing opportunity for the group to shoulder one another’s loads. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
Recognize the giftings of the group. Taking time to assess the giftings and callings of each team member is an invaluable investment. When people are fulfilled in their roles, they will be happier and therefore apt to accomplish more. On the flip-side of that, do not reject or squander a task because it isn’t your gifting. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10).
Freely extend grace and forgiveness. A well-known idiom quotes, “To err is human, to forgive divine.” Because we are working with other flawed individuals, we need to be quick to forgive others for their mistakes and grievances. Christ forgave us much more than we deserved; we should extend that same grace and forbearance to our teammates. Not every wrong against us needs to be righted. We will often need to go to Christ with that pain and release the guilty party. “Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13).
Self needs to be put to death. Team life quickly brings to light our selfishness and insecurities. A self-absorbed person is wearying and can single-handedly drive a team into the ground. We need to keep Christ as our main focus, others second, and die to self daily. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
Embrace conflict because it is inevitable. “Great relationships are built on the foundation to be able to disagree, even passionately, and be able to work through it, and solve a problem,” says Patrick Lencioni – a team management consultant. He promotes the idea that if team members cannot voice their differences on ideas, pent up frustrations will eventually explode and harm – or destroy – the team. He states, “We owe it to each other to disagree.” Good teamwork will happen when team members can confront one another in love and resolve the issue when they have conflict or disagreement.
There needs to be a common goal. This may seem obvious, but where there are differences in objectives, there will be frustration and confusion. When we are all striving to accomplish the same goal, we will be unified in our ambitions and desires. If a team has divided interests, they will struggle to be effective in achieving anything. As Christians, we have a unique advantage – a common desire for Christ to be glorified in everything we do. In Jesus, we all have the same goal at the forefront. “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
Let’s not get drawn into the trap of believing that we can go through life and be successful in God’s kingdom – in whatever capacity He calls us to serve – on our own strength. We need others to help us, and we are needed by other people. We will miss a great blessing if we do not embrace the gift of working together with our fellow laborers in Christ. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
What would you add to this list? What experiences and lessons have you gained from working on a team? To the older ones among us, what advice would you give us, as young people, so we can become better team players? I invite you to share your insights and experiences in the comments.
|Rachelle Zook, better known as Shelly, is daily learning more of the Father’s heart while living her dream of doing ministry in a red-light district. She desires to see lives radically transformed through the Gospel, and is passionate about seeing young women embrace godly femininity. In her free time she enjoys: interacting with people, studying theology, riding motorcycle, savoring a good cup of coffee, traveling to new destinations, and delving into the pages of a well-written memoir.
- The Holy Bible, ESV. Mark 6:7a. Crossway: Wheaton, IL, 2001.
- The Holy Bible, ESV. Galatians 6:2. Crossway: Wheaton, IL, 2001.
- The Holy Bible, ESV. 1 Peter 4:10. Crossway: Wheaton, IL, 2001.
- “To err is human, to forgive divine.” Dictionary.com. Accessed Feb. 20, 2017.
- The Holy Bible, ESV. Colossians 3:13. Crossway: Wheaton, IL, 2001.
- The Holy Bible, ESV. Philippians 2:3. Crossway: Wheaton, IL, 2001.
- Lencioni, Patrick. “The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team.” Youtube. Accessed Feb. 18, 2017.
- The Holy Bible, ESV. Philippians 3:14. Crossway: Wheaton, IL, 2001.
- The Holy Bible, ESV. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10. Crossway: Wheaton, IL, 2001.