Functioning as a Team in Ministry

What makes a team effective in ministry? I asked that question this morning to our missions class at church. Here a few important keys:

  • Caring for one another
  • Humility
  • Trust
  • Fit

Each of these qualities is necessary. Without a commitment to one another, built on humility and trust, conflicts will hinder the teams effectiveness. It is also important to value each person’s contribution or “fit.”

“FIT” is about identifying and appreciating each others strengths and weaknesses. It’s understanding the “chemistry” that exists between the team members.

“A good team fit requires an attitude of Partnership. Every team member must respect the other players. They must desire to contribute to the team, and they must come to expect a contribution from every other person. Above all, they must learn to trust each other. It is trust that makes it possible for them to rely on one another. It allows them to make up for each other’s weaknesses instead of trying to exploit them. It enables one team member to say to the other, “You go ahead and do this task because you are better at it than I am,” without shame or manipulation. Trust allows team member to begin working as a single unit, to begin accomplishing the things that together they recognize as important.” – John Maxwell

For your team to be effective, you must understand your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of others on your team. Key to your effectiveness is often diversity! Our differences make the team more effective; yet our differences also cause tension.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place; when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.” – Psalm 139:13-15

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10

Beware of overestimating your own importance and disdaining those you perceive as less gifted and significant. (Romans 12:3-8) A team is not one member, but many. Understanding and valuing the uniqueness and contribution of each member is critical to becoming an effective team. (1 Corinthians 12:14-27)

TEAM is a chosen value within OC International, and I am privileged to serve together on the U.S. Ministries team. We are learning how to appreciate the strengths and contributions of each of our team members.

In an article on TEAM within OC, veteran missionary Bill Keyes (my father-in-law) identifies ten common principles that normally manifest themselves. While no team is perfect, these are identifiable pillars in all mature teams.

A mature team has:

  1. a clear understanding of its purposes and goals
  2. a flexibility in selecting its procedures as it works toward its goals
  3. a high degree of communication and understanding among its members
  4. an ability to initiate and carry on effective decision making
  5. an appropriate balance between group productivity and the satisfaction of individual needs
  6. a leader that does not dominate, nor do any of the members; yet a leader’s primary role is servant-leadership.
  7. a high degree of cohesiveness (oneness) but not to the point of stifling individual freedom
  8. an intelligent use of its deferring abilities and gifting
  9. a capacity to be objective about reviewing its own process and progress
  10. a heightened level of spiritual authenticity and humility

Bill recognizes that working in teams comes with both advantages (strengths) and disadvantages (weaknesses).

Strength of team:

OC has asked this question on many occasions. Allowing the fields to answer, the replies reflect the following: “Team” offers (a) the development of multiple gifts; (b) one team member benefiting from the others; (c) caring for and sharing of one another’s burdens/needs, (d) greater accountability; (e) a context for spiritual growth; (f) a natural blending of temperaments; (g) more innovation/creativity; (h) an ability to accomplish more synergistically; (i) a louder/more visible voice before the church – in country; (j) a greater ability to fill in for one another as needed; (k) a context to be ‘family’ for adults and children; (l) a capacity to accomplish more in less time; (m) added wisdom as God blesses the multitude of counselors; (n) a stronger factor for retention in team.

Weaknesses in team:

OC has also asked this question. Again the fields respond: “Team”: (a) produces an environment for jealousies, feelings of inferiority, competition; (b) creates greater risks for misunderstanding – proportionate to the numbers within a team; (c) may produce greater sensitivity to correction, confrontation; (d) produces more inconvenience – demands that are often difficult to comply with; (e) does bring together people who may be opposites in character and temperament which creates special challenges; (f) brings together people who see and think differently; (g) can generate values and priorities that may clash; (h) demonstrates that there are differing ways to process issues; (i) can cause conflict amidst varying cultural values and attitudes toward time and ways to deal with conflict. (j) manifests strongly that one style of leadership does not serve all, etc.

One of the reasons why I joined OC International to serve as a missionary was because of OC’s commitment to TEAM. We don’t just talk about it, we live it!

For these qualities within team to be achieved, Bill suggests these seemingly non-negotiables. These are, but not limited to:

  • Geographical proximity – a certain reasonable proximity of distance so that each team member regularly connects and relates with each other.
  • Regular meeting times together for business, prayer and fellowship.
  • Periodic review of accomplishments, progress, concerns and issues done in full team sessions.
  • Established and understood practices and behaviors within the team that foster growth and harmony.
  • A spirit of accountability, mentorship and servant leadership.
  • An awareness that “team” is a means to the end and not the end in itself.
  • A realization that one’s team is part of something bigger so that it serves yet even a great purpose – that of OC and the Body of Christ.

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” – Romans 12:3-5

Author

Dave DeVries

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Dr. Dave DeVries is a coach, trainer, author and founder of Missional Challenge. He is passionate about coaching and training church planters and missional leaders. With 30+ years of church planting and leadership development experience, Dave brings his passion and encouragement to those he trains and coaches.
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