Friday, June 19, 2009

When "team" gets it right

There is an elusive dream that seems to be present in my church of doing ministry in "team." We talk about it all the time, we have read books about it, watched presentations about it even paid big money and gone to conferences hoping to learn how to achieve this pinnacle of togetherness. Yet, we seem to fail time and time again. Always falling to the persistent press of egos and agendas. I've come to wonder if this icon called "team ministry" really can or does exist anywhere; and why does it seem impossible for us to achieve. Is this a problem that is unique to our church congregation or is this a problem at other places as well.

We hold this "team" concept as a high value and I would guess that if we were to take a survey amongst our leadership both staff and volunteer...we would see that "team" would be in the top five of our goals. My suspicion is that we often use the word team to conceal the hurt we have when groups don't measure up to our expectations and we secretly think that by using the word team all of the difficulties of working together should just fade away. If we were getting 'team' right, then the machine would work the way it was suppose to with no hang-ups, hurts or conflicts.

There are many examples around of "teams" that get it right--sports teams that go all the way to the big game time and time again. Ministry teams whose churches exceed anybody's wildest plan. Businesses that continue to produce new and innovative products and have employees that seem happy in their positions. It seems that success is always tied to the concept of "team"; that success and joy seem to go hand in hand with people working together.

One pressing question I have is what happens when conflict arises on these teams. I have a hard time believing that everyone is happy all the time. That people don't hold opposing views. But how do these groups of people communicate their differences without sacrificing some of it's members? How do these teams recover from failure or hurt feelings; how to they protect themselves from agenda's and egos and power grabbing? How do they continue even after everything hasn't gone the way they thought it should? What is the secret? Is it worth it?

above is a book/bible study I am working on...any comments would be editing has taken place yet, so please be gracious


i am not said...

I like it when you blog. You should consider doing it more often:)

I have a couple of thoughts that struck me while reading this... Really just thinking out loud right now - hope you don't mind.

Dave recently told me about an old Japanese tradition where each person at a dinner party is responsible for the cup of the person to his/her left. Say you're sitting on my left - I am responsible for making sure YOUR cup is filled. Therefore, the person on MY left should be ensuring that MY cup is filled, etc. When translating this to personal social situations it fosters an attitude - in my opinion - of selflessness, kindness, helpfullness, and in a way teamwork.

Essentially the idea of a team is to work together to accomplish a goal, right? Teams fail when one member (or more than one) is more focused on his/her individual agenda or goals rather than the collective goal - i.e. when one person is more concerned with making sure his/her own cup is filled instead of the cup to his/her left.

I wonder if a good exercise for your specific team would be to have a regular (meaning monthly) dinner party/potluck thing where the one specific instruction is to always ensure that the person to your left is being taken care of. Maybe with the first party you give the instruction but don't give the comparison to team ministry, but refer to it later in a different setting.

The other thing that comes to mind when reading your post is a passage from Isaiah that hit me like a brick wall a few weeks ago. This is the Message translation:

Isaiah 1: 13-14(?) -
" 'Quit your woship charades. i can't stand your trivial religious games: Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings - meetings, meetings, meetings - I can't stand one more! Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them! You've worn me out! I'm sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning.' " (that was God speaking to his people)
Then verse 17:
" 'Say no to wrong. Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless.' "

Reading that passage reminded me of when we were super involved in our old church and all of the committee (and consistory) meetings that we attended or even ran. It ocurred to me that we had been having meetings to talk about doing ministry - instead of actually DOING ministry. After reading this passage I've become convicted that we should DO ministry and hopefully others will join us, instead of spending time planning HOW to do ministry. Truthfully, not everyone has a passion for what I have a passion for - so instead of trying to drum up 3-5 other people to come along side of me and talk about how to do it, I should just go and do it and invite others to join me.

Perhaps that particular idea is a little less of a teamwork idea as it would really involve only MY agenda and hoping others would follow. Hmmm.

And finally, the other thing that I thought about while reading this:
A phrase that Dave often quotes goes something like this (don't know it exactly): A leader is only a leader if others are following. (my insert: remember, even if only ONE is following that still makes you a leader... we often measure our success at how many are following).

Amy said...

I studied missions in college and learned that most missionaries leave the field not because their job is so exhausing or they cannot get along with the locals, but because they cannot work with the other missionaries. I have met many youth pastors when I was one and even now who have terrible relationships with their senior pastors or Education Committee members. It is so discouraging. Should we not have the same goals and drive to reach people?

I think a big part of teamwork is conflict and working through it. Of course teams do not always flow together. We sometimes dodge the Matthew 18 principle. If someone is not pulling their weight and passively standing on the sidelines or if someone is taking over and steamrolling everyone's ideas, we need to lovingly confront them. I have so much respect for the people who lovingly confronted me...less respect for those who talked about me behind my back. Yes, sometimes leaders need to be confronted too. My husband (who is a pastor) always appreciates feedback--both the negative and positive.

I would love to work through a study on confrontation/accountability and how it relates to teamwork. I struggle with when to passively say, "Well this is just how this person is and I have just to accept it" versus, "This person is not strengthening the body of Christ and causing harm...and it should be adressed to him or her." We did something similar to this years and years ago when I was a camp counselor. I daresay it was handled absolutely poorly and tore our team apart. It was really bad! Some of that might have been early 20's immaturity.