Do you have a ministry team, or just a group doing ministry?
In my sphere of Christian service, we talk about various kinds of teams. We frequently use the analogies of a basketball team and a track team, referring to models of team wherein members work closely together to achieve a narrow goal (basketball players scoring points) contrasted with a dynamic where each member represents a larger vision but often functions in a more solo capacity (athletes from one organization/school/nation but competing in individual events).
Of course, there is a much greater variety in the concept of team than just these two flavors. Some function more like a relay team, with significant individual components of a shared project. Consider the roles of those involved in the many components of an outreach event—distributing flyers, planning crafts for the kids, live music, and perhaps the sharing of a Gospel message—each portion handles a vital segment of the course.
Other teams are more like an American football team, with working groups engaging at various times and perhaps carrying out specialized functions as needed. Think of the team that’s called upon to participate in a short-term mission trip or the biannual gathering assembled to do some much needed maintenance on the church property.
There is plenty of breadth in the consideration of team and what it can look like. So how do we distinguish between a well-functioning ministry team and a mere group of people who happen to be operating near one another?
Aspects of a well-functioning team
One central aspect is the group’s cohesion. In what sense do the members have a sense of “we”? This identification is a powerful one, and ideally exists at a number of levels. “We” can be defined by acceptance of a common goal, and perhaps especially a long-term goal.
“We” also grows from a sense of commitment: an investment in a shared purpose, but also an attachment to one another. We can learn a lesson from nature here: a spider survives and is supported only because there is a tight interweaving of a diversity of threads which are bound together. It’s been observed that there is no “I” in team; but clearly there is a “we” in web.
Questions to consider:
1. To what degree are your ministry associates linked to one another?
2. Does their connection go beyond a mere sense of everyone being a Christian, a vague notion of each being part of the Body of Christ?
3. Does the sense of affiliation go beyond simply operating broadly under the name of the same church or ministry organization?
4. Is the reality of the group’s cooperation more than just each person doing their part, but rather each person using his or her gifts and stewarding their opportunities faithfully—and doing so in light of the work that everyone else is doing—in order to achieve a God-glorifying purpose?
Do we need a ministry group here?
Groups are not necessarily a bad thing. Some projects only require a group effort; a landscaping unit may be just fine with one person cutting grass, one trimming hedges, and one raking leaves—without any higher degree of investment in one another or a grander purpose.
But when we’re looking at Christian ministry, serving people and inviting them into a present experience of an eternal relationship with Jesus, more often than not a true team will be able to bear fruit in ways that a simple group cannot. Relational impact, spiritual community, diversity of gifts, sacrificial service—these are the hallmarks of a ministry team experiencing the cohesiveness of being knit together to one another and to a larger purpose by the Holy Spirit of God.
Is this what your ministry staff looks like?
Allen Hamlin has served overseas since 2006, and provides team building consultation around the world. He currently lives in Wales, and oversees ministries in the southern UK. He is the author of Embracing Followership (Kirkdale Press; Feb 2016).
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