The business books tell you that you need to get the right people on the bus and in the right seat, meaning a good team is made up of the right people who are passionate about the mission and vision and are able to use their gifts in their assigned role. People working in a position that fits them, as well as a common commitment that brings people together will allow for greater results.
In my book for this month, Leading from the Sandbox: How to Develop, Empower, and Release High-Impact Ministry Teams, T.J. Addington defines a high-impact team this way: “A group of missionally aligned and healthy individuals working strategically together under good leadership toward common objectives, with accountability for results” (Loc 284).
Teams are great, right? Biblical even. Jesus, the Son of God, brought a group of 12 guys along with him almost everywhere he went, passing along important lessons and asking them to do the same. Paul and Barnabas and others traveled together to spread the good news as we read about in Acts. While some prefer to work as the Lone Ranger-type, usually things are best accomplished when we all get together and work toward a common goal.
We talk a lot about gifts as well in the spiritual community, in addition to any organization or business setting. As believers we know that God has wired us each differently and given us something unique that we can contribute. T.J. Addington said, “I am fascinated that God designated the senior leadership of the church as teams and not individuals….This is a recognition that God gives various gifts to people and that the team is strongest when they work in concert with one another” (Loc 321). Doing a job, working in a role, that is life-giving and that fits in with each person’s gifts while contributing to the good of the whole allows for creativity, synergy and focus for the task. And I think in general we have more fun and feel better about life when we are doing something we enjoy!
I’ve been pondering how all of this relates to frontier mission work (going to the places where no one else is working). There are a large number of roles to be filled: leader, evangelist, teacher, mentor, vision cast-er, linguist, project-manager, just to name a few. When the question is, “What needs to be done?” rather than “What can I do?” (one of the many things my boss used to say that will always stick with me), the focus shifts from my individual contribution to the task at hand, namely thousands of people who have no access to the Gospel. It means that a team of 2 or 3 people might be playing the roles of all of the people on the bus, not finding the perfect seat. Does this mean not really thriving, operating in areas outside of one’s gifting and maybe not even getting to use the gifts given from God? I’m all for networking, pulling in people to fill the gaps. What does this look like in situations where there’s no one else in the same region or even in the same country? How much more quickly will a person burn out if they are continually operating in a position that might not be a good fit for them, out of a passionate commitment to the Kingdom and to fulfilling the mission and vision? Do we throw our God-given gifts aside for the greater task at hand? Or should that even be a consideration? Do the same business/ministry team models apply?
I don’t have any answers, but would love it if you do and want to share them with me. Leave a comment about pioneer work, individual giftings, thriving on the field and how these fit together or don’t.