I remember getting the text from a friend about a job interview they had just finished at a local ministry. “I’m not sure if the position itself is the right fit—but I love the way the leaders care for the staff here. I’d consider the job just for the opportunity to be part of the team.”
TEAM. There’s something pretty incredible about that word, isn’t there? Business Dictionary defines team as a group of people with complementary skills required to complete a task, job, or project. But you and I know that a true team is far more than job titles and assignments. We can spot good teamwork at a sporting championship on a Saturday afternoon or at a restaurant on a busy night. We can hear it in the way worship songs are played and sung on a Sunday morning. And we can feel it in the way we are treated—and in the way we treat others—in the day-to-day.
“As we got bigger, the meetings got smaller. Everything moved behind closed doors. I used to feel like I had a purpose. Now I just work here.” Those words, shared by a ministry leader, are a sobering wake-up call to any of us who lead. How do we continue to make teamwork a priority as we grow and adapt to the needs of communities we serve?
We are designed for teamwork. God Himself decided that it wasn’t great for us to operate in isolation, that we needed community and conversation and companionship. But so often, in our good efforts to create structure and efficiency so we become a more productive team, we can destroy the very essence of what championship teamwork does for an organization.
So, how do we keep team culture vibrant and alive, no matter our size or scope? Entire sections are filled at bookstores on workplace culture, but there’s no need to spend thousands of dollars when you likely have a great guidebook sitting on a shelf or one click away in your hand. Jesus created an excellent culture in an environment that wasn’t ideal. He did more than talk a good game—He founded a world-changing ministry with unpaid staff, no multi-page budget spreadsheets, and no off-site strategy sessions. Yet, He was efficient and focused, and there was a purpose in everything He and His disciples did.
He started with a couple of reminders. “Care for others with the same commitment in which you would care for yourself,” and “Treat others the same way you would like to be treated.” Create an environment in which people feel they are being treated with dignity and honor. Be graceful. Be kind. Be present. Be generous with all forms of appreciation.
Jesus then invested in His team in three different places: the table, the road, and the hillside. He invited his team to the table, and He served them well by humbling Himself and affirming them. He shared information and He allowed questions to be asked. He knew that, at the table, there were those who questioned, those who wanted more power, those who struggled. And still, He invited. He empowered His team to walk the road – equipping them well to serve fully, encouraging them as they wondered what leadership might look like, listening to them as they celebrated and as they felt defeat. And He found the hillside to be a perfect place for quieter conversation with individuals. He wasn’t afraid to speak truth. And He was still comfortable when that truth was received with concern or confusion or a comedic smirk. Jesus never compromised His mission. And yet, He was patient, He was faithful, He was trustworthy. He championed teamwork. And the championship legacy of His leadership continued.
Brad Lomenick, Orange ReThink Leadership speaker and best-selling author, brings it all home with this quote. “A leader’s job is to shepherd, not necessarily to always shine. It’s about the mission, the team, the tribe—not about you and your ego. Leaders today should be more conductors than solo artists. . . . When you prioritize your team, your team will prioritize you.”
We can do this. I know we can.