I have the privilege of working with a great team of missionaries all around the world. It is encouraging to keep in contact with them.
When I moved to China, we planned to work with a family who is also part of our larger missionary team. We had known each other for a while and we are from the same home town.
But many didn’t expect us to work together well. Why? Because we both can be hard-headed and strongly opinionated. This can be a recipe for disaster! Thankfully it wasn’t!
After working together closely for two years, I think we both believe that we were blessed by our partnership.
As I take three post to consider teamwork, let’s begin with the “why”.
Why Missionary Teams?
I think working in teams can benefit missionaries because:
- You can get more done.
- You can learn from those in different life stages.
- You can be encouraged from someone who has been there.
- You can teach the new and learn from the experienced.
- You can brainstorm with those who are like-minded.
- You can dream without being judged.
- You can be understood by other missionaries.
A team done right can become like a family who is rallied around a common goal or purpose.
A team is about giving and taking. You will be benefited by it and should desire to benefit others.
Why missionary teams? Because you need someone who says “I got your back.”
Choosing Your Team
Choosing a team can be difficult. It is hard to find men you are willing to go into battle with.
A lot of people like the idea of teamwork but they have the wrong view of it. Therefore, the team idea doesn’t last long and they simply become acquaintances.
So how exactly do you choose a team?
Here is what I have discovered:
(1) Find those who have common ground as you. You don’t have to do everything exactly the same but having the same doctrine and philosophy of ministry is going to be important.
(2) There needs to be a defined leader. Teams can get messy and there needs to be that person that can stop the noise and get everyone back on track. This leader won’t abuse his influence and people aren’t afraid to submit to him.
(3) Look for those who are looking to invest and learn. Being a team player takes some sort of commitment. Avoid those who are just looking for a handout.
(4) Know that you have to choose them and they have to choose you. It is a two-way road.
Now let me put these intro perspective of us going to the field.
When we chose to work with the family we did while in language school, we went through the above process (as I was advised by others at the time).
Here is what it looked like:
- We were of the same doctrine and philosophy of ministry. We had already worked in a team setting before.
- I was willing to submit to him while working in his ministry. In return he treated me as an equal and never took advantage of that.
- I was wanting someone who knew the language and could help me get started in China. In return, I wanted to be a blessing where I could.
- During our survey trip, we both showed a willingness to work together.
After two years of working closely together, my family moved, advancing the gospel to a new city. We still consider ourself a team even though we don’t work in the same city. We hope that we can continue to do more together for the gospel!
Making it Work
After choosing a team to work with, how exactly do you make it work? Here is what I have learned so far:
(1) Develop Respect for Each Other.
Do you really respect your teammate? If you can’t respect them, it is going to be hard to really work with them. Do you see them as a man of God? Or a lesser annoying untrained missionary.
(2) Treat them as Equals.
Do you treat your teammates as equals. It doesn’t matter your age, position in ministry, or how much experience you have if you are looking down on others. People want to work with those who listen to their ideas, who don’t crush their dreams, who treat them as equals.
(3) Be Genuine Friends.
Teammates should go past “acquaintances” to being genuine friends. Of course this is hard if you don’t genuinely like that person. You don’t have to force friendship. But you can lead, by trying to be their friend. Pray together. Eat together. Play together.
(4) Talk, Discuss and Stay in Contact.
Healthy conversation, chewing the fat, encouraging each other, and brainstorming is all part of the fun. But don’t get in the rut of arguing over the dumb issues. Avoid gossip and backstabbing. If you mess up, apologize.
(5) Share the glory but don’t steal it!
The up and downside of working together as a team is a victory is a victory for everyone. What do I mean? I mean when you work to get a victory don’t dismiss the team’s role in helping you get the victory. At the same time don’t steal the victory or work of others just because you are a team.
In conclusion, know that teamwork can be a great blessing. Yes, just like any relationship there will be those who take advantage of it. But once you experience working with a group of men of like passions from a distance and closely, you will be thankful for the opportunity and desire more people to be apart of this great team.
This post was originally posted as a 3 part series on www.chinaramblings.com and was reposted here by the original author.