Team Dynamics: More Than Ministry Partners

Nick Allen September 3, 2019

This semester on Tuesdays we’re taking a deep dive into Young Life team dynamics. If you missed the first couple posts, check them out here:

This third post in the series was written by Nick Allen.

The Gospel accounts give us a helpful glimpse into how Jesus dealt with challenging “team dynamics.” Interestingly, when Jesus handpicked the disciples, he didn’t assemble a preexisting friend group. Instead, he brought together what seemed to be a hodgepodge of individuals and taught them what it means to truly love your neighbor. In the disciples, we see the impact that a diverse group, without much in common, can have on the world around them.

In Young Life we are generally good at relationships – its been our calling card since the beginning of the mission. While this remains true, we can sometimes forget how to be intentional with the people next to us in the trenches. The health of our team relationships can impact our ministry, which is why it’s important that we are not just ministry partners, but friends as well.

Linking Arms

What does it mean to link arms? Peel the Onion is a classic Young Life game with a simple premise; a bunch of guys sit on the floor, link arms and pack together as tightly as possible. Then the girls attempt to pull the guys apart resulting in rug-burn and chaos. As much as I dislike the game, there’s a helpful analogy buried at the bottom of the pile. When we are linking arms intentionally, it takes a lot to pull us apart.

In my experience with Young Life teams, I’ve seen how easy it is to simply exist without really knowing the people around you. With busy schedules, there can be a temptation to do great ministry, but never really to spend time getting to know your co-leaders. We may do lots of contact work, run excellent weekly clubs and Campaigners and attend leadership every week, but if we don’t truly link arms and become friends with our teams, then we will miss out on what God has for us in the midst of great ministry – great community.

Jesus spent a great deal of time with his disciples. He performed signs, he taught them, he taught the crowds and he engaged the disciples both individually and as a group. We also know that they broke bread together. Sharing a meal was a culturally significant thing in the first century. While meals today are fast-paced and often insignificant, these meals with Jesus were anything but insignificant for the disciples; they were formative. It was important for Jesus to cultivate this type of shared experience so that after his ascension, there were rhythms and routines in place that would bring them together as friends.

In order for us to do healthy ministry, we must first and foremost be with Jesus, and with Him often. But community and shared experience with our ministry partners are also vital to team health and longevity. Just as kids see how we treat them, they see how we treat each other. The more intentional we are in spending time with our ministry partners, the better our relationships with them will be. The ripple effect will be significant.

Wasting Time Together

While encouragement, prayer, and Christ-centered conversation are essential to healthy team relationships, there must also be room for just “hanging out” with our co-laborers. My regional director taught me the importance of “wasting time together.” It’s something that has been beneficial to my contact work but can also change the way our teams spend time together. Intentional conversation is important. Praying with and for your co-leaders is important. But wasting time together is what friends do.

Some of the best memories I have with my friends are in moments of spontaneous fun. With busy schedules, it seems counter-intuitive to waste time, but the reality is that time in the company of friends is anything but wasted. My teams have struggled with this over the years. As an Area Director, I am so grateful for the volunteers in our area and I hesitate to ask for more of their time. But, in order for us to be effective as a team, we must prioritize time to be together. We will grow closer to Jesus and stronger as a unit if we commit to being friends, not just ministry partners.

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