Navigating your onramp – Five lane-markers…
Twenty-five things I’d like to say to missionaries serving their first 3 months of a long-term ministry.
by Mark Morgenstern
Without trying to stretch the metaphor of an onramp too far, piece by piece throughout this course I’m going to unpack for you a long list of ideas that will be helpful to you in the place and time you now find yourself. We’ll package those ideas into 5 lane markers, to line you up with the future-looking tasks and fundamental attitudes that this course is all about. Remember, change represents the circumstances that take place around you, while transition represents the healthy process of adaptation that you choose to work through in the midst of that change.
Lane marker 3 – Connecting to…My New Team?
Almost everyone who sets out to engage in cross-cultural Gospel ministry is happy to be doing that with others rather than alone. Organizations present their teams and philosophy of teamwork as an asset, and applicants will carefully choose which team they desire to be a part of. Team is a wonderful thing. But useful team is not a guaranteed thing. Functioning in a healthy and productive manner as a team is not as simple as gathering a group of people and then applying the label “team” to the group. Truly being a team requires intentionality, sacrifice, time and work.
The responsibility for constructive behaviors that lead to good teamwork falls to everyone on the team – not just the leader, not just the veterans, not just… The responsibility for a good team is on you, so do all you can to be the most positive team member you can be. As a new member of your ministry community, you are not in the position to rewrite how your team functions, but you certainly can proactively make the effort to build strong and deep relationships with your colleagues. Perhaps you can take the initiative to invite every individual or family on your team to your home for a meal or out for a fun activity. Time spent together in a variety of situations always accelerates how we understand and appreciate others.
A reality of every human relationship, including ministry teams, is conflict. We disagree often, and the harder part is that different individuals and personalities will take different approaches to how they disagree — competition, avoidance, negotiation, compromise, dominance, deference. These are all common philosophies that various players will take when they find themselves in conflict situations. Learn about this. Talk about this in your team. And see if you can come to a place where you realize that each conflict style can be extremely appropriate in certain specific situations.
Connecting to your new team is the most obvious place where the fundamental attitude “Don’t go it alone” comes into play. You are new to the team, a rookie. And there will be an interesting interplay between the energetic and idealistic rookies and the wise and experienced veterans. You have the ability to help that interchange be healthy, respectful and mutually valuable. How you enter your team, the attitudes you bring and the collaborative behavior you choose to engage in will undoubtedly create a trajectory for the quality of the teamwork relationships in which you will find yourself years down the road.
In this new season of your life, it is quite possible that faith and work will mix for you in ways that they never have before. You have the challenge to not let your walk with Jesus become institutionalized, something you do because you receive a paycheck. At the same time, you are part of a “family business.” Those with whom you serve are not simply colleagues who you can merely tolerate 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Those you minister with are family, brothers and sisters in Christ. Family is your primary relationship and the “work together” piece is secondary. This is a tricky thing to balance. Your part as you navigate the onramp into your team is to work hard at being family, be a faithful follower of those who lead, and take seriously the admonitions of Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 about the beauty and the necessity of the diversity (in all forms) of the individuals that God chooses to assemble into local Christian communities.
- True teamwork flows out of relationships, so take the initiative to spend time with your teammates.
- Conflict will come in your team. Be part of using all kinds of conflict styles in constructive ways.
- You’re joining a “family business.” Find a healthy balance in that and learn to appreciate the diversity God has purposefully assembled in your team.