Do you ever feel effective ministry is something other people do? Like you’re grounded in the same, old holding patterns while the digital culture around you is soaring to new heights in creativity and technology? Sometimes our best efforts seem to go nowhere, or even worse, end up crashing in a big heap. While others fly ahead, we find ourselves covered in dust and beaten up by our humble attempts at effective media ministry.
By now it may seem obvious that ministry geared toward reaching the digital culture requires teams. In The Wired Church, Len wrote, “Don’t do this alone. Don’t even try.” Many of us recruit, train, and work with teams in our daily ministry efforts. But do we really practice effective teaming? Good teams should take us to heights unimaginable by ourselves. This is a product of not just a team, but a team with synergy.
How do we as 21st century pioneers find team synergy that will allow our ministries to take flight? The answer may lie in the working relationship of two brothers from the Midwest whose combined efforts went beyond what either could have achieved alone. As partners in ministry who share a brotherly type of relationship, we find inspiration in the Wright Brothers. We’re probably all somewhat familiar with their story, but as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of flight, it is worth taking a closer look at how they formed a team that changed the world.
The birth of flight was much less glamorous than many of us would picture in our minds. On the morning of December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur Wright put a plane in the air for 12 seconds, covering a total of 120 feet. That’s 10 feet per second, or 6.8 miles per hour. They probably could have run faster. But by the end of that same day they had launched three other flights, with the last going 852 feet in 59 seconds and ending in a dramatic accident that nearly totaled the plane and ended test flights for the rest of that year.
Their feat was remarkable in ways that we probably can’t fully imagine. It literally took years of blood, sweat and tears just to go 120 feet in the air. The path to this victory wasn’t smooth, by any means. The Wright brothers took their victories however they could. It is important for us to view our struggles in ministry with teams the same way. There will be conflicts and failures, with tiny victories in between, but if we stay committed, we can be assured that eventually, we will achieve an elusive yet transforming synergy.
What exactly do we mean by “synergy?” If you’ve experienced it, you know. Synergy is the humbling, Koinonia spirit of a team achievement that would be impossible if attempted by any one person. Synergy is the purpose of having teams in the first place the experience of being a part of something great. Synergy is truly living as the body of Christ.
As a team of two who have also worked both individually and collectively with a number of other teams, we have learned a few basic principles for developing team synergy. Many team principles are lessons we’ve known since grade school: basic, time-honored ideas that we just forget about in the heat of our passions. Being brothers, maybe Orville and Wilbur knew about some of these same principles, as well.
Lesson 1: Know something about everything, and everything about something
Teams with synergy are full of people who have a variety of gifts and talents. Pastors, artists, musicians, writers, and gifted individuals all contribute to the total experience. Creativity in this environment is exponential. This was true for the Wright brothers’ team as well. Although neither brother graduated from high school, Wilbur was well read, and an excellent engineer. Orville was the classic “class clown.” His ability to dream new ideas was his strength. Their combined gifts complimented each other, making them the first to develop a theory for flight that worked. It may not be a coincidence that those who failed before them in the quest for flight always worked alone.
As a complement to the need to have a wide range of knowledge, it is important for every person to have a specific role in both design and development. On teams with synergy, each person takes leadership in one area, but can also comment with some degree of authority on other areas. This is the number one difference between teams with synergy and ineffective teams, also commonly known as committees.
Keep this in mind: Joint ownership means not a single person leaves the meeting thinking, “This doesn’t belong to me.”
Lesson 2: There is no “I” in team
From the high school locker room to the professional football field, this lesson is one that we’ve all heard about many times. Have you ever really stopped to think about it? As ego-driven people it can be very hard to say “we” instead of saying “I.” Initially this may seem like something that doesn’t matter, but the first time you hear a fellow team member publicly stake claim to an idea you know was yours, you may feel differently. About his sons’ achievement in flight, Bishop Milton Wright once said, “Neither could have mastered the problem alone. As inseparable as twins, they are indispensable to each other.” This was the ultimate team of two, with no “I” in the way. They understood intuitively that the other was an essential part of their dream.
As worship and media designers, the creative process is ideally one of mutual participation and affirmation. This means that what is designed is the team’s creation. Keep this in mind: You can’t lose anything by saying “we” but you can lose a lot by saying “I.”
Lesson 3: It’s not who is right, but what is right
One way to recognize a team without synergy is to notice the order of discussion. If each person is waiting for their turn to speak rather than listening, and then using their turn to attempt to re-direct the conversation toward their own personal agenda, then synergy is not present.
Just like with lesson #2, teams with synergy don’t worry about personal egos. Instead, they worry about the idea. Is it a good idea? What can make it better? Discussion revolves not around personal agendas but attempts to make a good idea better. This means having thick skins, and being willing to let someone else’s idea “win.”
Keep this in mind: Alone, a bad idea stays a bad idea. In a team with synergy, a bad idea becomes a launching pad for something great.
In 1912, reflecting on his relationship with his brother, Wilbur said, “From the time we were little children my brother Orville and myself lived together, played together, worked together, and in fact, thought together. We usually owned all of our toys in common, talked over our thoughts and aspirations so that nearly everything that was done in our lives has been the result of conversations, suggestions and discussions between us.”
Each of us would be blessed in our ministry lives to have someone else about whom we could make this statement. Pray that God would bind your team together in such a way that you will take flight with team synergy.