Friday, January 02, 2009


Not ever having been on a sports team, I had a lot to learn over the past years about teamwork. I was one of those band people, which has it's own lessons to learn and some aspects of teamwork. The part that is really lost, though, is the leadership aspect. In band, leadership is somewhat dependent on ability (as it is also on a sports team), but many times it's requirements are lost to the conductor. On the teams we've worked with, missions team, leaders are "chosen", or emerge, based on commitment, passion and hopefully on an intense desire to serve others. Here are some lessons I learned this year from my team experience.

1. Teambuilding can be mundane, unless it's intentional.

Our first summer in Hungary, we went with craft projects that were easier assembled on the ground than attempting to travel with them pre-assembled. An example: a popsicle stick treasure chest, which had they been assembled before we left, would have required us to re-assemble them once we arrived. No way those things would have survived a duffel bag trip through a few countries!! In order to do this and various other crafts for 50 kids, we would set up a debrief/craft meeting in the evening. Everyone, crafty (E.O'b) and not so crafty (T!), would participate. For real, this could have been the most mundane, unexciting activity ever. Instead, it was fun. Some of that was the team, some of that was the leader team. In perspective, the leaders of our whole team would have thought that activity to be beneath them. Our leaders saw this as an opportunity to grow our team.

Fast forward to this summer. I had envisioned a few teambuilding activities that I was unable to inspire others to view as the same.... assembling crafts, making T-shirts, "fundraising", serving others. In an effort to just "get things done", many of these activities were owned by an individual or pair or a few. It's difficult to build a team with 26 people on it, but I wish we'd been more intentional about that! After this last trip, we have adopted the belief that the most effective short term teams - especially in the team building phase - are teams with 15 or fewer members. At least that's what we think.

Finally, don't underestimate the power of messy, frustrating activities in building a team. I wish to this day I'd put my foot down and made us tie dye T-shirts together!! The fact was, I didn't really care how messy or time-consuming this activity would be. I just really wanted it to be an activity we did together as a team. We would have remembered doing it together, our shirts would have been owned by us and even if they looked awful, we would have loved them!! Being handed a t-shirt just isn't the same. And no activity as a team is a time waster, unless you allow it to be. Sure - it takes time, work and effort to turn a mundane activity into an intentional team building. But the pay-off will be felt on the field.

Good team building activities:
Tie-dying T-shirts
Serving together in any capacity
putting together skits
field trips to unknown places
mall scavenger hunt (esp for team supplies!)

2. Fundraisers should be called FUNraisers or TEAMraisers.

This year, fundraising was a HUGE issue. The biggest issue was that we have phenomenal fundraising kids, and that's what they wanted to do.... raise funds!! The problem: our church is commited to raising NO funds for short term teams on church property, which includes any kind of advertising for those events. Fuzzy lines here, as church partnership ventures "seem" to have full support of in house fundraising, although as we learned this past summer, many of those were "unapproved" and just happened. Anyway, this led to many (heated) discussions of what is appropriate, inappropriate, worthwhile, waste of time, possible, impossible or just plain what were we doing anyway!! Another biproduct of this debate was the fundamental belief about fundraising for short term missions and how realistic was this as opposed to pooling those funds to support long term missionaries. Here is what I have decided is my own feeling about fundraising.

A. It should fall within the guidelines of what is acceptable in your church or it just isn't appropriate! - Outside of what is acceptable is, in my opinion, dishonorable. There were some questionable activities, I think, this summer and some (not all) were motivated out of disdain for church policy. This gets you nowhere, especially with God. Major soul searching needed in these cases.

B. All fundraising activities should focus on team building and informing others, NOT money. I stand firm in my belief that our "fundraisers" are misnamed. That is fine for a school activity that is solely intent on raising money, but our events should be solely intent on a. working together as a team, b. raising awareness about our team, it's function and those we are going to serve, and c. should not feel like a burden, but as an opportunity. We miss the point as a short term team if our only goal in these events is to raise funds. We miss an amazing opportunity to showcase our cause, to show off God and to let the world know that there are families doing great things abroad. If we are missing any of those three elements, we should just not do the fundraiser. Also, if a majority of your team can't participate, you should just skip it.

C. Fundraising guidelines need to be clear to all leaders and team members. A leader who cannot live with the guidelines shouldn't be a leader. We didn't really anticipate that our teams would be excited to sell candy bars or wash windows for complete strangers, which led to some real misunderstandings about our intentions. It is SO important to send a clear message of intent, not one of desperation.

D. Finally, BE CREATIVE!! Keeping in mind teambuilding, opportunity to make others aware and using gifts to serve, God will provide the funds. When we think it all falls on our shoulders, we get a little needy looking. When we spend hours baking together, hanging together at a local grocery store to sell our wares AND play a little music, talk to people about what God is doing in Africa and how we want to go help.... whether you come home with $1 or $100, you've accomplished something.

3. Everyone is potentially a leader.

There must always be the belief that we are looking for strengths in each and every team member, building them up, offering opportunity to succeed and fail and evaluating how we are doing. In some way, big or small, every person has the potential to be a leader. As leaders, we need to learn to be better leader builders. We need to give away things that we want to do and do the things that nobody wants to do. We need to encourage risk taking. We need to make people think differently about themselves. We've had duds, or people who just aren't ready to own their leadership skills... and part of what we do is recognize when we have one of those! God chooses and places people on our teams - work with them.

OK, that's all for now. Gotta go get ready to be pampered. LOL

No comments: