Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Economy of Teams

This post on one of the travel blogs reminded me a bit of the dynamic of mission teams, how vitally important they are, and how someone is always out to destroy a team on a mission.

This past summer, I was able to be once again part of a great team. The team of 4 leaders and 6 students was great. The chemistry was there, we bonded well, worked together great and had very little tension over the 10 day trip. In terms of dynamics, it all flowed very smoothly. We only had to execute one intervention [some good fodder for another post.]

I know our team had an important job to do. The primary goal was to bless and encourage a family from our church that was living cross culturally. The secondary goal was to catalyze some relationships that were just starting to emerge for this family via some of their natural connections. Some of their new friends dropped by to see us, even the night before we were in the country. The whole week seemed like a reunion with old friends - relationships that grew deeper and deeper. We knew - and were told almost everyday - that we were making a big impact.

On the way home, a few of the team got upgraded to Economy Plus. The ones that didn't get upgraded were a bit of jealous - even me. A bit of tension came about because some people on the team thought that at least one person should give up their Economy Plus seat to me - team leader, old man, going back to day job, etc. So the three hours that we had left before boarding involved some underlying tension, 'the elephant in the room' and a final team discussion about the issue. All of this tension was based on a wrong belief. We all thought Economy Plus meant First Class. You know, the First Class that had better meals, a fully reclining seat and tons of room to move around.

Of course, when we got on the plane, we all realized that Economy Plus was an extra 5 inches - not what we had in mind. We all laughed at how stupid and silly the whole thing was. Or was it?

Could it be that someone, or something, will stop at nothing to tear our teams apart? Could something as trivial as 5 inches be enough to ruin the memories of a fantastic group of people that gave up their own time and comfort to travel 5000 miles to share life with a group of strangers?

I've thought often of that last flight home and even when I think of it now - I'm ticked off at the Enemy for almost ruining the last final moments of an incredible experience.

Here are a few other things I have learned:

- Be aware that our teams are first round targets.
Neo takes the red pill; Lucy steps through the wardrobe, Alladin rubs the lamp; Elisha prays that the eyes of his servant would be opened; Peter, James and John follow Jesus up to the Mount of Transfiguration. And all of them discover that there is far more going on here than meets the eye. - John Eldredge, Waking the Dead
Realize that it can be something so incredibly trivial OR something really important. Whatever the issue is, it could be secondary to your team becoming fractured. And your mission can't afford that.

- Address it, and do not ignore it.
You as the leader must deal with it. Even if you know the conversation will be difficult, take the initiative and risk and open the topic up. Don't ignore the issue, even in the last final moments of your experience. It would have been really easy for me to ignore it and let it fester among the team, especially in our final hours together. Letting it go would have left a bad end to a a really significant experience.

- Use it as a great teaching experience.
When your students remember back on it and think about how your team could work through even really bad circumstances and still make an impact on others and still grow from it, you can bet whoever or whatever is against you is going to be a little ticked too. And rightly so.

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