Is there a Godly way of working together? While there is no shortage of advice from the secular world when it comes to team work, as a Christian I find myself asking whether we have anything to add to the debate. Is there a way of working together that is effective, kindly and faithful to our calling? Here are some of my thoughts on the matter.

Jesus model of mission and ministry assumed team work. He called and mentored his disciples, and then sent them out (at least) two by two. We see this pattern repeated in the life of the early church, with teams led by well-known characters such as Peter and John, Barnabas and Paul, Priscilla and Aquila. But, while there is always the sense that the gifts and strengths of these individuals complimented each other, there is no denying that there would have been times when they had differences of opinion. Yet I believe it is how we handle these differences that is the key to effective, Godly teamwork.

Differences do not necessarily lead to disunity, as long as we get the basics right. One such ‘basic’ is to recognize where we are coming from and what we are bringing to the team – whether it is our personality, our spirituality (our way of expressing our faith), or our background circumstances.

Not long ago I was part of a group of local leaders grappling with an important question which was going to have a big impact on all of our futures, and we couldn’t seem to agree at all. One person was saying ‘Let’s go for it’, while another was saying ‘This feels all wrong’. Another was saying ‘This is not going to work’ and yet another was saying ‘We won’t know until we’ve given it a go’. Finally, there was the one saying ‘I’m concerned about the extra workload for all of us’. I went home demoralized, doubting our ability to work together at all. It was only later that I realized that each of our responses were legitimate, as they actually reflected the different giftings listed in Ephesians 4.11.

Respecting our differences, in turn, makes it possible for us to discern our different roles and responsibilities within the team. And this brings me to a second ‘basic’ we need to get right. I’ve found that, while disciplined communication is always important, (knowing when we are available, returning calls, answering emails, etc.), what matters most of all is holding a regular team meeting.

By this I don’t just mean ‘business meetings’, where information is exchanged and decisions are made, I mean time spent together in a ‘safe space’, where team members feel able talk through their differences, share their worries and concerns, and pray with each other. My experience has been that, when such gatherings are made a priority, they lay the foundations for good teamwork. They allow understanding to develop, differences to be respected and valued, and trust to be forged. Conversely, where these meetings are not made a priority, the door is left open to misunderstanding, frustration, and mistrust.

A final ‘basic’ to highlight would be accepting the simple truth that we are all flawed human beings and there is no such things as a ‘perfect team’. We are, in the words of Margaret Forrester, ‘a community of forgiven sinners’. We have been called to work together by an all-knowing and all-loving God, and, if we are to be effective, we have to rely on his guidance as much as we rely on each other.

Rev Dr John Young, Minister – Edinburgh Gracemount linked with Edinburgh Liberton