Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Team Leadership Page 1 of 3

Wearing multiple hats

Today, one of my students wrote a note on their assignment about job descriptions, “I think I have too many jobs.”

I can identify. I have two mission job descriptions. Both of them are leadership roles. One of them is supposed to take up about 60% of my time and the other the remaining 40%. I have wondered at times whether they are not in actuality two full-time positions that have somehow both found their way on to my plate. Following that analogy, pieces of both do fall off the edge and slop on to the floor every once in a while.  Maybe more often that I admit.

Leading a team takes time

Over the past few weeks, I have had a number of conversations with both new missionaries and team leaders in a few different countries.   An observation that I have made in the past has been reinforced: leading a team takes time and more time that the team leader expected.  In these conversations, I have noticed a common theme among new missionaries – leaders don’t have time for them.   Leaders are so busy with their own ministry that they directly say or inadvertently give the impression that helping a younger, less experienced team mate is a distraction from their “real ministry”.   A few months ago, we featured in this blog the testimony of one of our area directors who had learned the importance of mentoring new missionaries.  But unfortunately, for many of us, we learn this lesson slowly.

As team leaders, we often make two simple assumptions when we invite and accept new team members.

Leading multicultural teams

Just a few years ago, we could find very little that had been written about multicultural mission teams.  The subject has been of great interest in our mission organization, since our membership is becoming increasingly international, and many, if not the majority of our teams, already include members from countries other than the USA or Canada.   But very few resources for guiding the team leaders of such teams were readily available.

A few would know of Lianne Roembke’s work, Building Credible Multicultural Teams.. Unfortunately, Roembke’s book has still not been released in digital form, and I cannot seem to find anyone who has written a review of it.  Then in 2011, Sheryl Silzer of SIL published her book, Biblical Multicultural Teams: Applying Biblical Truth to Cultural Differences. Silzer’s work focused on the formative nature of one’s childhood home and how that experience has impacted one’s view of what is right and wrong.

X-teams on the mission field

Part 5 on a series about teaming on the mission field.   In a previous post, we talked about the three main types of teams found in our mission organization. When new missionaries think about teaming, they are generally thinking about what we have called a basketball team. Basketball teams work together closely and interact frequently with each other about their various ministries.   But many of our mission teams are more like track teams than basketball teams. Track teams have a common purpose and team members support one another, but each person on the team works independently.

But there is yet a third type of team that is commonly found on the mission field.   We call this an X-team or an expedition team.    X-Teams have at least two members, a guide and an explorer.  We think of expedition teams such as Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay who made the first successful ascent to the summit of Mt. Everest in 1953.  The team was made up of a New Zealander (Hillary) and a Nepalese (Norgay), and their expedition leader back at base camp was Englishman, John Hunt.

The track team on the mission field

In a previous post, we talked about the three main types of teams found in our mission organization.   When new missionaries think about teaming, they are generally thinking about what we have called a basketball team.  Basketball teams work together closely and interact frequently with each other about their various ministries.

But many of our mission teams are more like track teams than basketball teams.   Track teams have a common purpose and team members support one another, but each person on the team works independently. They generally do not do ministry together.  For many of our track teams, each team member works in a different church, a different ministry project or even in a different town.  While they are geographically close enough to one another to make it feasible to meet together regularly, team meetings are relatively rare, because there is little need for ongoing coordination of ministries.

The basketball team on the mission field

In our last post, we talked about the three main types of teams found in our mission organization. Now I would like to discuss each of these three types in more detail.

Basketball teams work closely together and interact frequently with each other about their various ministries. Planning must be done as a team, because most of the key ministries involve more than one person on the team, and each ministry role is interconnected with what other team members are doing.
Biblical examples of this type of a team would be Jesus with his disciples and Paul with his missionary band of Silas, Timothy, Luke and others at various times.   These ministry teams did ministry and life together, side-by-side experiencing both the joys and hardships of proclaiming the good news.

Are we a team?

Our mission organization and many other agencies are committed to teaming. Our mission’s policy manual says that we seek to place our personnel in areas where they can meet and minister with other Christian workers (missionaries and/or national workers) who are committed to a common purpose, goal and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.

The majority of our new missionaries desire to serve on teams. Yes, many of them are assigned to isolated locations, but nevertheless they want to be working together with other missionaries.

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