Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Tag: 4 types of teams

effective organizational cultures
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What makes an organizational culture effective?

Cross-cultural workers spend a lot of time thinking about, discussing, and examining cultures. Ethnography is a foundational skill for missionaries. But I have found that we are much less adept at understanding and describing organizational cultures, even the cultures of the organizations in which we serve. What does an effective organizational culture look like? What kind of organizational culture would lead to greater fruitfulness and well-being of our members? Even more mysterious is how leaders can nurture the organizational culture they would like to prevail. Or can we even change or develop our organizational culture?

I have just finished “The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups” by Daniel Coyle. I believe that this book begins to answer some of these questions, at least for me. Coyle set out to discover the reasons why some groups, teams, or organizations accomplish far more than what we would expect of them if we only looked at the sum total of the individual talents of their members. His research has resulted in an excellent and fascinating book about group culture. Coyle believes that these cultures don’t just “happen” but are intentionally created by learning and practicing a specific set of skills.

In his book, the author describes 3 essential “skills” of highly effective groups:

effective organizational culture
  1. Build safety
  2. Share vulnerability
  3. Establish purpose

Coyle devotes a section of his book to describing each skill. Each section includes multiple stories about great teams and organizations. Then it concludes with a set of suggested action steps for developing that skill.

Build safety

The first skill is all about the value of belonging. As cross-cultural workers, we are very familiar with the feeling of not belonging. Thus, we are often not able to contribute fully to the discussions and decisions in the cultures and communities in which we live. We long to belong, to be accepted, to be valued for our contribution. Even as we recognize that we will always be outsiders, we want to become “acceptable outsiders.”1 See Joann Pittman’s article “Learning to Be an Acceptable Outsider” for a better understanding of this term. We want to feel that it is not only safe to live in these communities but also safe to contribute meaningfully to its well-being.

combo teams
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Combo Teams

A number of years ago in this blog, I wrote about three different types of teams that we find in our mission organization.1I am indebted to Liz Givens who first identified these three different types of teams in SEND. Basketball teams are made up of multiple team members, working together closely and interacting frequently with each other about their various ministries. Track teams have a common purpose and team members support one another, but each person on the team works independently. X-Teams (expedition teams) are small teams found where a single expatriate missionary (or missionary couple) and a national Christian worker (pastor, missionary, or a lay Christian) partner together closely in ministry.

A fourth type – combo teams

But after discussing these different types with our teams around the world, I began to realize that there was yet a fourth type that was becoming increasingly popular. We are calling it a combo team. This type of team is not a single team, but a collection of multiple X-teams. In this scenario, missionaries serve on two teams simultaneously.

The ministry team is an X-team

The missionary serves with a national worker or a few national workers. This serves as their ministry team. The X-team is committed to a common purpose and provides direction and companionship in church planting and ministry. Normally, in these combo teams, the missionary is not the team leader of the X-team but serves under the leadership of a national pastor.

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.

Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash

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.

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