“Team-work makes the dream work” is a well-known expression. For us in YWAM it is much more than that, teams define who we are. Our values state that we are to operate in teams and if we drift away from that we are moving away from the movement we are a part of.
However, for me the word “team” often comes in a too technical form. I personally love much more the word “community”. I learned this from Rita Pretorius, a true hero in my eyes. When she split the word in two, it gave me a brand-new perspective- “comm-unity”.
This is a big concept, but we all do it in many different ways all the time. I and my wife communicate daily as we have the privilege to share life and work together, and we have both been leading the YWAM Constanta community. We have been together since 1996 and we know and trust one another on a deep level, but still, from time to time, we do miscommunicate. We have communicated daily for years but still we miss it from time to time.
The study tells us that we as a couple are not a team, we are a couple! If you add in one more person and the communication changes dramatically. Then we are a small team and as we add people into our midst communication grows in complexity. As a mission, I believe we are to do our best to add people in and be inclusive, so let’s not have small leadership teams just to avoid the complexity of communication. We will miss it from time to time, but the amazing gift it is to work together with a good-sized group of people that are willing to go for God and build a local ministry and impact the society around them is greater than the time I have felt the pain of miscommunication. We learn, we try to do better, and most of all we forgive because we understand that I see a part of the puzzle and all my colleagues see another piece of the same puzzle.
In our mission, I believe we are called to live lives of openness and brokenness, and we need to have communication that gives us space to learn and shape each other in our leadership team. I have learned a lot first of all about myself, in the meetings with my leadership teams over the years. Not to sound too negative but often my shortcomings and my less nice sides have been seen in those meetings. I need to work on myself in leadership teams so we get good communities. When we see that we don’t have it all together, we start looking for those team members who can make up for the lacks I have or those with stronger giftings in certain areas. I love vision, I thrive on seeing new things and moving forward, so I realized that I needed some people in my team who have a stronger pastoral gift. I am not super good in logistics so we needed people in the team that are strong on it.
We can so often be preoccupied with business, or even the culture of our different nations setting the agenda or a standard, and these attitudes and norms can hinder our communication and fostering of community in our leadership teams. Here are some examples that are not necessarily wrong ideas but we need to be aware of them and how they affect our communication: “I have been in YWAM for x number of years, I am older so I am your mentor,” direct and indirect culture, some speak as though they know everything and have learned to speak up because in their nation they just do that, and others do know a great deal and have the wisdom but won’t speak up as long as someone else is doing all the talking.
Communication is often to listen well and value the others in our leadership team to bring their perspectives and their puzzle piece of understandings. In my leadership team, I have had the privilege to serve with people from different parts of the world- Asia, America, and many parts of Europe, and each one had something to bring to contribute to the team. Where I as a Scandinavian had my strong side, I am aware that the American had a strong side where I was lacking.
If we don’t value people how can we have trust? And when we don’t trust we will struggle with unity. Value the perspectives and knowledge of our peers and be quick to recognize that they may have a better understanding or that we together need to form the answer to our challenges that we face.
Unity is so often this, to see and value the other person. Working in Central Europe for 24 years, I know something about an iron curtain or a wall that disunified Europe for decades. I see the effects of this in the West and in the East of our continent. Today we still, both in Europe and YWAM have a wall, just this time it is invisible and affects us deeply. But in our leadership teams, we can also have visible and invisible walls. This can break us from the inside out.
Unity starts with valuing people. Take away money, longer or shorter formal education, take away language, take away “old school” mentalities of West and East but value the individual for who they are and what they do. In our mission, we are all about to “do first, then teach,” which values your wounds and scars, your joy and your pain, your success and your failures. Because you can’t do life without scars and wounds, joy and pain. This is how most of us learn to ride a bike and ultimately how we learn to ride through life.
Fostering community in our leadership teams is about being people who value each other for our different experiences, points of view, gifts and contributions. It requires an attitude of inclusivity and creating room for others. I have for years shared with our community in Constanta and around Central Europe that good ministry comes out of good communities. We are not stronger than what we live and share as a community. Today we can say that good leadership comes out of the good community, because as strong as your community is, your leadership will also be. Good leaders always work hard to create platforms for others to flourish- the essence of leading is to serve.
I often wonder if we have bought into the secular tendency of performance culture, where my name and my title is what matters. Performance culture will undermine our communities and compromise our leadership. What the young generation of European youth are longing for and looking for are mothers and fathers with transparent heart attitudes and willingness to serve alongside them. A leadership team that fails to recognize this will struggle to have a lasting impact.
It all starts with an inclusive leadership community. If you can embrace each other with all your differences, making room for one another and leading your wider community out of that place of abundance, it will be catching and you will inspire and create a place for the young generation to rise up and make their impact in the nations.