Most of my working life was spent in teams. Some were ecumenical, others within one tradition. All were challenging and creative because of the different skills, experience and personalities of the members. At one stage I was part of a project which examined and supported team ministries, or as we preferred to call them ‘collaborative ministry’. Some of my most cherish memories, and deepest relationships were within these teams. But so were some of my most difficult days and worst nightmares.
My latest experience of working together is in the Area Meeting Trustee Body. After two meetings when I have been Clerk, I have a growing feeling that we are building a good team. We have stepped up a level the work delegated to sub-committees, each of which has its own Clerk. We have even agreed formal delegated powers to one group and formulated a ‘between-meetings’ process for making decisions that are needed quickly. I work with a Deputy Clerk, though we both see it as a partnership rather than one being merely a deputy for the other.
When I became Clerk, I tried to help the other Trustees by sharing with them how I thought I worked as a leader or facilitator. I know that I have a strong leadership style. I like to prepare well, provide all the information I think we need for a decision, and I am prepared to offer suggestions or options for the way forward. But I am also open to other possibilities. I will listen and adapt when alternatives are offered. I believe there is a greater openness in the meetings, a willingness to ask questions and share different points of view. But there is also a sense that we are in this together, and sharing lunch before the meetings has helped in this team building process.
This week my five year old grandson is staying with us. This is his first time staying by himself. So my wife and I are finding ways of working together and with him that help us all to enjoy our time together. In a way all-age teams are. I different from any other teams. We have to be sensitive to each other’s needs, aware of each other’s capacities, and give encouragement and support when it is needed. We also have to give each other space to be ourselves.
I am aware, of course, that this is Holy Week. The stories we have of the events that Jesus and his friends experienced reveal, the same kinds of tensions in any team. Leadership issues are not always beneath the surface. Sometimes things are going on that not everyone knows about. There can be divisions and disagreements, even betrayals. On occasions there are challenges from beyond the team which can bring people together more or drive wedges between them.
Perhaps one of the signs of the gifts of Jesus, is the way that afterwards his friends became such a strong force for change. It may have taken them some time; there may have been internal conflicts; but they grew in confidence and power. The legacy of a good team lies in the lasting effects of their work.