“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” -Helen Keller
I remember getting the text from a friend about a job interview she had just finished at a local nonprofit. “I’m not sure if the position itself is the right fit,” she wrote, “but I love the way the leaders care for the staff here. I’d consider the job just for the opportunity to be part of the team.”
There’s something pretty incredible about that word, isn’t there?
Business Dictionary defines team as a group of people with complementary skills required to complete a task, job, or project. But you and I know that a true team is far more than job titles and assignments. We can spot good teamwork at a sporting championship on a Saturday afternoon or at a restaurant on a busy night. We can hear it in the way worship songs are played and sung on a Sunday morning. And we can feel it in the way we are treated— and in the way we treat others— in the day-to-day.
“As we got bigger, the meetings got smaller. Everything moved behind closed doors. I used to feel like I had a purpose. Now I just work here.” Those words, shared by long-term church staffer, were a huge wake-up call to me when I was part of that church’s leadership.
We prided ourselves on being a safe place for all who attended, yet we had failed in being that same safe place for our own employees.
You and I are designed for teamwork. When you think about it, God Himself is the original champion of the word. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit worked hand-in-holy hand to create humans in their image and likeness. They decided that it wasn’t great for us to operate in isolation— that we needed community, conversation, and companionship. But so often, in our good efforts to work on structure and efficiency so we become a more productive team, we destroy the very essence of what teamwork does for an organization.
Good teamwork creates championship cultures.
So, how do we keep team culture vibrant and alive, no matter our size or scope or job? Entire sections are filled at bookstores on workplace culture, but there’s no need to spend thousands of dollars when you likely have a great guidebook sitting on a shelf or one click away in your hand. Jesus created an excellent championship culture in an environment that wasn’t ideal. He did more than talk a good game— He founded a world-changing ministry with unpaid staff, no multi-page budget spreadsheets, and no off-site strategy sessions. Yet, He was efficient and focused, and there was a purpose in everything He and His disciples did. And those disciples took that same culture of teamwork and changed the world – without big titles or huge platforms or well-decorated resumés.
Jesus cultivated that teamwork culture with a couple of reminders. “Care for others with the same commitment in which you would care for yourself,” and “Treat others the same way you would like to be treated.” Create an environment in which people feel they are being treated with dignity and honor.
Be graceful. Be kind. Be present. Be generous with all forms of appreciation.
Jesus then invested in His team in three different places: the table, the road, and the hillside. He invited his team to the table, and He served them well by humbling Himself and affirming them. He shared information and He allowed questions to be asked. He knew that, at the table, there were those who questioned, those who wanted more power, and those who struggled. And still, He invited. He empowered His team to walk the road — equipping them well to serve fully, encouraging them as they wondered what leadership might look like, listening to them as they both celebrated wins and felt the sting of defeat. And He found the hillside to be a perfect place for quieter conversation with folks. He wasn’t afraid to speak truth. And He was still comfortable when that truth was received with concern or confusion or a comedic smirk. Jesus never compromised His mission. And yet, He was patient, He was faithful, He was trustworthy.
Jesus championed teamwork. And the championship legacy of His leadership continued to live out in others.
Take a moment and read Acts 1 in the Bible. A room was filled with 120 people, all gathered as a team. There was no delineation of those with influence and those without. They knew that, together, there would be power. Jesus had encouraged them to support each other, encourage each other, and hold each other up in prayer. When it was time to name a new apostle, they cast lots — perhaps they threw dice or maybe they drew straws — but the new apostle, Matthias, wasn’t selected because he had wooed people with his theological prowess or incredible persuasion skills. He was part of the team – and that’s all that mattered.
And he was declared a champion.
The impact of that team culture in Acts 1 is demonstrated in a powerful way in the next chapter. The 120 became hundreds and then thousands and then millions. The impact of that team culture is still felt today in your life and in mine.
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Motivational speaker Brian Tracy says, “Teamwork is so important that it is virtually impossible for you to reach the heights of your capabilities or make the money that you want without becoming very good at it.” Jesus knew this. The 120 knew this.
Steve Jobs puts it this way: “Great things in business are never done by one person; they’re done by a team of people.” Yes, in business and in life, you and I are created for teamwork. Jesus’s teachings are as relevant today as they were more than 2000 years ago.
Good teamwork happens when we care for others with the same commitment in which we care for ourselves. Good teamwork happens when we treat others the way we would love to be treated. Good teamwork happens when we invest in the lives of others — when we invite people to gather, listen well, celebrate victories, offer comfort in difficult times, encourage with wisdom, and remain trustworthy through it all.
Good teamwork creates championship cultures. And it all starts by being champions for each other. We can do this. I know we can.