Let’s assume you’ve done it: you’ve decided to play to your strengths and have overcome your concerns about developing in an area where you’re already doing well. And you’ve decided to team together with others for maximum impact.
Now you have to decide what it is that you’ll do with your strengths… together!
Side note: I’ll be looking at this from a Christian perspective. But it always warms my heart to see how these approaches also benefit the secular world. We may use different terms (e.g., “High Performance Teams”), but the result is the same: outstanding accomplishment as people work together to produce far more than they could accomplish as individuals.
How do we do that?
Common wisdom in the last two decades seems to follow this approach:
- Identify your strengths/gifts
- Look at the world around you – what are the needs?
- Find out where these first two intersect: where do your strengths line up with needs?
- Go do that
This is loosely the approach recommended by Henry and Richard Blackaby in their “Experiencing God” curriculum. And before I get hate mail from Blackaby fans, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this approach.
But I will say I think there’s a better approach, and here’s why: finding out where I can use my strengths is an individual pursuit. If I intend to pursue service as a Christian individual, I’m back to limiting myself. I will either:
- have a narrow area I can help in
- try to do too much (that I’m not good at) and burnout
- make a very minimal impact
The key is to come together with others who can cover our areas of weakness. When we do this, we have an opportunity to counter all the issues above. We can broadly impact… we can carry a lighter load and be energized by service.
In fairness to the Blackaby team, they do encourage an endpoint of finding God’s will and working where God is active. If we truly did that, I’ll bet we’d find ourselves amongst a team of people serving with broad impact. But why not be more deliberate about aligning ourselves in teams of service as we seek to identify our strengths?
Pursuing service as an individual is an oxymoron for a Christian. We need to go back to our roots as Christians and remember the power of working as teams in our service. Read 1 Corinthians 12 in total and you’ll see how the Apostle Paul describes “High Performance Teams” by using the analogy of a body.
That body is knit together, just how God wants it… with gifts to be used in service to others, under the direction of God! Here’s the highlight reel from 1 Corinthians 12:
“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the Body of Christ… and God has put each part just where he wants it.” (1 Cor 12:12, 18 NLT)
“God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.” (1 Cor 12:6 NLT)
A New Look at the Older School
So, how do we get the best of all worlds? How can we identify strengths, team up in ways that give us energy, and determine where God is working?
One aspect of Will’s work in his book, Church Unique, provides the best model I’ve seen to achieve team alignment, using team strengths, to work alongside God’s ongoing plan.
If you don’t know where else to start, you can begin by asking questions in three categories:
2. As you look around your team, group, congregation… what are “WE” good at? What gifts have “WE” been given? (e.g., we can do killer construction projects… we can feed lots of people for next to nothing, etc). This is the COLLECTIVE POTENTIAL.
3. What gives “US” energy? What do “WE” get excited and enthused about? What do people turn out for and ask to do more of? This is the APOSTOLIC ESPRIT.
The point where all three of these come together is the sweet spot that aligns a team to meet a real need in a way that energizes people.
In my view, it’s the best of all worlds… and the world that will be the best!
How do you align teams with real needs? Where do you find yourself disagreeing? What other resources would you point leaders to in order to help form teams that produce?