When I was younger, I was an athlete and pretty cocky. In my sophomore year in high school, I played on the junior varsity basketball team (JV) and was a substitute on the varsity team. I was not humble and had little respect for my JV coach. In my mind, I was already on the varsity team and my JV coach did not have much to teach me. As a point guard, part of my job was to pass the ball to create opportunities for my teammates, but I was far more oriented towards making plays on my own. During one practice, my JV coach, trying to get me to pass more, said, “Dishon, there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team!’” I waited until he turned his head, and said just loud enough for him to hear, “But, there is a ‘me’!” I ran a lot of laps that day. Did I mention that I was cocky? I wish I could tell you that I outgrew that independent streak, but I still struggle with it from time to time.
In ministry, I find that my natural tendency is to do things myself instead of building teams. When GCI put forward “team-based, pastor led” as an element of the vision of healthy church, I was not enthusiastic about it at first. I believed in the power of teams, but sometimes they take time to get going. And, what if they slow down decision-making? Then, I started to learn a bit more about Jesus and how he approached ministry. If anyone could have acted independently, it was him. Yet, he gathered a team and rarely did any ministry alone. Jesus also taught that we too should do things together. In his longest recorded prayer, notice what Jesus says:
I have given [believers] the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me — so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:22-23)
Jesus never commanded us to get a lot of things done as quickly as possible, however we are commanded to love each other. If we internalize this passage, we will see that part of the work of the church is to participate in Christ’s work to make humanity united. Therefore, building teams is not just a strategy for Christians to work efficiently. Ministry teams are, in part, how we testify to the reality of Jesus. Teams are meant to build and reproduce unity.
As you think about the discipleship of children and youth, I encourage you to take a team-based approach. Teams are not only more impactful in the long run, but they can serve as models of the unity for which Jesus prayed. Whenever possible, we should also be teaching our children and youth the importance of teams as part of how we disciple them. There are plenty of articles in the Equipper to help you develop a team-based approach.
I am happy to say that I have grown some from my sophomore year in high school, and I have a great appreciation for teams. I have adopted a personal “never alone” policy in my ministry work. Whatever I am doing (i.e. going to a conference, meeting with community leaders, praying for discernment, etc.), I want to be either building a team (sometimes just a team of two) or creating opportunities for emerging leaders to learn, if possible. In my work as the GenMin Coordinator, one of the first things I did was assemble an advisory council to discern God’s will with me, and I included this photo so you could see the people who are helping me experience Christ as we serve the children and youth of GCI. I want to say “thank you” to the GenMin Advisory Council for helping me experience the blessing of unity in Christ:
Top row: Ruth Phillips, Dishon Mills, Carrie Osborne. Middle row: Tamar Gray, Hazel Tabin, Desiree McKinnon. Bottom row: Reuel Enerio, Ceeja Malmkar. Not pictured: Eula Doele.
In thinking about your congregation’s engagement and discipleship of children and youth, what if you assembled an advisory council of not only members of your congregation but community experts as well? What if you modeled unity in Christ for your young people? What if you made the commitment to never do anything alone?
Dishon Mills, Generations Ministry Coordinator US