By John Hebert
ALEXANDRIA, La. (LBM) — Unity is a key spiritual principle expressed in the Bible: two who walk together are in agreement (Amos 3:3); it is better to have two working together so that one can pick up the other if the other stumbles (Ecc. 9-12); and, a strand of rope consisting of three cords has great strength (Ecc. 3:12).
Cohesion, working together for a single purpose, is an element of unity, which Jesus prayed about in His plea to the Father for you and me, living today (John 17:20-23).
Building cohesion within a group is a primary task every leader must perform, so it is critically important to learn and develop this leadership skill.
POWER OF COHESION
Draft horses are a good example for explaining the power that is created by building cohesion.
These animals are bred especially for pulling heavy loads. They are amazing beasts of burden with huge muscles, large hearts and lungs.
A single draft horse weighing about 1,700 pounds can pull almost five times his body weight or 8,000 pounds.
Moreover, yoked together, two of these herculean creatures can pull even more. Most people likely would guess the tandem could pull up to 16,000 pounds, but they would be wrong. Typically, two good draft horses working in tandem can easily pull 24,000 pounds — that’s three times what either properly prepared equine could pull alone.
But, that’s not the only surprise.
If two draft horses pulling together have trained together and learned to work as a cohesive team that capacity surges to 32,000 pounds, or four times what either could pull solo. Working as a unit in agreement quadruples what either of the two steeds could do on their own.
COHESION KEY TO TEAMWORK
You can see from the example of a teamed pair of draft horses that building team cohesion is a very special skill that all church planters, pastors and ministry leaders should master – cohesion multiplies the amount and effectiveness of the work that we can complete.
The key to creating harmony, a necessary component of cohesion, is to stay on top of potential or actual points of conflict – address them quickly and resolve them biblically.
Even in being swift to start the process for resolving a conflict, take the time to allow the Holy Spirit to cause people at odds with each other to set aside their personal agendas and prejudices when they are off the mark.
Make sure those involved know the underlying spiritual principles in the resolution process and use fairness – no favoritism, and, a laser focus on the objectives or completing the task — to guide you and them. Be sensitive to each person as a brother or sister in Christ.
Importantly, remember that individuals will differ from each other and that creating harmony is not demanding sameness of opinion. Instead, it is facilitating oneness through Christ!
In that regard, do not think it is your job to “make them work together.” Your role is to “help” them be responsive to God’s will in every matter. Keep it spiritual!
Yet, even in being focused on the spiritual nature of a situation, be sure to provide some logical information to all involved. People can deal with facts in context.
“Truth” is the best guide, and the “Truth” is our standard.
Too many times someone will exert that “facts are not our friends” – but this is a phrase used to often to bully others into just accepting someone’s opinion on a matter.
Also, be aware of what it felt like when an adult told you as a child, “Because I said so!”
It is not an effective way to motivate children, and it is not a successful approach with adults.
Make your communications with team members count – be clear and on message. Listen to your people. Be keenly sensitive to the signs of a bad attitudes – they are contagious and need to be addressed before they impact the morale of the group. Find out what new team members are good at and integrate them into the team quickly. It makes them feel valued and extra hands make the work lighter for everyone, keeping long-term members refreshed and adding a spark of fresh fire to their enthusiasm.
WORDS TO LIVE BY
In one of my favorite books, “Wooden,” legendary UCLA Coach John Wooden (10-time NCAA basketball champion) concludes a chapter on cooperation by saying, “Ten strong field horses could not pull an empty baby carriage if they worked independently of each other. Regardless of how much effort they exerted individually, the carriage wouldn’t budge without their mutual cooperation.”
I would only change his words of wisdom to state them in the positive sense: When ten strong horses work together as a cohesive unit, they can pull a locomotive.
You will find that to be true as you help your leaders and team members work together for the Kingdom of God.
John Hebert is Louisiana Baptists missions and ministry team leader.