Church Partners

Live Wisely

“Therefore be very careful how you live – not as unwise but as wise, taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil. For this reason do not be foolish, but be wise by understanding what the Lord’s will is. And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for each other in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ”—Ephesians 5:15-20 from the NET Bible (New English Translation).

During a recent visit to the growing ISI team at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, they asked about recommendations on exercises to use for team building since some of the members were relatively new to it. They were looking for structured activities to help them bond together and get to know each other better. My mind raced over the dozens of books I have read on the subject and the team-building sessions I had participated in or led in years past. My on-the-spot answer surprised both me and them. From the experience base I have to draw upon now, I recommended several things.
  1. First, go sit together and wait upon Jesus to speak to and through you as a group—no matter how long it takes. Jesus will speak if He thinks you are ready to hear what He has to say and will go do it. Your team’s direction is something to be learned from Jesus, and not something to be arrived at via compromise of individuals’ needs and desires (as important as those are to know). If your team cannot wait with Jesus a few hours in prayer (see Mark 14:37-38), you have some maturation issues as individuals to deal with first. Learning how to let Jesus lead the group is foundational!

  2. Second, take time to get to know each other—each person’s heart, story, history, needs, desires, fears, strengths, weaknesses, skills, spiritual gifts, previous experiences and training, what they do well and not so well, natural affinities and difficulties in relating to groups of people, personality, likes and dislikes, love languages, hot buttons, stresses, and sensitivities. Yes, that takes a lot of time, but we MUST learn to respect one another—and specifically why our team members are the way they are. Then, when their (and our) idiosyncrasies surface and are problematic, we will have patience in dealing with one another and the circumstances created. We cannot submit to someone we do not respect! We cannot help one another have the courage to grow if we don’t understand why they are stuck in their issues. We cannot utilize everyone in their areas of giftedness and experience if we do not know them.

  3. Third, discuss and decide upon the values which will be the foundation of your work together and procedures which will govern your work—and then commit to them as a covenant. Are you grace-based or performance- based, is it okay to fail in the service of learning together, is everyone’s opinion required on every decision,who leads when and how do you decide, what is the importance of the one-another’s of scripture, how is conflict handled (procedural, theological, emotional, personal), how is discipline applied if someone is out of line and who does it, how are roles on the team chosen and how does one ask for a change if there is not a good fit, how important is student leadership and what are boundaries of it, etc.? What does loving one another look like practically, and what is the freedom of submission to one another?
Living wisely, being filled with the Spirit, encouraging/ministering to one another, giving thanks to God, and submitting to one another regularly make for a great team! It takes time and a lot of personal investment to become a great team. But it is worth it!

Derrah Jackson
Director of Research and Innovation
International Students, Inc.