How to Build Team Unity

If you team is struggling, perhaps it’s because you aren’t unified. WinLose

Highly effective teams need to be unified. Whether it’s business, marriage, or governments—to be effective teams need to be unified. 

The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime. – Babe Ruth

Team members need to play together well and that requires unity.

It’s the leader’s job to be the catalyst for team unity. This means you create it and cultivate it. When everyone is thinking about other things, you need to be asking yourself tough questions like: 

  • What evidence do I have that the team is unified?
  • What signals of disunity am I detecting?
  • Have I taken time to cultivate unity?

You build team unity in three ways:

  1. The team leader builds unity. This isn’t to suggest that team unity is built around the leader, only that one of the roles of a leader is to create and cultivate unity. The leader must be intentional about the unity of the team. If you your team isn’t unified, it’s your fault. You haven’t done 2 and 3.
  2. Build unity around a mission. The reason teams exist is to execute a mission. To build unity everyone must be aligned around the roles and goals of the team. 
  3. Build unity by accepting one another. People want to be heard and they want their contributions to matter. Teams are unified when people feel free to contribute to the cause and that their contributions are appreciated. This doesn’t mean everyone gets to do what they want if and when they want. But it does mean that you can’t treat everyone the same.

Effective leaders realize that we are individuals first, team members second. Unity is fostered we invite individuals to contribute their talent to a team that is aligned around a mission and accepting of one another.

What about you? What have you learned about building team unity that you can share with us?

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The Hard Days Lead to Truth

After the death of his wife Joy, C.S. Lewis noted that his life felt like torture. His faith in God and his understanding of Jesus did not dull the pain of his grief for the woman he loved.

Indeed, sometimes life does feel like torture. But it’s worth noting that often this will lead us to ourselves and then to God:

Nothing will shake a man-or at any rate a man like me-out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself. —A Grief Observed

According to Lewis, we sometimes need to be knocked silly to know the truth.  Lewis and wife

In the last 18 months I have lost my brother, my grandmother, and earlier this month, my father. I was present in the room when my brother and father died. I have become acquainted with the sites, sounds and smells of death. I know the pain of saying goodbye to loved ones.

Grief ebbs and flows through my days. Sometimes it hits me hard–like getting hit in the stomach. Other times it’s a dull, slow throb–as if I am injured and unable to treat it.

Lewis is right.

In this season of loss, I have gained a clearer understanding of myself. And I have drawn closer to God not simply for comfort, but for everything. I realize I am utterly dependent on God’s grace and mercy. I knew this as an idea before all of this but now I have experienced it in a new way. For that, I am thankful.

We Christians aren’t immune to the pain of this world. What is important, at least as far as I can tell, is what we learn about ourselves and God in the midst of it.

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Why I am Reading Less of the Bible This Year

I am reading less of my Bible this year.

Let me explain.

It’s a new year and that means more resolutions. I like resolutions. The older I’ve grown the wiser I’ve become. I only make resolutions I might actually keep I know, that seems obvious, but it’s taken me time to figure it out.  Bibleotnt

Like many Christians I make reading through the Bible a new year resolution. I make this resolution even though reading the Bible isn’t a challenge for me. I love reading the Bible and try to make it the center of my life. 

But I have tended to make reading the Bible a project versus actually reading it to hear from God.

I tend to ‘study’ the Bible. I plow through the texts without reflecting on their significance in my life. I neglect my private devotional readings and instead read the Bible in order to teach or instruct on it. if you’re a church planter or pastor-teacher you know what talking about. At the end of last year, I realized that I was making the Bible into a project to be studied and prodded and finished, rather than treating it for what it is—the most important thing in my life.

So one of my new resolutions this year was to spend time reflecting on the Bible. Even if that meant reading less of it.

I looked for a reading plan to help me meet my goal. The plan needed to help me read systematically through the Bible AND give me plenty of time to do it.

This wasn’t so easy. See, I also bore easily. Not of the Bible–just the reading plans. I usually make it a month or so, grow bored and chuck the plan. Then feeling the pressure, I start reading the Bible straight through. This has happened several times over the past couple of years.

So I invested some time in December thinking, praying and looking for a plan to read less of the Bible and actually spend more time mediating on what I read…a plan I would stick with.

After much research, I decided that the best plan for me was to ‘hear’ the Bible, rather than read it.

I am on day 17 of reading along with the Daily Audio Bible. The Daily Audio Bible follows the One Year Bible Reading Plan that Tyndale (I believe) originally published. The plan provides daily readings in the Old and New Testament, the Psalms and Proverbs. It takes about 15 minutes for me to listen to the narrator (Brian Hardin) and then another 15 minutes or so meditating on the text.

After 17 days of hearing the Bible, I am embarrassed to admit that I’ve been missing out. I mean I know my Bible because it’s what I am basing my life on. It’s just that with a ‘limited’ amount of text each day and hearing the words…well it’s quite wonderful. I am hearing from God in new ways. It’s literally changing my life—again. headphones

Here are some things I do to ensure I attend to my readings:

  • I usually make space for reading in the early AM before ANYTHING else.
  • I listen to the App on my iPhone with headphones.
  • I have a hardcopy of the One Year Bible that I read while hearing it.
  • I keep my journal open nearby and write down questions, reflections or the things that I think God is saying to me.

Look, I ain’t no saint.

I am just saying that if I am going to profess to follow Jesus then I need to carve space into my day to hear from God and be disciplined about it. And there is no better means of hearing from God than through his Word, even if that means I read less of it to spend more time reflecting on it.

What about you? Are you reading through the Bible this year? What’s that look like? 

Have you struggled to read for life versus read for study?

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Does Prayer Work?

The final stage of my fathers fight with cancer was hard. He was in some pain and his strength was waning. He was so tired he could hardly sit-up. 

Abraham and the Three Angels  by Eeckhout (1656).
Abraham and the Three Angels by Eeckhout (1656).

My father was a believer and told me he was praying. He was only praying one prayer over and over: “Lord, heal me!”

One day he was particularly frustrated that the cancer remained; that the long downward spiral of his health continued. That’s when he said: “Let me ask you, as a pastor—does prayer work?”

You would expect my answer as a pastor and church planter to be yes.  But I’ll admit it’s not so simple for me. His question led us to deep discussions about God, and sickness and the seeming inevitability of his death.

After several more days without healing he called me, “If God won’t heal me, what’s the point of even praying?”

I imagine that lots of people struggling with terminal illnesses or tragedy or loss have said these very words. If God won’t do it my way, what’s the point of even talking.

My father died on January 2nd, 2014, from his cancer. Many of us who loved him were present with him that afternoon. While it was hard, I am grateful we were with him in those final moments.

In the end, prayer didn’t ‘work’ for my father—at least how he wanted it to.

But that’s only part of the answer, isn’t it?

Many Christians understand that prayer is not one-dimensional. It’s not simply one way communication. Rather prayer is dynamic. It’s a conversation between us and God; it’s the give and take each of us have with God in our relationship with him.

As a Christian, my father understood this. But this didn’t diminish his desire for healing.

One of the demonstrations of how prayer works occurs in Genesis 18.

God shows up in the guise of three persons. Abraham receives the men, showing them great hospitality. Soon, the men reveal that Abraham’s wife, Sarah, will have a child. The problem here is that both of them are very old and thus impossible that they could have a chid. Sarah laughs, and that’s when the Lord says to Abraham: why did Sarah laugh…Is anything too hard for the Lord? (Genesis 18:14).

Next, the Lord informs Abraham that he will bring judgement on the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah. He is here to see if the sins of these towns are as flagrant and wicked as he’s heard.

Abraham intercedes. He approaches God with reverence and humility and asks that he spare the towns for the righteous people living there. Abraham and God have a conversation, back and forth. Abraham pleads with God, do not destroy the towns for the sake of the righteous. He implores God not to treat the wicked and the righteous in the same way.

Abrahams prayer is bold—almost as if he was bargaining with God. God listens. God responds.

So does prayer work? 

The answer depends on how you look at it of course.

Prayer isn’t simply asking God for things. It’s a conversation—our personal and unique conversation with God.

My father spent many hours in the last months talking to God. While he was asking for healing, he was also talking to his maker. While asking for healing of his physical body, he was nurturing his spirit.

In this way, then, prayer did indeed ‘work.’ It brought God and my father closer to together. What my father really learned was how prayer works. And he kept at it, until the end.

See, when we pray we start a conversation with God. It may not work the way we want it to—but that’s how prayer works.

I’ve learned we must embrace the conversation with God and trust him with everything else. While that might be hard, the truth is that the conversation is what we need. After all, it is during conversations with God that we truly get to know Him.

I don’t know what you’re praying for today. Maybe it’s to be healed of cancer; maybe a new opportunity; maybe you need God to fix something that you’ve screwed up. Whatever, it is I know God is listening.

I don’t know if you’re prayers will ‘work.’

But I do know God wants to talk. Now, go ahead—He wants to have a conversation.

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The Most Important Question of the Day

Think of all of the things you want to do today as a leader. MostImportantQuestion

Perhaps it’s…

  • Arrive to your first meeting on time
  • Work on an important project
  • Set an agenda for your next meeting
  • Make some calls
  • Return emails
  • Send some emails
  • Follow-up with people

There are literally thousands of things you could be doing today. And all of them, to one degree or another, are important.

But maybe, the most important things aren’t always the most important things.

Perhaps wanting to get stuff done isn’t good enough?

What about the things you really want to accomplish as a leader? When are you going to get to those?


Maybe it’s…

  • Starting a new and better project?
  • Writing a book?
  • Stoping that thing you should have never started?
  • Finish something you should have finished?
  • Reorganize your team
  • Get the training you need

Leaders must push-through all the stuff that needs to be done (or even must be done) and instead focus on what they really are called to accomplish. 

To do this, leaders must make a habit of asking themselves the most important question: “Given what I truly what I want to accomplish today, what will be the best use of my time right now?”

All we have is the present. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. We all know this, but do we bother doing anything about it?

There are plenty of things we leaders need to do and yes, some we must do.

But until we start asking the question: what is the best use of my time right now, we run the risk of wasting hours and days accomplishing very little.

What about you? Given what you truly want to accomplish today, what will be the best use of your time right now?”

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