the shape of leadership

Better Together

Five habits that can help every member of your team work more collaboratively

Elizabeth Farina on October 9, 2019

When I started in ministry, I preferred to work independently. I enjoyed leaning in to my natural talents and God-given gifts and pushing myself toward success. I didn’t want to slow down to work with other people when I was confident and motivated to tackle challenges on my own. I would pat myself on the back after a job well done and say, I’m faster, more accurate and more productive when I work alone!

I enjoyed the satisfaction of independent success but became all too familiar with the full weight of missteps and failed projects. As the years clicked by, I found myself overworked and exhausted. The ministry became a lonely duty. I was a self-motivated, excellence-driven, hard-working individual who fervently wanted to see the Church advance. But, at the end of the day, I was still only one person.

I’ve since realized God designed us for collaboration. Jesus demonstrated this through His own life and ministry. While Jesus could have preached and performed miracles without His band of disciples, He chose to work closely with others, involving them in His mission and sharing the outcomes (Matthew 14:15-21).

Taking my inspiration from Jesus, I have come to appreciate the richness of collaboration. Whether with church volunteers, staff members, fellow pastors or district leaders, I have experienced the joy of working with — not just next to — others. I have found the victories sweeter and the disappointments more manageable when sharing them. I have accomplished far more for the Kingdom through teamwork than through holding tightly to my own contributions.

Here are five habits that can help every member of the team work more collaboratively:

Focus on the Mission

Having a clear understanding of the mission is critical to collaboration. Whether planning an event or attempting systemic change, knowing how an initiative connects to the greater vision keeps the goal in focus.

Styles and preferences may differ, but the mission is what team members have in common in the first place.

Maintaining that perspective guards against the temptation to become territorial about ideas. Having a big picture in mind creates space for multiple approaches. Styles and preferences may differ, but the mission is what team members have in common in the first place.


It’s frustrating to work with someone who never listens to what others have to say. In that situation, some will fight to be heard, but most will just stop participating. Listening makes room for multiple perspectives. Such input is a benefit of working together, but it can’t happen when one person dominates the conversation.

Listening to the ideas of others builds trust and serves as an invitation for them to participate.

Share Freely

The key to getting the best out of the people you’re working with is to give your best. Generously sharing ideas, resources, contacts, information and influence sets a tone. It exhibits a commitment to work together to get the job done. It reminds everyone that the mission is what matters.

It can be amazing what people bring to the table when there is a collaborative culture. Isolated workers use the top resources for their own advancement, but collaborators bring everything they can to the group effort.

Show Respect

The way team members treat one another is the test that determines whether they are truly collaborating or just working independently in the same space. Clearly communicating, honoring deadlines, inviting feedback, and expressing gratitude are all ways to show respect. The cherry on top is sharing the credit for the final outcome.

Celebrate Progress

Celebration fuels collaboration. Recognizing gains — however small they may be — assigns value to the contributions and effort that made them possible. Many ministry initiatives are slow moving, constantly evolving and lack a definitive end.

A collaborative endeavor can be discouraging when work remains undone or it seems to have missed the mark. Even when you are wildly successful in meeting your goal, the victory can feel like the tip of the iceberg. Cheering for progress ties each gain back to the mission and motivates people to continue participating.

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2019 edition of Influence magazine.

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