By Gary Warkentin, Effective Ministry Teams
We often hear of teams dealing with adversity, particularly athletic teams. Interviews with sports figures describe how their team overcame hard times to win. The responses generally include sticking together as a team, not giving up, and not losing sight of the goal. Many say that adversity has also made their team stronger.
A good friend of mine, one who shares my journey through bladder cancer and chemotherapy, encouraged me to write this article to describe my own experience in overcoming adversity. While my challenge is personal, some of the lessons learned can be helpful to ministry teams facing adversity.
Team Unity Offers Strength During Adversity
Adversity is not something to be faced alone. There is strength in team unity during adversity. Each person on your team brings different strengths to the table when dealing with hardship. It is actually the blend of these strengths that brings the team through adversity.
In my case, my family is the team that is helping me navigate through my challenge. This includes one person in spirit who is Jesus Christ. He embodies all the strengths necessary to overcome adversity.
Team unity is essential to overcome adversity. In our family team, our love and commitment to each other have been the most important unifying factors. How we view our differences is key to team unity. Effective teams don’t just overlook their differences, but they actually embrace and value them. Valuing differences brings strength and unity rather than conflict. A team’s commitment to each other and their goals will help them overcome adversity. This is particularly important to know because our natural tendency when facing adversity is to try to find blame.
Patience and Endurance are Part of Adversity
In addition to team unity, overcoming adversity requires patience and endurance. When we are dealing with difficulty, it is not always clear how long it will last or how we will get through it. We need to be patient and not give up. Adversity can actually develop these character traits. The Bible also addresses this issue in James 1:2-4: “When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (NLT).
Team Members’ Strengths Help You in Adversity
The strength scales from the Leading From Your Strengths profile gives us a framework for different ways of dealing with adversity.
Some people see adversity as a problem and charge ahead and aggressively try to fix the problem. Others will be more reflective and try to determine the cause and chart a path through the adversity. In my case when we received the cancer diagnosis, my family’s initial response was shock and sadness. Yet soon their individual strengths became apparent. One of my son-in-laws was quick to focus on beating the cancer, while my wife and daughters were focused on the details of how we were going to get through the immediate treatments.
Team members will have different perspectives when difficulty comes. Some will be optimistic and some will be more realistic. Some will be more trusting and accepting of medical advice while others are more cautious and want to validate advice.
Adversity involves change that is not predictable. It is unexpected. When things are going well, we think that adversity will never come. People who are more dynamic tend to take adversity in stride, while people who are more predictable try analyze the trial and often ask why. For example, one son-in-law reminded me of the goal and God’s promises; meanwhile my son asked “Why?” and questioned the fairness of my illness.
Facing adversity is much like facing risk. The outcome is uncertain. Pioneering people want to try new things to overcome the adversity while structured ones feel it is best to stick to the basics and closely follow procedures.
Each of these strengths or approaches to adversity have value, but it is the unique blend in a team that help them overcome challenges. Team members must value the strengths of their team mates. In my case, when I felt discouraged, scared, and helpless, the strengths of different family members completed me in my weakness. My innocent granddaughters made encouraging cards for me … one of my daughters helped arrange for meals to be brought to us. The very presence of my family met my needs.
I am blessed to be part of a family team with many different complementary strengths – all the way from 6 lovely granddaughters to 3 loving and supportive adult children and their spouses to a caring and encouraging wife. They have been extremely helpful to me tin facing my adversity.
As you navigate adversity, consider your team’s strengths. Lean on them. And be ready to use your strengths to support them when they face adversity, too.