An Essential yet Frequently Neglected Ingredient for Collaboration

Recently I met with a pastor who wanted my advice about launching a new worship service at the church he serves. He shared with me timelines, objectives, strategies, and the detailed agendas for the next several months of launch team meetings.

I paused. “Ok, sounds good, but how well do these people know each other?”

“Well, I think some of them have probably met at some point.”

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Any long-term collaborative effort requiring a high commitment level from several people will face unforeseen obstacles, disruptions, and sabotage along the way. But one simple thing we can do to considerably increase the probability of effective collaboration is to strengthen trust and relationships from the start. No, not everyone on the team needs to become best friends, but there does need to be a bond that runs deeper than the shared objective.

At the beginning of a collaborative project that will require a high level of commitment, plan a brief experience outside of the “work” that can cultivate a unique bond of trust and shared identity – host a meal in your home, schedule a short retreat (even a few hours can make a difference), plan a time to recreate or relax together. Dare to have fun together. If it is a long-term project, repeat this sort of experience at an appropriate frequency. Teams bound by trust will not only have a stronger collective sense of what it takes to succeed, but they’ll also be able to take risks, innovate, and fail in ways that are ultimately productive.

This “cultivation of collaboration” is at the heart of Macedonian Ministry. It’s why we spend several months gathering together groups of prospective pastors before their cohort officially starts, allowing them to get to know one another and build trust before making a three-year commitment to learn, collaborate, and support one another. We’ve seen this collaborative spirit spread from pastors to congregations and communities. It’s contagious because it values people over programs and relationships over results. And – surprise, surprise – it also happens to be much more effective for accomplishing – and even exceeding – long-term goals.

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