We do not send individuals to provide services on their own. The Team is the functional unit of EMAS Canada.
Jon Kratzenbach and Douglas Smith writing in The Discipline of Teams (July/August 2005 issue of Harvard Business Review.) define team as follows: “A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable”.
They recommend that, “Teams should be the basic unit of organization for most businesses.”
Pat McMillan in the book The Performance Factor1 distills the critical factors for effective teamwork down to the following six elements:
- Common Purpose
- Clear Roles
- Accepted Leadership
- Effective Process
- Solid Relationships
- Excellent Communications
McMillan’s book is essential reading for all EMAS Team leaders. These timeless principles lead to the synergy we see in the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-6) and where —in the context of missions—the strength of two as seen in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 is in stark contrast to serving alone. Further, we see Christ’s example here:
And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach (Mark 3:13-14).
What we find through experience in EMAS is that when teams are strongly committed to our common purpose, the pursuit of Christ-likeness, they become characterised by three qualities that influence relationships and produce long-term cohesion.
The three qualities are Acceptance, Interdependence, and Accountability.
The willingness to receive and relate to people in the same way Jesus received and related to them is modeled by EMAS team leaders—all of whom understand God’s unmerited favour towards people. This creates an atmosphere within each team in which individual members are valued first for who they are in God’s sight, rather than for what they contribute directly to the mission’s medical and or educational goals. Many pre-mission team meetings are an extended family community gathering out of which only a small group will travel overseas. In preparation for any mission, many will get a chance to hear and be part of the team’s plans. We are surprised by the special gifts that God brings to our mission through unexpected channels. A dental team found that catering on mission was both complicated and time consuming for their small contingent of healthcare professionals, but because pre-mission meetings were open to non-specialists they found a volunteer willing to meet all their catering needs.
EMAS team members work throughout the year on various activities that develop interdependence away from the mission. These voluntary activities give team members opportunities to give and receive hospitality, not all of which are mission related. Relational investments are made internally to one another rather than to the team’s overseas beneficiaries. Interdependence emerges based on the understanding that Christ is building the team into a unit that represents Himself. Team leaders follow the biblical teaching that God seeks a people united with and in direct control of Christ; team leaders are stewards who point the team to Christ (II Corinthians 4:5), and members deepen relationships before the mission through prayer, fundraising, preparing lessons, and sourcing and packing supplies. Working this way, the volunteering team members create new relational networks and strengthen existing ones.
One quickly notices that accountability during a mission on an EMAS team is a free flowing responsibility for one another rather than following a chain of command based on hierarchy. The ideal of becoming like Christ creates working communities where individuals do not count status as a thing that separates but rather a tool for serving others. In Matt. 23:8-11 we are instructed on God’s hierarchy, and in Phil 2: 2-8 we are taught to be like-minded and put other’s interests above our own.
When team members actively look out for ways of constructively caring for one another, everyone becomes responsible for everyone. EMAS Canada as an organization exerts minimal influence on relationships within a team, giving each team maximum autonomy. Strong bonds within the team lead to loyalty within the team.
When we examine the time tested essentials of teamwork such as competence, complementary skills, defined goals, communications and leadership, we see something interesting.
We continue to see—after 70 years of short-term missions through long-term projects—that the critical factors for effective teamwork function best in a team that is deeply invested in Christ-honoring relationships within itself and in serving others.
1Macmillan, Pat. (2001) The Performance Factor, B & H Publishing Group, p 29
All Scripture references are taken from the New International Version (NIV)
A physician and surgeon in his native Kenya, Peter has a passion for Christ-centred healthcare and has a wealth of experience both hosting and sending short-term mission teams.