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So, today whilst waiting for a train, I was approached by a young man who asked if I was Andy. When I responded yes, he then informed me that he recognised me from a time I went into the school he attended. He told me my input through assemblies and services and time in the school had helped him gain an idea of what he wanted to be and do; he said how he had felt inspired and encouraged to follow his dreams, and was now at second year university. I thanked him for coming and talking to me, but this was not the end of the encounters.
Later, another young man came up to me and commented how moved he was seeing the other guy come up and talk to me about the difference I had made in his life. This second guy asked what I did for a living, and so I told him. It turned out he worked for Time For God as a field worker. We then shared some stories on the train and prayed for each other.
We never really do know the difference we make in people’s lives when they see something of us, and it is always worth remembering that people are watching, observing how we live, how we deal with things, whether we live up to what we say. We can always make a difference in people’s lives.
This may seem like a strange title, but it is interesting how sometimes team building can be seen as a threat rather than the opportunity it really is.
So what is team building? In its essence, it’s about a number of people coming together under the vision that someone has shared to do something together. In terms of working with young people, it is coming together as a number of people under the vision cast by someone to see a difference made in young people’s lives. So why on earth could this be a threat?
Well, the opportunity is maybe more obvious, but it does involve a sacrifice, as the threat is also obvious. The key threat within team building, is that the result may not actually work out in the way that you want it to as a team member! For example, imagine someone shares a vision to engage with a group of young people on an estate, in an area, in a park or wherever, and draws other people from other Church groupings in their town to join the team. It is always possible that the young people engaged with may not engage with the particular Church that the vision-setter is part of. This then brings the threat, for could it be that our church comes before enabling young people to encounter Jesus?
This, of course, is the opportunity: as a team, you do something that is currently not been done. Young people are being engaged with that have not been engaged with up until that point. A difference is being made in a community, on an estate, in a park – transformation is taking place. All obvious opportunities! The question is, which is the more dominant thought in Church life?
We often pray for God’s kingdom to come, to make a difference in the lives of people around us. Surely this needs to be more of the focus, God’s kingdom breaking in, making the difference, as opposed to us seeing the threat of things not necessarily happening for our particular Church gathering.
If we are happy to keep praying “your kingdom come” then we will take the opportunities that God opens for us, but if perhaps we feel the threat too much, then “your kingdom come” is maybe too big a prayer when it comes to team-building across an area.
I wonder when we talk about empathy, or empathising with others, how many of us truly do that, or even understand how that fully works. These are just a few thoughts to stir some thinking, from my experiences:
Understanding: Do leaders really understand who they are leading and working with? Do we understand the complexities and differences that different people bring to an environment? Do we even understand how a person processes, thinks, functions and engages?
Belief: Do we know someone well enough that we can truly believe in them and for them in a leadership context? Do we get to know people well enough that belief and trust are a given, rather than something that is needed to be proven?
Atunement: Are we in tune with those around us, so we understand their different characteristics, capabilities, and needs?
Empathy removes the need for perception or assumption, as it enables a leader to fully understand someone.
How best to empathise with someone: spend time with them, talk to them, understand them, ask them questions, journey together. It isn’t about jumping to conclusions due to what has been observed from a distance in a short period of time.
So as leaders, let’s start removing elements of assumption, elements of perception, and let’s truly understand people, believe in people and be in tune with them also.