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The story of 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team’s pursuit of the gold medal was one of the greatest Cinderella stories in all of sports history.  But it was far more than just a great sporting event.  It is also a great case study in what makes a great team.  And the principles apply to church teams as well.

Sometime after the Olympics, coach Herb Brooks talked about the team and gave several insights about what this team so special.  In this week’s article I want to mention three of the qualities that Brooks mentioned that can be helpful for building church teams.

1. Build A Sense of Family

Brooks said that even these hockey players came from all different walks of life, they “came together”.  They became a true team.  They weren’t just “on” a team, they “became” a team. That means authentically caring about the other players on the team and taking the time to enter into relationship with them. They had a sense of community that transcended the goal they were trying to accomplish.  When we think about building great teams in our church, relationship and a sense of community are crucial.  It can’t just be about results, it also has to be about relationship.

Brooks mentioned that these college hockey players came from different walks of life but they came together as a team.  What a beautiful picture of how it should be with the body of Christ.  People from all different backgrounds coming together, united in a common cause, for the glory of God.

2. Hard Work and Sacrifice

Not surprisingly, there was an incredible commitment and work ethic.  You don’t half-heartedly stroll into greatness.  Coach Brooks set up an extremely rigorous training schedule.  They played 61 exhibition games prior to entering the Olympics.  One night after a poor exhibition performance against Norway, the team started toward the locker room after the game.  The coach yelled “Get back on the ice.” For more than an hour they did grueling line drills, which the team called “Herbies”, named after their coach.  After trying to get the team to leave, the custodian turned off the lights.  And Coach Brooks had them keep skating in the dark.

Representing your country and playing for a gold medal is an incredible honor and worthy of your very best.  How much more should that be true for us as we represent the King of Kings and do ministry that has impact for eternity.  We make lofty statements like that all the time in ministry.  But I do think we should really take the time to ask ourselves if we really believe that.  Do my actions and passion and work ethic reflect someone who deep down believes that what we do in ministry matters… and matters for eternity?

3. Great Resiliency

One definition of resiliency is the ability to recover quickly from difficulties.  Great teams don’t give up.  When they get knocked down, they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and get right back to work.  They learn from their mistakes and they get better.  They have a strong spirit of endurance and perseverance.  

Doing ministry is messy.  And doing ministry with a team is even more messy.  We are in a battle.  Spiritual warfare is real.  There will be time when there is lack of clarity and lack of communication.  There will be seasons of chaos and dysfunction in your ministry organization.  You will be let down by people and trust will be breached.  It just comes with the territory.  To be a great team you must develop a thick skin and a never give up attitude.  

It’s pretty easy to read an article and gain new insights about teams.  And it’s fairly easy to sit with your team and discuss this stuff.  The real challenge is take the risk to start implementing and living this out.  Building a great team is not easy… it never has been.  But it is not an overstatement to say that your ministry’s kingdom impact hangs in the balance.  

I leave you to ponder a famous quote from Herb Brooks… “Risk something or forever sit with your dreams.”

Lance is the founder of Replenish ministries and is often referred to as a Pastor’s Pastor.  He is also the author of the book Replenish, which is dedicated to helping leaders live and lead from a healthy soul.  Before launching Replenish, Lance served 20 years as a senior pastor and 6 years as an Executive/Teaching pastor at Saddleback Church. 

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