3 steps to effective collaboration — The gospel according to soccer: Part 8

Last week’s post ended with this exhortation: “Let’s work with each other as teammates to make each other stronger, in orphan care and whatever else you are doing in the world.”

That sounds great in a vacuum, but is it possible and realistic to actually work together in this vast and complicated world full of busyness and competition? Not only is it possible and realistic, but it is absolutely necessary if we’re going to tackle the problems in our world at the level they need to be tackled. But it’s really hard, takes a lot of time and commitment, and requires humility, among many other things. So how do we do it? Piggy-backing on the lessons we learn from soccer, here are some (definitely not all) of the things that are integral parts of true and deep collaboration.

collaboration puzzle

  1. Each organization and person needs to play the role it/he/she was created to play–do its/his/her part using its/his/her strength. While we sometimes must “play out of position” and cover for each other, we can’t try to be something or someone that we’re not. Not only will we not be effective, but we will create inefficiencies and competition that we can’t afford.
  2. Don’t compete against each other. We can’t get jealous if some other person or organization gets more publicity. Rather, we should always champion others doing great, kingdom-building work, even if our organization may be struggling at that particular time. We need to celebrate with each other when we have successes, and encourage each other when one of us is down. We need to start acting like we’re part of the team that we’re on. It comes down to whether we believe that we serve a God of scarcity or a God of abundance. If we do truly serve a God of abundance, as Scripture repeatedly promises, we will know that God will provide all of His people with everything they need, money and otherwise, to do the work He calls them to. This is why I celebrate and rejoice when one of my fellow orphan care organizations gets a matching grants, builds a new school, or meets any other of their many goals that further alleviates the massive orphan crisis we’re seeking to address.
  3. IronSharpensIron_01_2 Challenge and sharpen each other. While competition has no place in collaboration because it divides and weakens, challenging each other and sharpening each other to be the best we can be, with the goal to make each other flourish and effectively further God’s work as much as possible, is critical to any effective collaboration. It is by sharpening each other that we create synergies in our work where we can accomplish much greater things than if we worked alone.

The creation of In Pursuit of Orphan Excellence provides a picture of how we make each other better and can create synergies when we work together.

In Pursuit of Orphan Excellence Mockup-Stack

In the book, we have 15 co-authors from different organizations around the world. Instead of seeing each other as competitors and working parallel with each other in organizational silos, we committed to working together with humility toward a common purpose by sharing our experiential expertise in various areas. If I, or anyone else, would have tried to write the book by ourself, if each author tried to tell the reader why their projects and/or thoughts are the “right” or “best” ones, or if we decided to have each author publish their thoughts in 15 separate blog posts on different websites, the end result likely would have been of very little use to the average person. But by working together, I believe that God created an excellent work that will positively impact the lives of millions of orphaned and vulnerable children around the world for many years to come. I’ve told many people that it I am as proud of it as any professional accomplishment in my life to date simply because I didn’t write and couldn’t have written most of it, it absolutely has been spirit-led from the beginning, and it could not have happened without a bunch of incredible teammates working together with humility and common purpose.

I’m so glad that I didn’t view my co-authors and their organizations as competitors and try to write the book by myself. Not only did they vastly improve the quality of the end product . . . I also now have deep relationships with new brothers and sisters who I love and would go to battle for and with, and who continue to encourage me regularly.

Online CollaborationRemember–it’s not about us, it’s about the kingdom and bringing a little bit of shalom to the world around us, whether in our homes, in our churches, in our communities, in the lives of orphaned and vulnerable children around the world, or wherever you’re working.

And in the end, it’s simple. In the church, we cannot fulfill our kingdom callings without working together with other Christians in a unified manner. In orphan care specifically, we cannot reach our goals of loving every child in the world as God loves them without working together in a unified manner.

So let’s start putting these 3 steps into action in real and intentional ways!

I’d love to hear examples from you on how your collaboration with others has created synergies and otherwise sharpened you to be better, and any other thoughts you have about this all-important topic.