Teammates, Not Competitors

By Dean Conkle. Consider these great teammates, past and present, in sports:

In football past- Jim Marshall and Carl Ellers, part of the famous Minnesota Vikings defense.

In football present- Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison connecting with touchdown after touchdown.

In baseball past- Dominic DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr and Ted Williams as referred to in the book Teammates Once, Friends Forever.

In baseball and basketball present- time will tell whether Alex Rodriguez and Derrick Jeter end up as great teammates for the Yankees.

Strong companies and products can be teammates:

Did you know that A&W, Black Fire, Barq’s, Crush, Dr. Pepper, Evian and Fanta are teammates under the Coca-Cola banner?

How about the fact that Mountain Dew, Code Red, Mug, Sierra Mist, Frappacino and Pepsi One are all on the same team under Pepsi-Cola?

Would it surprise you that Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, KFC and Long John Silvers all call themselves teammates under the corporate name Yum Brands?

Teammates can be seen in many other areas of life. Teammates can and should be seen even in the church of Jesus Christ, among various ministries of His church. The purpose of this article is to help every reader see children’s ministries, youth ministries and other ministries as teammates with each other, not competitors. There’s an alternative to having hurt feelings about which ministry has the biggest budget or fighting over who can use the fellowship hall on Wednesday nights. There’s no contest over which ministry is held in higher regard with the Session; there is no need for competition between ministries over volunteers. The desire is to see how these ministries can work together not against each other, for the glory of God and the good of everyone involved.

We will prayerfully seek to answer the question, “What can children’s ministries, youth ministries and other ministries within the church do as teammates in God’s kingdom?” I believe that we have at least four answers to that question.

1. Have Complementary Purposes for the Various Ministries

I love to listen to a symphony orchestra playing a piece that emphasizes diversity yet harmony of that particular movement. The popular “Canon in D Major for Strings” by Pachelbel wonderfully illustrates this. Different instruments play different roles through different parts. Combined, it is beautiful and harmonious music. Each instrument contributes to the overall excellence of the piece. Each instrument is complementary to the other instruments. Together, they are breathtaking.

This is an incredible illustration because this is how it should be in the Lord’s church. Church ministries should be complementary to each other not in conflict with each other. Having clear purposes for our ministries is biblical. Christ had a purpose for coming down to His people (See Matt 20:28, John 10:10 and John 12:46). Paul had purpose in his life (See Phil 1:21, 2 Cor 5:9 and 1 Cor. 10:31). Paul’s words clearly imply that we should also have purpose as well. The church should also have an overall biblical purpose. Each of its ministries should have its particular purpose that falls under the umbrella of the church’s overall mission.

Three questions on discerning purpose:

Does your church have a biblically based purpose for the overall good of the church?

Do the children’s ministries, youth ministries and other ministries of the church have purposes that harmonize with each other and with the church overall?

Does the children’s ministry purpose flow beautifully and powerfully into the purpose of the middle school ministry, which in turn flows wonderfully and effectively into the high school ministry, which continues the strong flow of purposeful growth into the college/career group ministry, whose goal is also in line with the overall church’s mission? An important question to simply ask is how complementary are your church’s ministries?

2. Allow the Older Students and Adults To Be a Blessing to the Children

Is there a law that says you have to pay to breathe the air that is around you? Is there a rule against going outside on a beautiful day after being in a house for five days due to snow or rain? How about a law that every American must stay awake for twenty-four continuous hours once a week? The answer to all these ridiculous questions is no.

Is there a place in Scripture that states you can’t be a blessing to someone because you are older than they are? Absolutely not! Just how exactly can middle school and high school students, along with the adults of the church, be a blessing to the children within that flock? I can think of two general ways.

Youth can joyfully use their God-given spiritual gifts on behalf of the children. 1 Peter 4:10-11 states boldly that:

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.”

Do we see any age restrictions in this passage, especially of older and more mature saints blessing children through using their God-given spiritual gifts?

Youth can also joyfully and prayerfully live out some of the “one another” passages of Scripture with them. In the Lord’s sweet strength we can, “greet one another” (Romans 16:16), “live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16), “encourage one another” (1 Thess. 5:11), “pray for one another” (Eph 6:18), “love one another” (John 13:34-45) as well as live out many of the other “one another” commands peppered throughout the Bible.

A couple of questions to consider:

Are middle school and high school Christians able to begin to prayerfully discover, develop, and use their God-given spiritual gifts on behalf of others? Based on Scripture as well as personal observations of over twenty-one years in youth ministry, I think they are indeed able to do this.

Are students and adults aware of the wonderful by-product of serving others that Christ mentions in Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to given than to receive.”?

I think it is true to say, that when we are a blessing to others, even to little children, we are indeed blessed ourselves.

3. Allow the Children to be a Blessing to the Older Students and Adults

Children really do say the darnest things:

Defining H20 and C02, a child said, “H20 is hot water and C02 is cold water.”

“The general direction of the Alps is straight up.”

“The people who followed the Lord were call the twelve opossums.”

“The four seasons are salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar”

And, “The word trousers is an uncommon noun because it is singular at the top and plural at the bottom!”

Children often say humorous things. They can do humorous things as well, even within the Kingdom of God. They can do good things, helpful things, things that can be a blessing to other people, even middle school and high school students.

While children might not yet know what their spiritual gifts are, they can be encouraged to prayerfully learn and live out the “one another passages” in the Bible. They can live out these commands towards their parents, their brothers and sisters, their classmates at church and school, to students in their church and neighborhood, and even towards adults who are part of the body of Christ.

The “one another passages,” apply to the children here. The only limit I see is in the “formal” teaching of one another. We can learn a lot from children around us. They can teach us or remind us of some wonderful truths. But Scripture is clear that God calls specific people to teach and give oversight to the flock (1 Tim 3:1-2 and Titus 2:1-5).

Here is an idea or two of how to help children be a blessing to the rest of the church, even middle school and high school students. Perhaps do a “One Another” study on Sunday night and encourage the children to prayerfully put into practice the “one another attribute” that they learned that week. When the study is done, have the children continue a class-wide emphasis on living out a “one another action of the week.”

4. Provide Frequent Whole Family and/or Church Wide Gatherings

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, many teammates have worked well together down through the decades, and it is the prayer of our hearts here at CE&P that children’s ministries, youth ministries and other ministries within the local church across the denomination would find themselves being excellent teammates with each other as well.

Various ministries of the church are different from each other but that doesn’t mean they can’t work well together for a common cause or event.

In at least five different letters, the Lord led Paul to use the phrase” fellow-worker” or “co-worker” concerning people that were helping him in the kingdom. In Philemon, Paul uses the phrase with Mark, Aristech’s, Dumas and Luke; while in 1 Thess. 3, Phil. 2, 2 Cor. 8 and Romans 16 Paul uses this term regarding Timothy, Epaphroditus, Titus, and Urbanus respectively. I believe it is biblical to view various ministries and those involved as co-workers or fellow-workers.

What can each of these church ministries intentionally doto demonstrate their connectedness? And how can doing this really be a blessing to all the families as well as to the church as a whole?

Some applications to consider:

Have different ministries work together to host a church-wide picnic.

Have various ministries work together to sponsor a family or church-wide skating night (with games everyone can play in the evening).

Have a Valentine’s Day party or dinner.

Have several ministries host a Reformation Party.

Have different ministries come together to sponsor one night of the church missions conference, utilizing those involved in each of the sponsoring ministries.

Have a few ministries collaborate on a church-wide BBQ/Pool Party or a church-wide “Lake Day.”

Have different ministries within the church team up to provide leadership for a church-wide service project (either on the church grounds or away from it).

It is our prayer that various ministries within the local church would work well together and bring out the best in each other. Great teammates are not limited to ball fields and corporate businesses. Great teammates can be seen also in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The goal is that our various ministries would work together as an intentionally orchestrated whole in a way that Jesus would be glorified. Viewing each other as teammates within the same overall mission will be a blessing to the whole of the church.

May God’s Kingdom be filled with ministries within the church where the participants view themselves as teammates not competitors with one another.

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