Since we were children, we have been part of groups on many occasions. Many have been informal—gathering with friends for meals or recreation, for example—while others have been more structured—classes, work groups, etc. We have all been part of groups, but how many us of have been part of a team? How can we tell the difference?
Groups are made up of individuals. Although they may be working on a common task, they still tend to think of themselves as individuals. Each person brings his or her gifts and skills to the enterprise, but each person is careful in how these are shared, providing only what is absolutely necessary to “do their part.” One reason is that rewards in a group are usually given to certain individuals—the designated leader or the high performers. Interpersonal relationships are guarded and cautious.
A team on the other hand not only has a common purpose, but the persons involved often have a role in shaping that purpose and how it will be achieved. The gifts and skills of each person are not only utilized, they are recognized and encouraged. Teams tend to be more than the sum of their parts because something happens when team members are invested in the outcome of the team’s efforts. A real team shares the rewards with everyone who is a part of the team because success or failure is dependent on the team dynamic and not simply individual achievement. Team members appreciate and empower one another.
Working as a group may be hard but it takes much less effort than building a team. Members of a well-functioning team will readily assert that it is worth the extra effort.
In I Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul pointed out very clearly the difference for Christians between being part of a group and being part of a team. He writes, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7, NIV). Each believer is blessed by the presence of the Spirit in his or her life and that Spirit calls forth certain gifts. The key teaching, however, is that these gifts are not just for the benefit of the individual but for the common good. The church is a team of people who are not only called to pull in the same direction but to share the giftedness that God have provided to each of them to accomplish the mission of God.
If you are a Christian believer, you are called not just to a group but to a team.