When Your Team Disagrees

My wife Ellie and I have been married for 34 years. I am more in love with her now than when we got married. I know it is hard to believe, but we never fight. We just have intense fellowship!

Ellie and I come from very large Italian families, and were both raised in fast-paced New York City. We are passionate about what we believe and we are not afraid to share it, even if it’s during holiday family gatherings! I’ve learned that encountering disagreements within a marriage can lead to growth and deeper communication, but only if healthy boundaries are established ahead of time.

Serving together in ministry can be a lot like marriage. Evidence of a healthy staff or board is that the members are honest and transparent with each other. They should each feel the freedom to share openly – in love and with respect – if there’s a disagreement. I call this having a culture that encourages having a critical mind without a critical heart. 

Many Christian leaders think a mark of a Christian organisation is that everyone agrees. They go out of their way to eliminate or minimise intense fellowship because of the
belief that conflicts are bad and should be avoided. I believe the opposite.

When a group of intelligent leaders on a staff or board come together to achieve an important mission, in our case to share the love of God with prisoners and their families, they naturally bring varying experiences, beliefs, and styles to the table. It is both natural
and productive for strong disagreements to arise—and, in my view, it’s desirable.

I love working with strong, godly, opinionated people – people who can think critically but whose hearts desire what is best for all involved. They can think critically, but their heart’s desire is to please God.

The fastest way to lose great people is to not allow them to debate important issues. It is in these tough discussions that relationships are built. Jesus is revealed not in only the final decisions we make, but also through the process of us working together to reach those decisions. Resolving those issues is what brings out the best in a team, and increases the bond that holds it together during difficult seasons.

So set the ground rules first:

  1. Critical minds are welcome – critical hearts are not.
  2. Disagreements will be presented with respect for everyone involved.
  3. Oppositional arguments will be thoroughly considered before a decision is made.

 What other ground rules do you need to establish for your team to have healthy intense fellowship?

Article originally published December 1, 2015, in Prison Fellowship International’s PFI RoundTable.

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