By Michael C. Mack
One of the most remarkable elements in the Tour de France this month is the peloton. Cyclists ride in tight packs to save energy by drafting—up to a 40 percent reduction in drag in a well-formed peloton—but there are many more advantages, including the encouragement from other riders and the teamwork involved.
Here are seven principles for developing great teamwork that we can learn from cyclists:
1. Become a group. Before you can build teamwork, you need to know one another. A great cycling team, as in any sport, spends time together, getting to know one another personally. It’s vital for cyclists to know the tendencies of the people they ride with. The same thing holds true for your team members.
2. Develop bonds of trust. In the peloton or paceline, you must trust the riders in front of and around you. If a rider in front of you just touches his or her brakes, it can cause many riders to crash. Discuss the vitality of confidentiality with your ministry team. Members must be able to trust others on the team before the unit can be truly successful.
Remember, a great cycling team develops a commitment to one another and to their shared goals as a team. On your team, trust and commitment go together like a chain and the cogs on a chainring.
3. Consider your roles. Each cycling team member has unique strengths and weaknesses. Some are sprinters, others are climbers, and some are “domestiques,” that is, cyclists whose role is to support and work for other riders. It’s important for your team members to know what gifts and talents they bring—for the good of the team. Every single member should have a role.
4. Work and learn. Your work is not finished once you form a team. Cycling teams spend lots of time on the road practicing for all kinds of situations. As your church team works together, and your gifts and roles become better defined both during meetings and while serving others, your teamwork will become stronger and stronger.
5. Share leadership. In a paceline, each rider takes turns up front. This is a way of serving the team, and it’s often hard work. But everyone takes a turn, giving the others time to recover for their next time up front. (A leech is a rider who takes advantage of the draft from other riders but never takes a turn up front. Be sure you don’t have any leeches on your team!)
In a good paceline, the front rider actually gets a small help from the riders behind him or her. Somehow, the slipstream provides a “push” for the front rider. Sharing leadership with your team may be the best thing you ever do!
6. Confess and speak the truth in love. Cycling team members must get really good at real, transparent communication with one another. To get better as individuals and as a team, they know they must be able to say “my fault” or correct other riders. Learn how to care enough to confront sinful behavior in an environment of unconditional love and with God’s grace. If you can’t speak the truth in love (and with the person’s best interests at heart), then you’re not ready to speak. Keep praying.
7. Have fun together! Riding with a finely tuned team is lots of fun. You go faster and can ride farther together. Serving together in healthy, genuine community should be exciting and fun! Laughing together builds friendships, which set the stage for partnering together more efficiently and productively in ministry.