This session is designed to strengthen the relationships amongst your team, learn about one another, and look at four main areas including: Personality Profiles, Testimonies, Spiritual Awareness and Nuts and Bolts of Team Dynamics.
Suggested time frame: This can be done on a weekend away or in two/three evening sessions while preparing a meal together.
Why do we believe in personality assessments? These types of activities result in a discussion and allow individuals to share items they would not necessarily bring out on their own. The assessment highlights the fact that we are all different! This encourages us in the value of how uniqueness builds a strong team. It breaks the perception that one or two people are on the outside and those inside are the same.
There are many options available but we have found the Myers Briggs surveys are a good option. If this doesn’t work for your team then feel free to find one online.
Sharing Your Story
This can be a very vulnerable time for you and the members of your team. It is important to build a safe environment where people feel comfortable sharing how God has moved though their lives. Encourage everyone to be as open and honest as possible when giving their testimony. Giving people time constraints or other boundaries often makes them nervous. Just listen and let them share.
If someone is having difficulty knowing what to say you may want to ask questions like:
What was your life like before you met Christ?
How did you come to Christ?
How has your life in Christ made a difference?
If the person sharing is not a Christian, they can feel free to talk about their life growing up and where they are at now in life.
An example of a personal testimony can be found in the book of Acts, chapters 22, 23 and 26. Paul takes a “before, how and now” approach to telling his story.
As Hands at Work we completely believe that God wants to reveal himself to each member of your team. There is a deep spiritual significance to serving the poor. We are close to Christ. See Mathew 25.
God wants to speak to you through your team experience; the question is “how will you respond?” We encourage all teams to cultivate spiritual awareness as they prepare to come to Africa, and every day as they are on the ground.
At its most basic, spiritual awareness involves a time of devotion and prayer to start off the day, as well as debrief time at the days end. This allows people to share what God is doing in them. As team leaders we recommend that you facilitate the debriefs. This means ensuring that these times happen, encouraging healthy discussion and leading the debrief. We recommend that you do not lead all of the devotionals. Encourage others to take turns leading.
When discussing what this will look like for your team, we suggest that you bring in someone who will be able to speak into the subject of spiritual awareness (Pastor, Youth Pastor, Church Leader, etc.)
Prayer is a vital part of our everyday lives as Followers of Jesus. This is how we communicate with God and build a relationship with Him.
As a team it is important to build a strong prayer life. While in Africa you will be challenged, overjoyed, encouraged and heartbroken by the things you see and experience. Lifting these things up in prayer on a daily basis can help you to process the things that God has brought to you.
Prayer plays an import role in our Hands family, work, and communities. While in Africa you may be asked to participate in a prayer meeting, intercessory prayer time or prayer during home visits. This can be new for some people. As a team leader it is important to encourage praying out loud in front of other, corporate prayer and giving words of encouragement early on in your team experience.
Tips for fostering a healthy prayer life within your team:
- Begin and end your meetings with prayer and encourage your members to participate.
- Discuss what prayer looks like for each member of your team.
- Encourage your team to pray out loud whenever possible. This may be uncomfortable for members of your team. Encourage them to seek out guidance in this area and support them with some helpful tips.
- God knows what is in your heart and prayer is between you and Him. Your prayers don’t need to be elaborate with big words, but instead to be from your heart.
- Practice by yourself praying out loud. This will take the pressure away when you are with a group of people.
- Force yourself to do it. It will be difficult in the beginning but eventually you will become more comfortable.
Understanding and recognising each other’s Spiritual Gifts can be beneficial while on the ground in Africa. It allows you to understand the roles individual’s may naturally take on within the team. It also shows us that we may all have different gifts, but we all serve one purpose together. Every person is valuable to the team and no one’s gifts are more important than anyone else’s.
Read 1 Corinthians 12: 14-27.
Read 1 Peter 4: 10
There are many options available but we have found the SHAPE surveys are a good option. If this doesn’t work for your team then feel free to find one online.
Nuts and Bolts of Team Dynamics
Even with the best intentions, misunderstanding and conflict will occur when travelling as a team of colourful personalities, especially through an intense and challenging experience. It is very likely that every day there will be a crisis for someone on the team. When conflicts arise it is important that as a team, you agree to seek to maintain positive relationships with everyone as much as possible. View conflict as an opportunity for growth and development and a closer drawing together, rather than a demonstration of incompatibility leading to animosity and alienation.
Talk about how you will conduct yourselves around each other. Establish group expectations ahead of time; this can help prevent some conflicts.
There are many options available, feel free to find one online that works for your team.
Take some time, as a team, to discuss how to handle conflict or disagreement within the team. Refer to Matthew 18:15-17 and Proverbs 19:11 to see what the Bible says.
It’s important to remember that the people at home who are supporting you are as much a part of your journey in Africa as you are. Honouring your communication with them during your time is very valuable. Communication in Africa can have many challenges; daily access to internet is not always possible and communication from remote destinations is not always easy.
Encourage your team to be creative in communicating back home. Perhaps you want to start a team blog or a Facebook group, updating it whenever possible on the ground. WhatsApp groups can be a useful tool for communicating with team family members. Alternatively, you can update using mobile phones or by messaging loved ones at home who can relay the message to others.
Create a communication plan as a team. Who will write your updates, how will you update people, who should you be updating?
We encourage you to tell the stories of the people you will meet on the ground. But we must protect the people whose stories we are sharing, as much as possible.
Culture Shock describes the anxiety produced when a person moves to a completely new environment. The symptoms of culture shock may appear at different times and are an opportunity for redefining how you see the world around you.
Culture can be expressed in a variety of ways including language, food, clothing, sexuality, religion, ceremonial greeting, music, morals and beliefs. Travelling for long periods to another culture, many miles away from western life can be exhausting and can leave one feeling fatigued, emotional, and trigger what is termed as “Cultural Shock”. Making mistakes, learning new social behaviours, being careful not to offend, as well as the change in climate, time and space all add to the impact on the team members.
Keep in mind that it is an honour and a privilege to be experiencing life in Africa. We must remember that it doesn’t matter how we do things at home, we aren’t there to show the people of Africa what we think is a better way. This is a part of culture shock. Accepting what others do and perceive different from us, helps open our minds. The positive part is that it can help us better understand ourselves and stimulate personal growth and creativity.
- Insomnia or desire to sleep
- Feeling vulnerable and powerless
- Anger, irritability, resentment and unwillingness to participate and interact with others
- Idealising ones country
- Loss of identity
- Unable to solve simple problems
- New methods being hard to comprehend or deal with
- Developing obsessions i.e. over cleanliness
- Longing for family
To minimise Culture Shock
- Expect the unexpected and remember that different is not wrong!
- Be flexible, more than you would normally need to be.
- Expect frustration but refuse to complain.
- Regular team debriefing sessions.
- Encourage team members to look after and out for each other.
- Allow times for personal reflection both formal and informal.
- The person experiencing cultural shock may require counselling, stepping out of the official team responsibilities and rest for a short period or even a day off.
- Share with others how you are feeling. Keeping it to yourself will increase the anxiety.
- Pray for God’s understanding.
Debriefing should take place at a minimum of three occasions per week. A daily debriefing is a common tool for many teams. Debriefing involves a leader helping direct a simple conversation, or using a game to enable open communication. This requires a commitment from you and your team members.
Debriefing is another way of “checking in” with your team members in a concrete and meaningful way. It allows for encouragement, freedom of expression and an excellent way for the team leader to get honest feedback. It is also a practical way to show that you care and that you are able to listen effectively and take appropriate action if necessary. Debriefing can happen as part of a group activity or individually, or on the telephone/Skype if necessary.
Key ingredients for each debriefing session:
- Team members only – generally team members alone should be present, find a private space. Although sometimes you may want a Hands at Work person present.
- Ensure everyone is present – involve the whole team.
- Keep it positive – do not begin by asking about problems. Suggest optimistic viewpoints, although it is important to hear any challenges as the discussion proceeds.
- Keep the meetings relatively short – between 1-2 hours.
- Do not let one or two people monopolise the time. Ensure everyone has an opportunity.
- End positive and encourage.
While debriefing you can:
- Share positive, amusing, or interesting stories of the cross cultural experience.
- Team leader can point out and appreciate individual team members.
- Ask how team members are feeling/doing while in a group or in a private conversation.
- Ask about issues: conflicts at any level, unanswered questions, etc.
- Work together to restore relationships and resolve issues.
Suggested strategies for debriefing activities:
You may ask one question below per debrief, to allow enough time to for everyone to share.
It is a good idea to ask questions in an open ended way such as “Tell me about…”
Some examples of questions to ask before you come to Africa:
- What have you been feeling since you have committed to going?
- What response have you received from others?
- What are some fears or doubts that have been occupying your thoughts?
- What are you most excited about?
- How do you feel about going into a very spiritual environment in Africa?
Some examples of questions to ask while in Africa:
- Give us a highlight and a lowlight from the day.
- Tell us about what you have seen, done and felt over the past few days.
- Is what you are experiencing different from your expectations?
- How do you think you are making a difference in the lives of others?
- Is there ways in which you have felt God teaching you something?
- Are you getting enough of what you need: i.e. sleep, food, alone time…?
- Are you struggling with a particular issue? If so, what is it?
- How do you think some of what you have seen and done will affect you upon returning home?