How to Defeat Division on Your Team

By Brian Taylor

You know what I love about kids? Whatever they do, they are ALL in. For my two at home, most days, this works out well for us. They play well together. They enjoy each other’s company, sometimes coming up with imaginative games for hours on end. Those days? Those are the days that every parent lives for.

But then there are other days. These days seem to rise from the very depths of Hades. No matter what we do, they can’t seem to get along. They can’t seem to play well together. They can’t agree on anything. Team Taylor feels a lot more like a war zone!

The truth is, we adults can be the same way.

Sometimes We Act Like Children.

Just like kids, we get set in our ways. We think our way is better. We want what we want. We resist change and we fight to make our voice heard. We’re self-seeking and self-serving.

When you get a bunch of us together, it’s not long before we, too, are at odds with each other! It’s human nature, and if you’re not intentional about it, it will become your team’s nature, too.

One of the most critical elements of any successful team is unity. Without it, there can be no long-term blessing. Potential isn’t realized. The mission can’t move forward.

In fact, it’s so important that just before Jesus was betrayed and arrested, it’s one of the last things He prayed to His Father:

“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” (John 17:22–23 nlt)

Perfect unity. That was His prayer for us. As leaders, we should want the same thing for our teams.

The Road to Unity

But how do we get there from here? Here are three ways for you to get started on the journey:

1. Start with PRAYER.

If Jesus prayed that for us, we should follow His example and pray that same prayer for our teams. We can cast vision. We can come up with the best tools and resources. Yet, this is first and foremost a spiritual mission. It starts with the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and in the hearts of our teams.

As leaders, we must pray for our teams. When our teams are together, we should pray with our team. Every time we’re together. Before we lead, before we rehearse, before we do anything. The practice of praying together and sharing around God’s Word is the single most unifying element of any successful team culture. It sets the tone for everything else.

2. Lead with CLARITY.

Like any team, the default will be to drift toward division. Not because of any malevolent forces, but just because people tend to go their own way. The culture of your team will either happen by design or it will happen by default.

Unity will not happen by chance—it will only happen with clarity. When given the gift of clarity, teams will naturally respond with alignment. Alignment is the breeding ground for unity.

You have to have clarity around your vision and your values (side note: if you don’t know what those are, I’d love to help you discover them for your team). Without clarity, there can be no confidence.

Unity will not happen by chance—it will only happen with clarity.

3. Speak with COMMON LANGUAGE.

I think it was Andy Stanley who reminded us that vision leaks! We can’t say it, set it, and forget it. We must constantly keep the goal in view.

When you feel as though you’ve said it so much you’re nauseated, you’ve just begun to scratch the surface. You want to communicate with such conviction and regularity that your team finishes your sentences.

But don’t just talk. Find catchy, creative ways that capture not just the letter but the spirit of the law. When I was at Christ Fellowship, our senior leadership was amazing at this. One of those catchy phrases that took hold on our team was “We are thermostats, not thermometers.” Thermostats set the atmosphere. Thermometers can only tell you what it already is.

This was a simple way for us to relay our value that we as leaders had to set the tone, to come with expectation, and give our all. Regardless of what the room looked like when we walked in it, we set the atmosphere.

Knowing not just what to say but how to say it makes the values easy to repeat and therefore easy to transfer.

Rinse and Repeat.

  1. Start with PRAYER.
  2. Lead with CLARITY.
  3. Speak with COMMON LANGUAGE.

Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged. Keep fighting for and guarding the unity of your team. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it. Be consistent and you will be rewarded.

Brian Taylor serves as Associate Pastor of Worship at Prestonwood Baptist Church.