The Whole is Greater
As leaders, it can be easy to slip into focusing solely on individual achievement for both our organizations and us. We need to remember, however, that when we effectively partner with others, we have the opportunity to see an example of the adage, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
The results of teaming up with other leaders or organizations truly are most often far greater than when we depend only on independent work. Effective teamwork can include not only basic help and support but also sharing innovative ideas and techniques that allow for better performance and impact and covering for one another when inevitable challenges occur.
Thoughtful, giving teamwork can make all the difference in attaining our goals. Even in sports a group of players that truly operates as a team is usually far more effective than a group of individual superstars that does not operate as a team.
The impact of “the whole” particularly holds true in the Christian community. When Christian organizations partner with each other by sharing their resources and combining their efforts, they are more often than not able to achieve what cannot be achieved alone. They are, after all, maximizing the gifts and resources with which they have been blessed.
For example, when churches partner with Christian social service agencies, like the one I lead, the two are able to reach more people. Bethany Global, for instance, has over 50 partners worldwide who help us achieve our mission and vision. Bethany, meanwhile, assists its partners financially and with professional and business consulting. As a result, collectively, we’re able to reach and support more people.
Partnering in any endeavor also means working for the common good of the many people we serve and those in our spheres of influence. And that includes special care in how we relate to one another. As individual leaders we may have different opinions and ideas, but as Christian leaders, and with God’s help, we are all committed to serving others.
One example of the Christian community coming together that comes immediately to mind and reinforces this position is the annual Christian Alliance for Orphans’ Summit. Bringing together thousands of foster and adoptive parents, orphan advocates, pastors, and leaders from 49 states and more than 25 countries, the CAFO Summit seeks to explore how we can work collectively to support the world’s most vulnerable population.
Having had the pleasure of attending the Summit for 10 years, I’m grateful for the passion and commitment the Christian community has brought to the orphan crisis movement. Through our work together, we are making a tremendous difference in the lives of millions of orphans around the world.
The Christian community’s greatest strength is Jesus Himself. Paul states this very clearly in Colossians 1:29, where he says, “To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” But a second strength in Christian community is unity. Unity does not mean that everybody needs to agree; however, it does mean we need to work together well.
In Romans 14, Paul basically says we should not be fighting over disputable matters. The Christian community can be effective in our partnerships only if we accept that there are differences in practice and in beliefs—even in leadership styles. But by depending on God’s strength in both our personal and professional lives and protecting the unity we experience as Christians, we can make a difference with the resources and gifts we are given.
The whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts. As Christian leaders, it’s important that each of us keeps in mind, every day as we carry out our responsibilities, that we truly do perform better and produce more when we effectively partner with others than if we simply focus on our individual work.
Bill Blacquiere serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of Bethany Christian Services, a global nonprofit family preservation and child welfare agency with over 115 offices in the U.S., and serving children and families in 15 countries on five continents.
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