communication,  leadership

Does Your Team Have a Belonging Culture?

Today I want to talk what it means to have a belonging culture on our intergenerational teams.

In this series about intergenerational ministry, I’ve been addressing several characteristics of successful ministry teams. We talked about what it means to be entrusted with people, explored a model for building mentoring into our teams, and dove into some ideas around God’s design for intergenerational ministry.

Let’s start with a minute of reflection this time. Consider these questions:

  • Do you feel you belong on your team or on the teams you serve on?
  • Do you believe your teammates belong?

When I was growing up in the church, here’s how I thought belonging worked: We all
believe certain things, so we behave according to those beliefs, and therefore we will belong in groups or organizations with people who believe and behave the same way we do.

It turns out that’s not how it works at all. 

In her book Christianity After Religion, Diane Butler Bass challenges this popular misconception. She shares the results revealed by studies that span generations, industries, missions, and the marketplace. The research has revealed this truth: we always belong first, because until we belong, we don’t have a reason to behave or believe anything.

We all behave and believe in order feel we belong. We see both positive and negative examples of this all the time.

So what happens when someone doesn’t feel like they belong? Think about a team member, a manager, a leader in your organization or ministry who doesn’t feel they belong there. Maybe they are cynical, disengaged, or apathetic about your mission. 

It’s possible they can belong. It’s possible to reach them and that our efforts can create that belonging culture they need.

It’s also possible they will never belong there. Then what? Loving leadership suggests we help them find a place, a team, a position where they can belong. Someplace they can flourish. 


Do your younger team members feel they belong? Do your older team members feel they belong?

To foster a belonging culture on our teams, it helps to consider what belonging looks like.

Take a pause and jot down your own thoughts. List as many characteristics of belonging as you personally can. 

You might ask some of your team members if they feel like they belong. And usually, you’ll realize you can already guess their answer. We know when our team members believe they belong. And we know when they don’t. There are signs. 

Here are a few characteristics you may have observed in team members who belong. They take initiative, communicate well with teammates, actively support the mission and vision of the organization, aren’t afraid to identify problems and propose possible solutions. They are present, engaged, and productive. Who on your team(s) belongs? What do you see? 

On the other hand, team members who don’t believe they belong are not engaged and generally are not productive. They do not propose solutions to real problems, unless it’s to make their own job easier. They are more prone to saying, “That’s not my job.” Who doesn’t seem to belong? How do you know? 

Why does this matter intergenerationally? If we don’t believe we belong anymore, we don’t believe we have a valuable contribution to make. So we don’t. 

We need intergenerational teams. We need every generation’s perspective. We need more mature team members, and we need young fresh team members. And for each to make a positive impact on our team, they have to belong. 

So think about this belonging culture and about what it takes for your team members to believe they belong. In what ways can you foster belonging on your own team? Leave some ideas in the comments for other readers to consider.

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