What Story Will They Tell?
communication,  education,  leadership

What Story Will They Tell?


Original article published in Outcomes Magazine by the Christian Leadership Alliance.

“Our board would like you to come fix our Millennials.” The administrator of a small nonprofit was on the phone explaining that her organization established a “Junior Board of Millennials” as part of their succession plan. The Board of Directors, composed of Baby Boomers and Traditionalists, wanted these Millennials – at the time a group of 20-somethings – “fixed” so they would embrace the organization’s mission and operational strategy Board’s way. 

The catch: Board members didn’t want to invest their own time or resources in the fix. 

You can guess what happened. Every invested Millennial volunteer left that organization – and they left with a story.

What story do your team members tell about your ministry?
What story do you want them to tell?
Is there a gap between those stories? That may be a good place to start.

We have more generations represented in today’s organizational teams than at any time in human history. My own global organization is structured to execute our mission in and through intergenerational, multicultural teams. Each team member is telling a story.

It all starts with the stories we tell ourselves. Many organizational leaders tell the story that they need younger team members for succession planning. They want to cultivate a pipeline of ability to lead the organization into the future. You may feel the need for older team members to hang around because their departure would be disruptive. Maybe you don’t think you need them at all.


We’re better together

Here’s a different story. We’re better together. Not someday. We’re better together today. 

The diverse perspectives and practices of intergenerational team members make us better at mission and ministry now. Just as Paul’s beautiful narraphor (the narrative based in metaphor) of diverse members of the body working together (1 Corinthians 12), we need each other now. 

In today’s world, human connection is more rare than ever before. Physical and emotional distance is becoming more and more natural through our digital fixation, remote work schedules, and rising social anxieties.

What if our ministry teams become life-giving communities – places of belonging where team members contribute and receive value, encouragement, and genuine connection with diverse people?


Five Competencies

Research reveals five competencies of extraordinary leaders – and extraordinary teams: 1) Communication, 2) Collaboration, 3) Creativity, 4) Critical thinking, and 5) Cultural intelligence. Let’s look at these five competencies and how they can help us foster genuine connection and real engagement in our intergenerational teams:

  1. Communication

A crisis often reveals something that already needed our attention. It’s never been more important to communicate well – or more obvious that we don’t. Ask more questions. Lean in. Listen. Use audio and video. Communicate with confidence and compassion. Communication is the essence of our team story.

  1. Collaboration

Communication opens the door for collaboration. This is the real test of diverse, dynamic teams. “Us and them” thinking and acting is damaging. Collaboration allows us to propose, question, argue, wrestle, design, construct, deconstruct, and build consensus. The collaborative team’s storyline becomes “we are better together.”

  1. Creativity

Collaboration infused with creativity invites us to innovate in our ministries. The first question creativity asks is: “is it safe?” Environments where it is safe to propose, question, try and fail become the most innovative. Creative teams tell a story of being seen, heard and valued.

  1. Critical Thinking

Empathic communication and collaboration in diverse, safe, creative environments catalyzes critical thinking. The story the critical-thinking team member tells is one of seeking opportunity within every obstacle. As our teams diversify intergenerationally, it’s a gift to explore and discover how God is inviting us to partner together in new ways now.

  1. Cultural Intelligence

At the heart of cultural intelligence (CQ) is curiosity. The simplest way to become a culturally intelligent organization today is to work in and through intergenerational teams. The culturally intelligent team tells a story of diverse, shared contribution. Every member is valued – not in spite of, but because of their differences.

People don’t join missions. People join people on a mission. And people don’t leave the mission. People leave people. That won’t change. What can change is the story they tell.

In a time where it’s easy to remain disconnected even from our own team members, what if our organizations have a larger story? A story of generative contribution by transforming ministry teams, a contribution first into each other’s lives and ultimately together into the world and the people we serve.


Dr. Teresa M. Moon is President and CEO for the Institute for Cultural Communicators. She empowers extraordinary leaders globally to influence culture. Her mentees have spoken at the White House, G8 Summit, United Nations, throughout the United States and in 20-plus additional countries. She is an internationally recognized speaker, author, and leadership coach.

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