Bishop Swenson stresses teamwork at national health ministries event
Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, California-Pacific Annual Conference, uses the example of a riding a tandem bike to demonstrate the importance of teamwork at "Empowering Ministries of Health" Sept. 25 in Wichita. (photo by Susan Cooper)
By Susan Cooper
�Kansas West Connection� editor
Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, California-Pacific Annual Conference, focused on teamwork as she led morning worship Sept. 25 at �Empowering Ministries of Health� in Wichita.
The event was the third annual National Congregational Health Ministries Conference and was sponsored by the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries and the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits. It was held at the Spiritual Life Center, a retreat and conference center of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita.
In Swenson�s message �Unlocking Teamwork for a Vital Future,� she talked about riding a tandem bicycle with her husband, Jeff. The couple received the bike as a gift for their 25th wedding anniversary in 1993. Since they got the bike, the couple has ridden thousands of miles together across the country. Swenson explained that teamwork is necessary to successfully ride and navigate the bike.
�The roots of teamwork are very, very old�as old as the scripture,� Swenson sa
"Empowering Ministries of Health" conference attendees talk with Bishop Mary Ann Swenson. (photo by Susan Cooper)
Talking about how Jesus sent his 70 disciples out into the world in pairs, Swenson noted, �Partnership is the beginning of any team.�
The partnership on a tandem bicycle requires the stronger, heavier person to be the front rider. That person is the pilot, the captain of the bike. The smaller person rides in the back and must respond to the direction of the pilot�s steering and braking. It takes effort from both riders.
�Anything one does is felt by the other,� Swenson said. �It�s like dancing together on a bicycle. It�s truly working together.
�Everyone assumes the back person isn�t pedaling, that they�re not working,� she said.
A friend of Swenson�s also is a tandem bike rider, and the friend�s reaction to the assumption that the back rider isn�t working is, �Oh yeah? Then smell me!�
From her tandem bike experience, Swenson has come up with a list of things needed for successful teamwork: trust, conflict resolution, communication, commitment and results.
She said spiritual teamwork requires the same things.
�You need to nurture the trust, listen and lean on each other,� she said.
Swenson explained that it�s important to make conflicts healthy conflict.
�Conflict is uncomfortable, and people may feel they�re under attack.�
She said communication is vital between team members and that commitment is built, in part, by holding each other accountable. To see results, team members must stay focused on their mission and purpose.
How Jesus sent the disciples out as teams, he sends us on our way, Swenson said.
�The way of partnership, the way of love, the way of relationship. God calls us into relationship, not just with God, but with one another,� she said.
�Relationship is ground zero for all of us. He sent them two by two for the sake of the mission. It�s theologically the Christian way.�
�We are not alone�Emmanuel: God with us,� Swenson said. �People are ready to partner with you, to go with you into the land of healing, wholeness and holiness.�