Twenty-two movies and counting, the Marvel cinematic universe is a cultural force.
Like those special agents, we need to make sure to keep our own teams united under a simple vision.
The Avengers are arguably the most successful cinematic team of all time. Without spoiling Endgame, Marvel’s most recent release, here are a few lessons that you can learn from Marvel’s universe, that can help with your ministry teams.
Common Goals, Common Allies
It’s almost silly to think there was a time before you’d see multiple heroes in a single movie. Like when Nick Fury appeared in the post-credit scene of Iron Man (2008) talking about the Avengers, it was a huge deal.
How could so many big personalities get together and fit into one film?
Each hero has a very different style: Tony Stark is a self-made hero, using his company and intelligence to solve problems. While he certainly evolves over eight movies, when he declares in the original Marvel film, “I am Iron Man,” in defiance of authority, he set himself out to be the maverick of the team. On the other hand, Captain America Steve Rodgers is selfless, and duty bound. He’s highly principled, loyal to his country, cause, and friends.
The dynamic between Iron Man and Captain America as the two leaders of the team, is the engine that drives the Avengers. They are nothing alike, but they find common ground in having common goals.
Our teams in church production need to do likewise.
We have a great common cause and common goals: Spreading the gospel, making disciples, and showing the Love of God.
We’re trying to save the world, too.
Without a common cause, it would be easy for Rodgers and Stark to ignore each other, go off on separate missions.
Right from the start, though, Nick Fury and Agent Coulson at S.H.E.I.L.D. make a great case for why the team is needed. They provide vision and make sure the different personalities stay united on the same path.
Like those special agents, we need to make sure to keep our own teams united under a simple vision. Especially with new teammates, constant focus on recruitment and purpose can be a game changer.
All the Avengers have a different ethos. Bruce Banner as the Hulk is a reluctant fighter, balancing the two sides of his personality. Thor has a family legacy to uphold. Black Widow, Hawkeye and Nick Fury are all part of a system that believes in talent and excellence. Antman is a reformed criminal. Spiderman is just a kid, trying to think up a new way to say, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”
This should be inspiring to us as team leaders. Like the Avengers, each member of your team has different abilities, motivations, and personalities.
On our teams, we don’t always find people who think and act exactly like we do. But like the Avengers, we can complement each other. Captain America can’t fly, but Iron Man can.
What can your teammates do that you can’t?
As Iron Man and Captain America work together, they rub off on each other. Tony Stark becomes more responsible and duty bound, choosing to nurture Spiderman and sign the Sakovia Accords, the legislation required of all enhanced individuals to reveal their secret identities, along with disclosing their powers. Captain America, meanwhile, begins to see things more objectively. While he’s still loyal and principled, he’s more vigilant for corruption and less trusting of the system, keeping his eye out for Hydra’s double agents.
Therefore, be open to the different suggestions and methods of your team.
While it’s good to be a resolute leader, there’s a lot to be learned from how team members conduct themselves. Maybe you have a teammate that can show you something new technically. Maybe another is great at being focused spiritually. Another may have an ideal home life or be a community role model. Learn who contributes in which area and let them stand out for the team.
In addition to skills and personality, we can also gather ideas from our teams. Good ideas can come from anyone, regardless of their rank.
In Infinity War (2018), Iron Man doesn’t know how to beat Ebony Maw and rescue Dr. Strange, but he takes advice from the teenage Spiderman, who references the movie Alien. Iron Man asks for Spidey’s opinion on a plan. When it sounds good, he goes for it. “Your powers are inconsequential against mine,” brags Maw. “Yeah, but the kid’s seen more movies,” Stark quips as he follows Spiderman’s direction and dispatches the bad guy. If Iron Man had relied on his own powers, they would have failed. If he would have said, “I’m not betting my life on some movie you saw,” they would have failed. It took hearing the idea impartially, to make the difference.
Nothing gets done just by snapping your fingers
Thanos wanted to snap his fingers and change the world. But it took a lot more to get to that point. While the snap became an immediate cultural touchstone, it wasn’t achieved in a moment. He was behind the scenes, working to plan, and strategically move his team into place. The effort mirrored the assembling of the Avengers in real life.
At the box office, before the first Avengers film in 2012, there were solo movies for Hulk (2008), Captain America (2011), Thor (2011), and two Iron Man movies (2008 and 2010). They didn’t just rush right into getting the team together. They developed the ideas and built out the new universe. They teased the right ideas and the potential of seeing the heroes together. They did not rush and worked hard to make each movie and character stand out as a distinct individual, but also one that could be a part of the bigger universe.
We’ve seen in other franchises come and go in the same time that the MCU has been riding high, proving the perils of rushing the process. Even with Superman and Batman, the D.C. Comics’ Justice League is no Avengers. The Spidey-verse at Sony stalled out before it really started. The Universal Monsters Dark Universe failed so hard, we can all pretend it never happened.
Likewise, be patient when planting the seeds of a new world in your own team.
Recruits don’t develop into independent superstars in one moment.
We have to be careful to protect and develop their character.
Try not to rush to the finale.
It’s also wise to remember that building something is a process, but you can destroy something with the snap of your fingers.
The planting is worth the payoff. Gathering together a handful of heroes in movie like Captain America: Civil War or Thor: Ragnarok is pretty rewarding. The casual combining of little teams feels great and is a natural evolution for the Marvel universe team ups. It’s still nothing compared to the feeling, though, when everyone finally shows up at the same time.
Don’t neglect gathering together, the Bible urges.
Whether you gather to fight evil, train, or just grab a meal at the diner when it’s all over, do it often.
Being part of a team is being part of something bigger than yourself. Make team ups, both small and massive, a priority in your church.