It took me 25 years in the full-time, paid ministry before I discovered this truth. It changed my life and the direction of my career. It helped explain why my ministry had progress the way it had. Many questions I had about me were answered.
In 2004, I read a book called, Now, Discover Your Strengths, by Marc Buckingham. From the beginning it flew in the face of a principle I had always embraced. I thought being a “generalist” was a good thing. Any task presented to me while working in a church setting, I strove to learn about it and tried to satisfy the leadership’s expectations around it. Instead, what I should have done was identify what my strengths were and excel in those. But what were my strengths and how would they fit in a church setting?
At the time of the reading of this book, I was working for the fifth congregation. I had noticed a certain pattern regarding my work that would take place at each of the congregations. First, a conversation would begin between the congregation and me because they had a problem or a challenge. Early in my career it was a youth ministry that was struggling or a family ministry that was looking to begin. Later on it was a perceived need and how those needs might be met through a ministry or program. One congregation wanted me to teach young families, develop a lay counseling program, start small groups, and maintain a singles program. Since I could do anything and everything (ha!), I took those challenges on with a lot of enthusiasm.
At the beginning of each of my hires, I would get a pretty clear understanding of the lay of the land. I would interview key leaders, determine needs, develop a strategy, incorporate systems, develop training manuals and training when needed, and provide overall leadership. I loved doing this! It came so natural to me and it was a real adrenaline rush. Each congregation would appreciate all that I had done and they were as happy with me as I was with them.
Then something would change. I had not been able to determine if it was me or the congregation but we both became dissatisfied with each other. I became bored with my job, and they began to wonder where my energies had gone.
I would try to offset my boredom with finding a new project that the congregation needed. More often than not, they would tentatively agree and their partial buy-in would ultimately become apparent. They would remind me that they had hired me for one job and that one job only. They would voice their disappointment on my desire to change focus.
What I learned after taking the inventory found in “Now, Discover…” was that it wasn’t me that had changed. My job had changed. The job I was hired to do moved from a job of research, strategy, and development to a job of maintenance. I hate maintenance. Maintenance bores me to tears and is more of a weakness of mine than a strength. Then I realized that unless I enjoyed moving a lot, I was going to have to find a new line of work. I have yet to find a church that would recognize these strengths and utilize them to capacity.
I was now challenged with finding a job that would allow me to use my strengths more often that managing my weaknesses. So, I started my own business and see a steady stream of clients. Each time a new client comes through the doors I am using my strengths. I am also developing new curriculum and schedule training in areas of my expertise. I love the new challenges that I face and I leave the maintenance business to my assistant, which is her strength.
So, if you are a minister that is bored with your job or are finding yourself moving to another church again, consider my story. You might find that your problem is that you are not using your strengths most of the time or you think you need to be a generalist. Either way, seek out your strengths or find a job where they are exercised daily. You and the people with whom you work will appreciate it.