Great leaders aren’t great at everything

“Your fully developed strengths will always be better for your ministry that your marginally improved weaknesses.” – Andy Stanley, Catalyst Conference 2010, Less is More

Yesterday, I had the chance to listen to this talk by Andy Stanley on effective leadership within the church.  To leader-hibegin, Andy covered two great myths of leadership; 1. Great leaders are great at everything and 2. In order to be great at everything, I need to focus on my weakness and wing it with my strengths.  As he continued his talk, Andy pointed out that in reality, great leaders are great because they focus on their strengths and they delegate their weaknesses.  In other words, what they do well, they do very well, and what they don’t do well, they trust others who are gifted in those areas to excel.  His encouragement was to identify what your strengths are, focus on them to develop them fully, and acknowledge your weakness by trusting others.

As the director of family ministry at my church, I found this advice to be both relevant and freeing.  When I first started in children’s ministry, I used to have people come up to me all the time and say, “You must be really good with kids!” But the truth is, I’m not really that great with kids.  “What?!?  But that’s your job!  And kids love you!”  God’s grace, friends, truly it is God’s grace.  And as for that being my job, I once heard Jeremy Lee of Parentministry.net break down the interaction time of a person in youth ministry this way: 30% parents, 30% volunteers, 30% church staff and 10% kids.  This holds true for my job as well.  Most of my interaction takes place with adults and most of my job is administrative and ministerial in practice, areas that happen to be my strengths.

But then there is Miss Nancy.  Where I was weak, she was so strong.  She connected with kids in a way I was never able to.  She drew them into the stories, engaged them in the love of Christ, and held their sticky hands and squirmy bodies in her arms of love.  She filled the gap, so well in fact, that I could not help but stand in awe of her ability to take 25 kids from screaming, running chaos to quiet, eyes-wide-open awe as she spoke to them the Word of God.

Parents, in much the same way, your home can be similar to a church setting.

“Every family ought to be a little Church, consecrated to Christ and wholly influenced and governed by His rules. And family education and order are some of the chief means of grace. If these fail, all other means are like to prove ineffectual.” – Jonathan Edwards

As leaders in the home, parents/caregivers need to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses and rather than cofamily-867mpeting with their spouse in leading the home, compliment each other by serving in their gifts.  Sometimes this even varies from child to child.  In our home, I am much better at communicating with our oldest than my husband is but he connects better with our middle child than I do.  He is amazing with the kids one-on-one and I do best when I have them all together like at the dinner table.  He can unfold Scripture in a captivating way and I am better at the everyday application.  Together, we are an effective team with our strengths and weakness buoying each other.  If you are a single parent, consider other adults or family members who you can partner with in the areas where you struggle.  As members of the body of Christ, we don’t ever have to go it alone.

If you are serving in ministry, especially if you are refocusing your church from traditional children’s ministry to a family ministry model, it is imperative for you to know your own strengths and weaknesses as well as those of your volunteers and staff.

Your greatest chance at success will be when each person is operating in their strengths instead of trying to survive in their weaknesses.

Below, I’ve linked a few online resources to help you and your team to discover your strengths and how to best move forward with each person thriving in their gifts.

Great leaders, as Andy Stanley points out, are not well-rounded.  They are not great at everything.  But great leaders lead well-rounded organizations, churches and families that reflect their strengths and not their weaknesses.  The greatest leaders lead people to Christ by acknowledge that in their weakness, He is strong and by recognizing His strength is often found in the members of the body of Christ, like the one beside you now.

Resources for Your Team

  • One popular resource for personality and strengths testing is the Myers Briggs Personality test.  There are many websites where this is available, some free and some for a small fee.  This one is free and I have seen it used by groups I have been a part of in order to build strong teams.
  • Strengthfinder 2.0 is a book and accompanying test that will help you and your team discover not only what your strengths are but how to interact with others on your team.  There is a cost associated with this test but it is highly effective at leading your team forward.
  • Leading from your Strengths from Ministry Insights is an in-depth, highly effective tool for discovering your strengths and weakness.  It is a longer test and costs more money, but it provides perhaps the most detailed results from a comprehensive and user-friendly resources.
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