Marriage and Ministry, Part 4:
The Risks and Rewards of Leading From Your Strengths
Of all places, the Christian church can be a refuge from the relational battles that rage in our culture. But harmony and reconciliation are not flourishing in the body. Rather, today’s ministries and churches are routinely characterized by division – or at best, the status quo.
Such was the scenario after today’s staff meeting when Pastor Kevin closed the door to his office, leaned against it, and sighed. Bickering among his team had turned into more than a debate. There was actual division. The lack of oneness and unity in his church staff grieved Kevin, the senior pastor of a large church. Until recently, he had concluded the only way out was to resign.
Now he felt differently. He knew from personal experience what can happen when you value strengths in others.
You may recall from our previous three articles that Kevin had experienced conflict and isolation in his marriage and home, too. He had approached his wife, Karen, and together they resolved to value each other’s strengths, a principle they were now applying to both their marriage and to relationships with their children.
So on this night, as Kevin talks with his wife about the division in his staff, it is Karen who suggests that the concepts the couple learned are foundational to all relationships. Couldn’t Kevin apply those strengths principles in the church staff by helping team member value strengths in each other to bring about unity?
The Risk of Personal Exposure
Kevin pondered how best to approach his staff with the idea of learning to identify their strengths and value strengths in others. Karen suggested honesty. “Tell them how you and I struggled to resolve our differences,” she said. “Explain how learning to value each other’s strengths – rather than trying to change each other – made the difference.”
It was a risk, but in his heart Kevin knew she was right. Romans 14:19 says, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Kevin yearned for his staff to be at peace, working together creatively and productively. As a leader he needed to be willing to make every effort to create that kind of environment … even when it meant personal exposure.
The Risk of Vulnerability
If Kevin’s staff sought only to promote their private ends, to follow their own passions and prejudices, they would continue to be filled with strife and contention. They could not edify one another while quarreling. But if the team was able to see each other’s strengths and value them, the entire dynamic could shift.
Kevin needed to risk vulnerability to his team, be willing to acknowledge others’ strengths, and affirm what they contributed – just as much as the team needed him to lead. The process required Kevin to step down from his leadership pedestal and be authentic. An effective leader does not possess all the skills and abilities necessary for ministry. If Kevin could show staff members that he valued their individual uniqueness and admit how much every person contributed, they would be able to embrace what each other brought to the team, too.
After much prayer with Karen, Kevin approached his team and explained the Leading From Your Strengths team-building – a positive experience that emphasizes each individual’s unique strengths and helps them understand why God strategically placed them together in the ministry. Each staff member completed the strengths profile. Then Kevin took the lead in sharing and listening as each team member articulated openly about how God had uniquely wired them. As team members learned to identify and understand their God-given abilities in solving problems, processing information, managing change, and facing risk, a new attitude emerged. They saw how to value strengths in each other. The group soon realized how God had brought them together to complement each other’s strengths in an amazing way.
Now, six months later Kevin left a church staff meeting, closed his office door, and dropped to his knees – thanking God for the transformation that had taken place in both him and his team. Kevin smiled. He was no longer alone, marooned on a ministry island. He has hope.
God intends for His Kingdom to exhibit a spirit of oneness, a principle that Kevin and Karen were willing to cultivate first in their marriage and then transfer to other areas of their lives. Kevin had learned that leading from your strengths is not only possible. It is God’s design … for marriages, for families, for churches, and for teams.