Working to our strengths

I’ve returned to work this year with a small resolution in mind. Not small in the sense of being insignificant. More in the sense that my life is small, not grand, and any resolutions to do with its living will be, by necessity, humble.

The resolution is this: I want to work as much as possible out of my strengths. I have them, just like everyone does. There are things I do well, inclinations that are naturally honed, investments of energy that bring life and fulfillment. I am hoping that in this new year I can give the expression of these strengths a larger space to flourish in my days and weeks.

Profound or not, there’s something here that’s important. I have been conscious this past year that I spend a great deal of energy trying to make up for my weaknesses. While there are things I do well in ministry, the list of things I do less than well is long. Of course, I’m not alone. As I listen to the confessions of other pastors, I hear the same insecurity. We’re gifted, but we’re not all-rounders. The deficits are as obvious as the surpluses. Conscious of our lacks, we’re commonly driven to compensate, to work ever harder improving our skill-set and pushing through in areas of mediocrity. But the truth is, it’s exhausting.

The exhaustion is only exacerbated by the voices that speak loudly around us. It seems like every book I read, every conference I attend, every Facebook link I follow, every PD seminar I complete, I’m left with a new list of things I should really do better, or more of. If the church is struggling in areas X, Y and Z, it’s probably because, in part at least, I’m less than I need to be in capacities A, B and C. So come on, Simon, pull up your socks!

I know. Pulling up our socks is part of life. In every job, every role, there are things that just have to be done. Not everything we do can be about fulfilment and fit. But surely, in the longer term, the greatest impacts we’ll have upon our communities will arise out of our primary gifting. I am a good pastor but I’m not a charismatic leader. I’m a good communicator and teacher, but I’m not great at strategy and five-year plans. I have a passion for writing, but I’m exhausted by spreadsheets. I’m committed to community building and hospitality, but I’m not a great manager.

One of the things I’ve observed about myself and others is that as much time as we might invest in those tasks that sit outside our abilities, the longer term impacts are minimal, indeed far less than we imagine. The deepest impression that you will make upon your church will almost certainly arise out of what you are really good at and passionate about.

I reckon we owe it to ourselves and our communities to give these things a generous space in our lives and ministry.

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