Strengths-Oriented Leadership, pt. 1 – Church Strengths

I had a major breakthrough in my journey as a leader about five years ago when I heard Marcus Buckingham talk about the strengths-based leadership. I was a big Natural Church Development methodology fan (and still am)–which focuses primarily on fixing the weakest areas of ministry among core competencies. The StrengthsFinder people took a different approach that I sensed was correct intrinsically–focus most on your strengths, not your weaknesses. It really change the way I went about ministry and about advising others. I would highly recommend the book, Now, Discover Your Strengths, and a followup book of sorts of Tom Rath, Strengths Based Leadership. These books include a test and analysis of your leadership strengths. They believe you should focus on your five greatest strengths.

When I do consultations with churches that are stagnant or in decline, I now rarely begin with what they think is causing the decline. Rather, it's better to understand what the church does best, and continue to bolster that…working on things that need to be worked on without diminishing what the church does best. Much of the time, a church emphasizes a particular strength in it's programming so much that some reallocation of time and effort can occur that will help alleviate some oozing weaknesses while simultaneously making the church stronger at it's strengths. This is because even the strengths get honed as a part of the process–making the church more effecient and effective in it's implementation of what it already does well.

In most Churches of Christ, the core strength is fellowship or "loving relationships" to use NCD's terminology. The weaknesses can vary…but usually "empowering leadership" or "inspiring worship service" is the lowest slat on the proverbial barrel.

Often, when I ask a church leader seeking counsel, "What does the church do best?" they admit they hadn't really thought about it, or they aren't sure. Every church does some things well. Every church has strengths. God provides churches with spiritual giftings just as he does people–sometimes through the people the Spirit gifted, "just as He chose" (1 Cor. 12:11) Spending quality time reflecting on that will not only help you be more successful as a church…but it will help rescue you from the "we just stink" mentality that will erode your effectiveness as a leader.

What does your congregation do best? Another way to ask the question is, "why do people choose to worship with us, instead of somewhere else?" Still another way to ask this is, "What evidence of God's gifting for his missional purposes do I see in the Body?" In order for the question to be answered most accurately, it's good to have leadership answer the question, and to have selected members of the congregation do the same. Often, their answers will differ from leadership's. The key is to ask and clarify the answer to this question. If you're stagnant or in decline, it's the beginning of redemptive change.

 

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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