In UpStreet, we sing a song called “Not as Strong.”
I’m not as strong as I’ll be but I’m growin’
I’m not as strong as I’ll be one day
But my God, He is faithful
He’s strong and He’s able so I’ll never be afraid
Every person wants to be known as a strong person. No one likes being thought of as weak. And yet, the risen Christ told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9, TNIV). This led Paul to say, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10, TNIV).
Is it better to leverage your strengths or work on your weaknesses? Is Paul saying that we should consider ourselves only as weak vessels for God to use, or can we acknowledge our strengths? Yes. In a future post, we’ll talk about leading from our weaknesses. But what are strengths?
Winseman, Clifton, and Liesveld define a strength in their offshoot of the Clifton StrengthsFinder like this (Living Your Strengths, p. 7).
“A strength is the ability to provide consistent, near-perfect performance in a given activity. This ability is a powerful, productive combination of talent, skill and knowledge.”
We may be fairly aware of our talents, which are natural to us and cannot be acquired. They’re things we’ve been good at our whole lives. Whether it is thriving under pressure, making others laugh, picking up on the emotions of others, or being competitive, we all have talents.
Skills are those acquired abilities we get through training and learning that help us do a job well. They’re the things we learn at school, by watching someone else, or from old-fashioned trial and error. Knowledge also comes through learning and experience.
When you combine these three things—talents, skills, and knowledge—you’ve got a strength. Here’s a personal example. One of my strengths is called Input. I collect information from all sorts of sources and arrange and compile it in such a way that it is useful for myself and others.
This is how I prepare for sermons, how I strive to set up this blog…
When I was a kid, I collected basketball cards, arranged them in alphabetical order, and enjoyed culling the stats of each player. In pre-Internet days, they were my source of knowledge for the NBA. As I’ve become more self-aware, I’ve seen how God used this talent, combined with new skills and knowledge, to create an Input strength in me. Now it fleshes itself out in other ways–the basketball cards are collecting dust under my bed.
The power of knowing what your strengths are as it pertains to leading a small group is this: You are free to rearrange the parts of leadership to suit you. Using Clifton StrengthsFinder terms, if you have a strength of:
Adaptability, you will be flexible when your group shifts its focus or gains or loses new members.
Context, you will bring out connections from the past to help people understand the present.
Developer, you will see the potential in others in your group and strive to help them see it, too.
Relator, you will do whatever you can to encourage deeper relationships among people in your group.
So pick up the book today and discover your strengths. The book includes a code for an online assessment, which reveals your top 5 (of 34 possible) strengths.
This Tuesday night Jamie and I went to Madison to David and Lisa Treloar’s house. They pastor the Lakeshore Church and we’ve become good friends with them. David was holding a class for discovering your spiritual gifts, strengths, talents, personality, and learning from past experiences.
What I loved about the class was the comprehensive nature of it. In the past all I’ve really heard of is taking a spiritual gifts inventory and then trying to use your gifts in church. I know Rick Warren has a SHAPE model he uses (spiritual gifts, heart/passions/abilities/personality/ experiences). And I’ve tried doing that, but it didn’t connect with me like this class did.
We used “Now, Discover Your Strengths,” a secular book put out by Gallup. Gallup had interviewed over 2 million people and came up with 34 basic “strengths” that people have. And their theory is that most businesses hold 360-evaluations and focus on one’s weaknesses. How can we improve…? Although that is helpful, it isn’t enough for us to fix our weaknesses. We must leverage our strengths in order to be successful, whatever that is.
And I love that theory. I plan to hold some sort of class like this at our church in April. Hopefully our congregation can also see that God has made them unique and fitted them with gifts and talents to be used for His glory. This is not to say we won’t minister out of our weaknesses as well…we’ll just leverage our strengths more.
So, if you have time, check out the book on amazon. It’s written by Buckingham and Clifton. Each book comes with a code for you to go to their website, take a test, and find out your top five strengths.
Opinions? Questions? Give me a comment.