- Youth Ministry (teaching, counseling, church camp)
- Song Leading
- Worship coordinating
- Education Director
- Curriculum Coordinator
- Supervision of interns, missionaries, and other staff
- Church relations
- VBS actor
- Community Relations
- Coffee House Booking Agent
- Police Chaplain
- Homeless Shelter Volunteer
- Legal Liaison
- Media Promotion
- Bulletin writer and editor
- Poverty Outreach
- Technological Generalist
- Spiritual Director
- Fund Raising
- Event Planning
- Wedding Officiant
- Funeral Officiant
- Social Work
- Physical Labor (mover, painter, light construction)
- Social Prophet
- Resident Philosopher
Ministers typically wear many hats and it goes with the territory. As I've gotten older, however, I've come to realize which of the above areas are my strong suits and which ones leave me spinning my wheels in a desperate attempt to just gain some traction.
I once thought I could become great at all of the above. I especially admired evangelists who were so outgoing they could strike up a conversation with the person at the next gas pump, steer the conversation toward Jesus, all being natural without a hint of phoniness, sometimes even resulting in a conversion. I'm not that guy and I spent years kicking myself for not being that guy. I've also admired those who have a natural rapport with teens and college age people. I've made close friends with folks in those categories, but I'm better in one-on-one settings than as a youth leader per se. I've also admired those whose leadership skills allow them to take charge of a project, mobilize volunteers, and see it through to completion. That's not me either.
I've wasted time in the past trying to be good at all these things and being self-critical for not being good at all of it. I've since read a book called Now, Discover Your Strengths which was a real eye-opener for me. See, it's possible to spend far too much time trying to improve in my areas of weakness when I could be far more effective by capitalizing on and honing my strengths. The church is a diverse body with a variety of gifts. I now leave the event coordinating, camp counseling, and cold call evangelism to those who are better at these things than me.
If I haven't managed to identify my strengths in over 20 years, it's a hopeless cause. Having identified those strengths, they're where I now spend the bulk of my time. When I posted a listing that led to my current job, I made no pretenses about my being primarily a Bible teacher. That is how I would define myself above all else. A congregation that wouldn't be happy with a minister spending a bulk of his time and effort in this area would not be happy with me.
I once naively believed that a good Bible teacher is what most churches wanted in a minister. I have since learned that some couldn't seem to care less about it. They have put their trust in personality, pizzaz, and the next big event, refusing to believe that faith (and true church growth) still comes from hearing the word of God.
There are, of course, a number of things on the above list that I do fairly well, but others that I choose to either avoid or delegate as much as possible since for me to do them would be a terrible waste of a human resource. Not that I'd be opposed as a pinch-hitter, but not long term. I have learned, for example, to largely stay away from handy work such as dry wall and painting as much as possible. I'll help on a short term project, like adopting a camp cabin that everyone works on, but I'm not going to remodel the church building or help someone partition off rooms in their house. Others are far better at these things and they're the ones who should be doing them. Nor will I be next quarter's fourth grade teacher or next Wednesday's song leader.
I've also learned to shy away from doing many weddings or funerals. I used to accept every one that came along, but now I limit myself mainly to members of the congregation. Rarely are these events of much evangelistic worth and my time is better spent elsewhere.
So I'll continue to focus on my preaching, teaching, writing, some light administration, visiting, spiritual guidance, and community involvement. Someone else can lead the songs, plan the hayrides, teach the kids, hang the dry wall, and head hunt for teachers. My time is better spent with what I do best.
So if you're a minister and the hiring congregation most admires gifts that won't allow you to prioritize your strengths, then don't go there.