A Youth Minister’s Guide to Leading from Your Strengths

by Stephen Ingram

Many youth ministers struggle for a number of reasons. It may be due to overcommitting ourselves, difficulty finding healthy rhythms, or lack of support and training. However, most of us struggle because we are working from deficits rather than surpluses. We can usually deal with these aspects of our jobs and in many cases these things add spice, excitement, and drive to continue in our ministries. The real problems come when we are continually spending more and more time on those things that we really are not gifted to do. It is frustrating, tiring, and makes the other things that are usually bearable seem much more strenuous. We often find ourselves spending the majority of our time working on those difficult pieces and have less and less time to do those things we are naturally gifted and inclined to do.

Let me put it another way. When I was in school I loved literature. It was and is a deep passion of mine. I could read and analyze Eliot, Frost, Bryant, Thoreau, Emerson, and Hughes all day. I loved it. It moved me, inspired me, and ultimately shaped me in profound ways. Math, however, was the bane of my existence because I stink at math. It’s not that I don’t value it, or not think that it is worth my attention. In actuality I spent much more time in high school studying math than I ever spent reading prose. This is what I was told to do, and if I wanted to pass, what I had to do. So my love was replaced with my hate and I struggled. Now please understand me: we have to attain a certain level of competence in areas that we struggle in. We need this for practical reasons, but it is also beneficial for us to work diligently to attain something that is difficult to come by. In our jobs, our careers, and our ministries we should, however, find ways to focus and specialize on those aspects that come naturally, through which we excel and that give us energy. If we are not doing this, then we will continually find ourselves frustrated — spinning our wheels — and not finding joy in the areas of our strengths.

It is at the point where our passion meets our vocation where a book called Strengths Finder 2.0 shines. Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath is the most amazing resource I have ever come across to help people understand, utilize, and exploit their natural gift. If you are unfamiliar with the book, it is a concept in which 34 primary strengths have been identified and an accompanying assessment is given. You discover your top 5 of the 34 strengths and are given information on how to best utilize those strengths.