We moved to Havelock North Carolina last summer and recently took an orientation type class at our new church. As part of the class, the Pastor presents all new members and/or member prospects the book Living Your Strengths by Winseman, Clifton, and Liesveld from Gallup Press. Included on the inside of each book jacket is an ID code that allows you to go online and take a test. Its purpose is to tell you your top five strengths. This test is an excellent resource and one I found quite honest in the results, even though the taking of the test itself was a bit overwhelming as you had to answer each question within a very short time limit. The book itself is really just a guide to use AFTER you have taken the test because it gives details and suggestions for ministry work using your God-given talents per each strength. By the way, this is not a test on finding your spiritual gifts. Those are not necessarily the same as your personal strengths. It is also not a new fad or program to try out. It is simply a tool to help you understand what your talents are and where you can use them to be most beneficial to your church.
Belief is in my top five, but context is my top strength. At first I was a bit perturbed that belief didn’t show up as my top strength (I wondered if that meant I might deny Christ or something) but after reading the explanations of the strengths, it actually made total sense to me. I always have to know the who, what, when, where, why, and how of everything. Thankfully I am not a cat, as they only have nine lives, because I’m sure with my curiousity bug that I would have been dead long ago! Intellection, input, and responsibility are the other three of my top five strengths. My husband laughed as he read my report that was included at the conclusion of the test. I heard “Yep, that’s you!” more times than I care to talk about. Our pastor has only known me a short while and I think he may have even repeated that phrase. I guess I’m a pretty open book with my life and experiences.
The types of books that I’ve typically been interested in for the better part of my adult life when looking at the library (or more recently online) were books that dealt with subjects such as the many translations of the Bible, what the Apocrapha’s are and why they are or aren’t included in different versions of the Bible, Christianity throughout the middle ages, differences between denominations, the Crusades, and so forth. I have other interests too but they all stem from history of some sort whether it be genealogy, presidential papers, old books, antiques, our nations founding fathers… the list can go on. Knowing my strengths, and seeing it in print I guess, has given me a new freedom in being me. I no longer really care if the librarian or anyone else in sight thinks I’m crazy and looks at me sideways for checking out 8 or 10 books of religious study matter at the same time as I check out one book on housekeeping and three books on gardening. I have two weeks to read them all, right?! The secret I must confess is that I usually make it through nearly every religious study book and one of the gardening books but only half way through the housekeeping book. I AM a keeper at home, and I keep my home pretty well, but I also get sidetracked easily and may have to turn the dryer on three times to re-fluff the clothes before I fold them because I don’t have to iron them. What can I say? It’s just the way I’m wired!
However, there is another new found freedom in learning my strengths, too, and that is knowing when I can and should say yes, or maybe even no, to requests in filling open positions at church. Our former church in Yuma Arizona has a motto they use when looking for people to fill open slots in the ministry of the church: The Miracle is in the House! We firmly believed we didn’t need to “hire” outside help because God had already provided. It was up to the person He had called to be open to listening and then to stepping up to fill their God appointed spot. Any church can say they always need more helpers, or assistants in Sunday School classes or nursery, and I’m sure we did at Morningside as well, but there wasn’t ever a major position left empty. Our new church here in North Carolina, by giving copies of Living Your Strengths, is following the same type of idea even though the route might be a bit different.
Now, mind you, God does not always go by the “book” and may call you to come out of your comfort zone when He wants you to fill a place of ministry He has set before you. You have to be open to listening to that Call. However, if you just aren’t sure where you really fit best, and you don’t feel a certain calling to any particular area, then maybe taking a strengths finder test like the one offered with this book will be good for you. Who knows?! Maybe you are just the perfect person with the right amount of WOO to meet and direct newcomers on Sunday morning. Are you a bit FUTURISTIC in your thinking? Perhaps you are just what the building and growth committee needs for a bit of added insight. Are you gifted with the RESPONSIBILITY strength? Do you know someone who has issues with following through and desires help in that area? Then maybe you are just the accountability partner that person needs. Whatever your God-given talents are, use them ALL for the glory of God! Your church will be better off, and you will be better off!