The Needed and Under-Developed Skills of Ministers

By Jeff Young

What are the skill sets you believe are must-haves for ministers coming into their first full-time positions?

Obviously, there are matters of character that are critical for any minister, but from purely a “skill set” perspective, I believe (1) a bias toward action (both with relationship building and current issues that need to be solved); and (2) teach-ability (a willingness to listen, read, and understand are all critical and will endear them to supervisors, peers and volunteers). If I can find a young minister who has a bias toward action (both relationally and in problem solving), who is eager to learn (absorbing information and changing as a result), I’m all in!

What skill sets do you see that are most under-developed in ministers and cause issues for them and the church?

(1) The ability to coach and develop volunteers in small-group settings. Honestly it’s easier to have a large-group equipping session and disseminate the prepared vision, ideas, etc., than it is to discuss these same matters with a small group of leaders and get push-back or specific questions about implementation. (2) Lack of confrontation skills. Everyone wants to be liked, and “after all, they are volunteers.” (3) Execution abilities. Developing strategies isn’t the issue—it’s the self-leadership necessary to make those strategies soar that holds many back.

For you and others you’ve developed, what have been the best places to receive training in these important areas?

Honestly, I think it comes from experience and the people leading you. I realize this can be frustrating for a young leader, especially if he or she is serving under a weak leader; and/or experience takes time. But I believe I’m right. Obviously, there are books on building relationships and execution, and other helpful topics. (I highly recommend Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan.) I believe reading and discussing what you read with a teammate is extremely beneficial to skill development.

As churches grow, what are the biggest shifts in the mindset needed for ministers serving larger churches?

The adage, “you give up to go up” applies here. (1) You have to focus more on the equipping and development of volunteers because you can’t be aware of everything that is occurring in every setting. While you may garner more oversight, you will also give up some control. (2) Your delegation skills will need to expand because your time will be spread thin, and you’ll need to learn how to leverage meetings. Preparation for meetings is extremely important due to your time limitations (e.g., learn to be strategic about using meetings to hear prepared updates vs. simply to assign tasks). While you must contemplate and plan whose reports are most critical for each meeting, this will save you the need for multiple meetings; it allows the team to see the big picture, and provides accountability laterally all at the same time. (3) Understand that while you will know more people, you may not know as many “closely,” because your influence is being spread wider. (4) Finally, you will learn to allow others to attempt things that you never would in a smaller setting. Most likely, the church you are serving became larger because people took risks; they tried something new/different. That can be scary, expensive … and things can fail. But you have to learn to allow your team the freedom to “swing and miss.” It’s critically important.

What are the assumptions/attitudes made by ministers at larger churches that you feel hinder their effectiveness?

(1) “We can’t have close friends in the church.” I understand their concerns, and we must be very, very wise—but I disagree with the “absoluteness” of the concept. (2) “I can’t disciple a small group of men because some will feel left out.” That’s the worst reasoning I hear. After all, who is our example? Jesus left quite a few out! (3) “E-mailing/texting is the best way to communicate.” Nothing beats a face-to-face meeting or a phone call—even if it’s a voicemail. (4) “I said it, so they need to do it.” While I understand this thought in its purest form, volunteers rarely respond well to this attitude and, honestly, neither do the ministers on our team. Think relationally versus powering up. Clearly, there will be times when you need to say “because I say so,” but make those the exception versus the rule.

_________________________

Jeff Young serves as Minister of Spiritual Development at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @JeffYoung7.