Play to your strengths

So, I’m having dinner with two new friends and I find out that “she plays basketball.” I look at her, and offer a challenge: “How about you find a female friend and your boyfriend (who is sitting at the table) and I will take you guys on!” Now you must understand a few things. I am 52, her boyfriend hasn’t played much basketball and she is the starting point guard for the College team. You would never bet your coat that we could win this game.

However, there is only one possible way we can win this game. I said to the stunned boyfriend, “All we have to do is to play to our strengths.” She is five foot one. I’m six feet. My strength will be rebounding. He told me that he has “one shot that he kinda makes… sometimes.” That’s it! That is what we’ll work for.

Now this may be an odd move but I want to suggest that ministry, in some ways, is like this scenario. While there are certain things that we must do each week in youth group (prayer, Bible study are the two main ones), you the youth leader needs to ‘play to your strengths’. Let me explain…

Some of you are born listeners and counselors. Others of you love to teach the Bible. Some of you love to sing and make music, while others love to pray and pray. What this means is that you have God given talents and strengths that you must use to the Kingdom’s advantage.

A word of warning and a word of encouragement

Now, be clear on this: this does not let you off the hook for doing those things that you don’t feel are your strengths. For instance, just because you love (and are gifted) in singing does not mean that your group doesn’t have a Bible study. There are “musts” that you need to be committed to whether you are gifted in them or not.

However, don’t feel guilty for concentrating on those things that you feel you are good at. Let me give you two examples

Example A—yours truly

I think that I am pretty good at teaching the Bible to young people. I love doing it and I think I have a track record of some good results. I also love teaching males what it means to be a strong Christian male. This means that I will have a healthy focus on teaching in our weekly meeting. I won’t shy away from it nor will I apologize for it. I will also have a healthy time in our overall program for males to spend time together (in one to one coffees, small groups and the occasional ‘guys only’ retreat).

Example B

I spent an afternoon with a young clergyman in a small town in Australia. He sat there in his clerical collar and explained to me that he loved music. He wondered if “it was bad that he wanted to have a healthy time of praise and worship in his weekly youth program at the expense of the fun stuff”. I explained to him the philosophy of playing to your strengths. Not only should he have a good amount of singing, but he should actively encourage it, promote it, and equip the youth in his group to be skilled at it.

[It is interesting to note that some of my thinking on this issue was formed when I worked in Vancouver in an Anglican church. This church was what some Anglicans would call ‘middle’ (this means a higher emphasis placed on a liturgical style of worship). As a result of the liturgical culture, we built in some liturgy on our retreats and it went down very well. We used a set of prayers called Compline at the end of the day and it was very well received by the youth. In this case, I was playing to their strengths!]

Two final thoughts

Please be realistic about knowing what actually is your strength. We have too many people who feel they are gifted at certain things when the facts really don’t back this up. Surround yourself with wise and honest voices who will give you true counsel.

If you don’t feel that you have a particular skill that trumps the others, don’t sweat it. “Discharge all the duties of your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5)

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