The Secret to Finding Your Purpose

Exploit your strengths, push to discomfort.

I was confused on my journey to discover my strengths.

Maybe it had to do with those two ridiculous interview questions: What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?

As I would stare at the interviewer, I'd describe something already listed on the job description (”I’m great with people.”). Then with some twisted reverse psychology I'd describe some irrelevant characteristic like ”I work too hard.”

As humorous as that is, it doesn’t do me any good in my pursuit to find purpose and impact.

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In fact I think we can get confused with the idea of strengths, confusing them solely with abilities that come easy to us. That’s a limited view that does more to create frustration and disappointment.

Instead, let’s look to Marcus Buckingham’s four clear signs of strength:

  1. Success — This is effectiveness in the activity you are doing.
  2. Instincts — Find those things that you instinctively look forward to, and capitalize on them.
  3. Growth — You're growing when you can concentrate on an activity, and time just flies by.
  4. Needs — Some activities might make you tired, but they fulfill you.

I can tell you from experience that it took years of experimenting to hone in on my strengths, but once I began to understand them, I could offer them whenever possible.

The Problem

Discovering your strengths/your greatest contribution is exhilarating. It’s like uncovering hidden treasure. We discover something about ourselves that we’ve always had a hunch was there. The problem is stopping here. Discovering your strengths is not discovering your purpose, but it is a step on the way their.

Exploit

Once you discover your strengths, you’re next step is to lean in. Offer that strength whenever possible. Offer it on small projects, offer it on large ones. If you do it better than anyone else, with proven results, put those skills to good work. [Read more]

Discomfort

The secret to finding your purpose is hidden in discomfort. The danger of discovering your strengths is the huge temptation to stay safe, to only do things you know you’re good at. You box yourself just to stay safe.

Instead, push yourself to the edge of your skill set. If you’re using your strengths, but are at the edge of your ability, you’re in just the right spot.

 
 Modified. Image credit,  @darcyjohoman

Modified. Image credit, @darcyjohoman

 

Ask for new responsibility, talk to that person you feel intimidated to talk to (could be a neighbor or someone you look up to).

Just make sure to exploit your strengths & push to discomfort. You never know what God might want to do through you.

The Jolt That Jump Started the Momentum

Have you ever had one of those days where you dream about the future?

Maybe you had one of those moments talking with a trusted friend where the conversations turns to what could be and your heart starts to beat a little faster. You mind races as you bounce back and forth imagining what life would be like if we could just ______________. 

 

Unfortunately, as I’ve talked with pastors and church leaders, I’ve noticed one huge, discouraging problem! 

 

This problem plagues both organizations and individuals. 

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If you’re like me, the decade markers of our lives tend to be the moments when we evaluate our progress to date. Some people have panic attacks, others have a mid-life crisis. I landed somewhere in between. I was having a fair amount of success in my job (not in the church) but wasn’t having the kind of impact I had always imagined my life would have. I was working hard, enjoying my life but I wasn’t making any progress towards anything that remotely resembled my “life’s work”. My own life was plagued with the same, huge, discouraging problem. 

 

So, what was the huge problem I saw?

 

The problem can actually be separated into two equally important parts.

 

1. No clear, actionable plan to move toward the dream. 

More often then not, the dream of the future is much clearer than the steps to get there. That’s probably because dreaming is the easier part. Working out an actionable plan means working through a truckload of variables. It requires the ability to uncover what’s most important and which steps require priority. It requires a clear understanding of the current situation, as well as, what’s happened in the past. 

It commonly requires some type of change management, which undoubtedly requires conviction and focused energy. 

Teams need more than emotional enthusiasm; they need solid planning and strategy that empowers and executes the vision.
— Tony Morgan

That potential for conflict can stop any sort of actionable plan dead in its tracks. 

An aggressive actionable plan requires an appropriate amount of tolerance for risk and ambiguity, matched with the right timing, level of details, understood variables and defined tasks. None of which all come naturally to one person and therefore require some level of healthy conflict. 

 

2. No jolt, to break you from your current reality.

A jolt is most often the required ingredient for teams to overcome the fear of conflict.  That event that can serve as a catalyst to open the planning process and present the need for immediate action. 

Better yet, an external guide to help the process can help the team move beyond personalities. An outsider, who doesn’t, as they say, have a horse in the game can provide an unbiased focal point for your discussion and planning.  

A couple of years back, our church hit a turning point by going through this exact type of process. We hired an outside organization to walk us through a process that would point us toward a much clearer path moving forward. Starting with a two-day offsite (a jolt) we spent the following year moving through a clear actionable plan. Not only did we have a map to follow, we now had a taste for clarity and focus.  

 

Why I became StratOp certified.

 

That experience is precisely why I became StratOp certified. It has always been a passion and a calling of mine to help those I care about find clarity and purpose in what they do. The StratOp process provided the clarity and longevity to accelerate that impact. It’s why I now offer a Lead Forward process based on the Strategic Operating plan pioneered by the Paterson Center over the last 30 years. 

 
 

Leading forward to the dream and vision you have for your church’s future means is what you were meant to do. Don’t stay still and grow stale, jump forward and lead your church to the next level. 

7 Myths Uncovered About Church Planter Assessments

I was a huge skeptic. A new friend told me we needed to consider sending our newest potential campus pastor through a church planter assessment. I scoffed at the idea. I already knew our guy was awesome. Why would I go and spend a few thousand dollars just to confirm what I already knew? What a waste of money!

Thankfully my friend is a persuasive person. He encouraged me to, at very least, observe and I caved. With my arms crossed, I jumped on a plane to Vegas to watch an assessment in action. 

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As much as I hate fulfilling any stereotype, I was a HUGE one. I’m sure there were several people who heard me describe how we were “different” and I wasn’t sure this would work in our situation. Without a doubt, every other experienced assessor was just being polite as they waited for me to come around.  

And throughout our experience with assessments, we’ve uncovered 7 myths about church planter assessments.

  1. Assessments are only for church planters. //
    While the assessment is primarily targeted at church planters, it covers skills and competencies I believe all key staff members should have. It is common to see church planters, worship leaders, campus pastors, and various other staff hires attending assessment. For example, not every staff member will be pitching a missions board asking for money, but talking about money in a clear, professional, compelling manner is a valuable skill no matter what role you fill. 

  2. They won’t understand how church works in my region. They have no idea how we do things here. We are different! //
    You’re not that different. Your context might be, but leadership is leadership no matter where in the world you find yourself. Character and teamwork don’t change depending on which ocean you’re looking at. And if there are regional differences, the best assessments have someone from that team to help answer questions and provide perspective. 

  3. The people closest to our candidate have already validated their calling, why do we need the opinion of strangers? //
    I struggled with this at first, but it wasn’t long before I got nervous that I wanted our candidate to succeed because I like him. We had already been on a ministry journey together and I quickly feared this may cloud my judgment. Having a respected group of strangers take an analytical and experienced look at any candidate can help you validate things you weren’t 100% confident with, while also providing advice you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. A group of experienced assessors have no “sunk costs” with a candidate. They don’t have preconceived ideas about who a candidate is, or who they know. All they can see is the candidate in front of them. 

  4. They are too expensive. //
    Imagine this. You make a bad hire. How much have you spent on salary before you realize it? How long before you do something about it?  If we're going to spend 10 of thousands of dollars on this individual over the next year, a few thousand to make sure we’ve got a solid game plan is probably worth it. 

    1. How are you going to judge our candidate? They don’t even know him/her! //
      But they will. The goal going into each assessment is to deeply understand what makes each candidate unique. The best assessments encourage you or someone from your team to participate in the process to help provide a more intimate understanding of what makes each candidate unique. 

    2. Aren’t they just measuring me against a cookie cutter recipe? //
      Nope! They really are not. Every candidate is an individual and the goal of a great assessment is to give individualized specific feedback and coaching. The goal isn’t checking all the boxes on the checklist. It’s helping each unique child of God discover their best, most God-honoring next step. 

    3. Fine, but why is their spouse coming? //
      "If I'm the one in the designated ministry role, why does my spouse need to participate in the assessment?” is a question I think many candidates wrestle with. Especially those coming from larger churches. What we know about marriages is that they are a team. What happens to one effects the other. Not only does a spouse provide some perspective, but who else would you want on the journey with you. While not every spouse will be energized by the experience, they provide such a unique and powerful impact on the future, I can’t think of any other way to replicate. Trying to reach a God-given potential without them seems like it isn't possilbe...or healthy. 

    I’d encourage you to consider sending your next church planter, campus pastor or staff hire through an assessment. Better yet, I’d encourage you to go with them. I’m willing to bet you walk away completely convinced that this will be an incredibly useful tool in your ministry tool belt. 


    My home church, Westside Community Church, is hosting a CPAC (Church Planter Assessment Center) assessment in 2018 (more info). You can find more about the assessment we use on the Stadia Church Planting website