We ought to pay closer attention to the difference between leadership and caring gifts. For instance, many congregations have a group tasked primarily with leadership issues (usually the senior board or council of a church). Another board, committee or group meets individual needs of members in times of illness, difficulty or crisis.

The primary gifts needed to fulfill the leadership function are fundamentally different from those needed to fulfill a caring function. People in crisis need caregivers who are high on mercy, understanding and patience. What they don't need (or want) are type A leaders who want to give them the five steps out of their crisis in the next 48 hours, if they would only get their act together!

Those with strong leadership gifts are often not great at "feeling your pain." When enmeshed in caring ministries, many leadership-gifted individuals want to get on with the stuff of vision, strategy and decision-making.

At the same time, many decisions that leaders make are going to cause someone or some group in the church to be unhappy. High mercy individuals often find conflict difficult, and leadership has its share of conflict (good and bad kinds). I have encountered high mercy types in senior leadership roles who feel totally out of their comfort zone. They serve because they were asked, but it is a painful and frustrating experience for them.

Perhaps one of the reasons so many churches in the United States are at a plateau or in decline is that we have not asked enough leaders to lead and have paid little attention to where we deploy individuals in relation to their God-given gift set. My experience is that nominating committees (or whoever are the gatekeepers for those asked to serve) receive little or no training in the whole process of giftedness. Yet they are the recruiters of people into key ministry roles.

In the marketplace, huge energy and money is expended to get the right people into the right spot based on abilities and wiring. In the church, far too little attention is paid to this, even though the New Testament clearly articulates the principle.

Strong leadership boards are made up of individuals who have leadership or administrative gifts within their gift set, are comfortable in their leadership role, are people of proven influence, and are willing to carry out all the New Testament-given functions of senior church leaders.
  • May 27, 2013
  • Category: News
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