Getting stronger by focusing on strength

I spend a lot of time listening to people who are smarter than I am. Perhaps because there are so many of them out there! Marcus Buckingham is a pretty smart guy and a management guru. One of his basics is that we need to do a self-assessment and figure out what our strengths are and what our weaknesses are. And to get better, we need to focus on one of these areas. But it’s not the one you think.

He points out that if we focus on our weaknesses, the best we can aspire to is to be average. But if we take what we are good at and make it better, this is where excellence comes from.

Like I said, he’s way smarter than I am.

But then I go back to another guy who fits that category, Bishop Robert Schnase. In his Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, Bishop Schnase says our churches need to do five things well: worship, mission, hospitality, faith development and generosity. In the book, he writes, “By repeating and improving these practices churches fulfill their mission to make disciples…”

So Buckingham says to focus on what you do best. Schnase says you have to do everything well. Who’s right? If I were under Episcopal appointment I would, of course, instantly agree with Schnase. If I look at who has sold more books and who gets paid more for a public appearance, it would clearly be Buckingham.

I think Buckingham is used to dealing with individuals in a large organization. I, for instance, am far more interested in the sales and presentation part of my job than I am in the administering internal policies. But fortunately I have folks around me to help with that. So, he says, I should focus on my strengths and leave the paperwork to my Financial Assistant and Board Audit Committee.

But in a church, if the worship is excellent but the hospitality is hostile, you’re not going to grow. And if you can’t have strong mission programs without committed disciples of faith to staff those efforts.

So I think what you need to do is make sure that you have at least a respectable baseline in your church for all five of Schnase’s categories. Then figure out what you do best and go be excellent at it.

Please aspire to excellence, not to being average.

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