The Needed And Under-Developed Skills Of Ministers


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I’ve gotten to learn from Jeff Young and be his friend, for more than a decade now. No matter where Jeff has served, he’s always made it a point to serve other churches and ministers. Many people can claim Jeff as a mentor – he purposely looks for opportunities to care for and develop those around him.

Jeff serves at Green Acres Baptist Church in Texas (at the time of this interview, he served at Prestonwood Baptist Church Plano, Texas.

I recently interviewed Jeff regarding what he’s found to be the core competencies of successful ministers. Specifically, I asked him which skills ministers should be developing, and what are the weaknesses he’s seen in those who serve in mega churches. (Jeff has served in multiple.)

My questions to Jeff are in bold, followed by his responses.

What are the skill sets you feel are must-haves for any minister coming into their first full-time position?

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, understand… all are critical and will endear them to their supervisor, 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 skills 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 our issue… it’s the self-leadership that’s necessary to make those strategies soar, that holds many back.

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

Honestly, I think it comes from experience and the people leading you.  I realize that could be frustrating to a young leader, due to the fact that they might be serving under a weak leader and/or experience takes time… but I believe I’m right. Obviously there are books on building relationships or execution (I highly recommend Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan’s book, Execution), and other helpful topics.  I believe reading and discussing what you read with a teammate is extremely beneficial to skill development.

As church sizes get bigger, what are the biggest shifts in mindset needed for ministers serving larger churches?

The old adage, “you give up to go up” applies here.  (1) You have to focus on equipping and development of volunteers more, 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 being spread thin, (i.e. learn to use meetings for hearing prepared updates vs. simply assigning tasks).  While you must spend time thinking through who needs to have reports to share, this will save you 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”, due to your influence 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) “Email/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 and his wife, Carol, live in Carrollton and have three children, Emily (married to Dave Kinney), Brett and Bryce. You can follow Jeff on Twitter via @JeffYoung7.

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