One of my favorite parts about my job is that I get to help students discover their gifts. I believe that knowing how you are gifted is a key characteristic of not just an effective leader, but a kingdom worker in general. God specifically created each one of us with unique talents and abilities that we need take full advantage of. It is a huge part of us finding our identity in Christ. We need to find security in who God created us to be so that we aren’t consistently trying to become who we feel others want us to be. Normally, that message is taught about moral integrity, but I believe that it can also apply to Godly servanthood and leadership. When it comes to student leadership, I always encourage students to lead according to how God created them. While I want them to be looking at other leaders and applying leadership skills that they have observed, I don’t want them to lead like someone else who has different gifts. When we aren’t using our gifts, we are keeping ourselves from reaching our full potential. I got to see a great example of this a couple months ago.
This summer, we took our student leaders to the Student Leadership Conference (if you aren’t already going, you need to go next year!). At the conference, two of our students (Delaney and Ashley) got the opportunity to lead a workshop. Each girl got to teach their workshop two times, which allowed for them to learn a valuable lesson. The first time around, both workshops fell flat. After some debriefing, we found that the problem was that they weren’t using their gifts. For example, Ashley is an incredible writer, often sharing her poetry in our weekend services. Being the writer she is, she wrote a beautiful lesson on how to lead like Jesus. Now Ashley is great at communicating what she has written down, but isn’t strong when she teaches off of memory. The first time she led her workshop, she abandoned what she had written and taught outside her “sweet spot”, where she fell flat. Because of that, we told her to read off of what she had written. 99% of the time, that is the worst advice you can give to a speaker, but with her, it was perfect. She started her workshop by explaining that God has gifted her with writing and she began to read off her message with the passion in which she wrote it. The results were powerful and impactful, with several students walking out talking about it.
Once Ashley made use of the gifts that the Lord had given her, she was able to lead like never before. That is what I want to see all students doing, making use of their gifts! If you are wondering how to help the students in your ministry do this, here are a couple resources you can check out:
- Student Leaders Start Here by Doug Franklin: What I love is that this book is a workbook. It teaches students leadership principles while allowing them to take quizzes to find out more about their spiritual gifts and leadership style. We are currently taking our students through it.
- Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath: It is a secular book, but it is incredible. When you buy the book, you are also buying an online strengths quiz. The book walks you through the pros and cons of your strengths.
- Congratulations… You’re Gifted! By Doug Fields: This book takes you through the S.H.A.P.E acrostic (Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences). We use the S.H.A.P.E. model even in our adult ministry at Saddleback Church.
What are you doing to help your students find their gifts?
Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter at @ColtonHarker