Most Important Skills
What three skills help you the most in carrying out your pastoral ministry? How do they help you, and to what degree did you feel gifted in these three areas, and how much did you have to work to acquire and or develop them?
- I’m a people person.
- I have zero problem with delegation.
- I release people to operate in their gifting with minimal oversight.
The only one of these three ‘gifts’ that came very natural to me was number one. Even as a high school student, I was friends with people from every major social group. The ‘jocks,’ the ‘greasers,’ and the ‘burn-outs.’ I will NOT talk about which group I fit in the best!
I’ve watched many leaders over the years talk a good talk about the whole delegation thing, but when it came to truly releasing the delegated duty, they stayed involved in the process to such a degree as to discourage the delegate.
In the last 8 years, we’ve grown so rapidly I’ve had no choice but to be in the accelerated class in this discipline. Thankfully, I’ve made it a priority over the last 20+ years to watch people that operate well in these areas, listen to their wisdom, read books on the subject, etc. There is no shortcut to success in this area!
Pastor Brad Allen – San Mateo, CA
Here, gifted pastors will share essential and extremely necessary skills that we ministers need to develop and hone to a fine degree. If I may, I want to mention three things that are not really skills per se, but essential elements upon which key ministerial skills are built.
- A real encounter and relationship with Jesus. He saved me, forgave me, delivered me, and proved His reality, power, love, and grace to me many times over. This is first and foremost. I know the God of the Bible and His Son Jesus, and I’m filled with His Holy Spirit who lives in, and empowers me. Never lose sight of, and appreciation for, your salvation.
- My Rhema Bible Training Center education included theology, faith, prayer, homiletics, ministry ethics, love for the Word, good friends, and a never-quit mentality that has helped in every area of life. It is the best ministry training center on the planet. If you can study in Broken Arrow, OK, at Rhema or the official school in your country, it is worth the time and effort.
- My wife of 28 years who is on fire for Jesus just as much as when I first met her 30 years ago. She has a real prayer life and real love for the Lord that keeps our home, our son, and our church, happy, steady, and faith-filled. I thank God for, and sow to, our marriage daily. It is the foundation and platform without which our message is lost.
You will develop the skills; but don’t ever become so “good at ministry” that you ever neglect your prayer life, ethics, or marriage.
Pastor Monte Knudsen – Mt. Pleasant, IA
The answer to this question, I think, determines why people follow pastors and why they don’t.
For example, what makes us personally feel impressed to follow someone’s teaching or spiritual leadership? The answer is: Trust. There are basically three areas in which we trust people – Integrity, Competency, and Vision.
Sadly, we often will trust a high level of competency before we check on their integrity. But once they fail us in the integrity area, we no longer value their high skill level or competency any more. Great examples of this in recent decades were Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker. Highly skilled and talented men and very good at what they did to communicate the gospel, but they lost their integrity and lost the people who followed them.
So, I first cherish integrity. And I work at it. I refuse to put myself at risk and lose my integrity. This means I have major systems in place for high accountability in areas of money, decision-making, and staff.
Money: no one person handles the money of our organization. Each transaction is gone over monthly by a board of directors. Yearly reports are made to the congregation. Audits are done once a year. As CFO, I am not allowed to buy anything over a certain limit without approval. Salaries are set by a group of people using national reports to be fair and honest with compensation. Reasons must be qualified to give large or generous bonuses. All credit card expenditures must be receipted and be within guidelines of church policy expenditures. This takes effort and work. It also builds trust and integrity. One thoughtless mistake can ruin a lifetime of integrity. It’s a skill that can be learned but will only be motivated by a heart that doesn’t seek control.
Staff: as pastor, I must give my staff direction, regular review and honest evaluation. With high profile work and lots of public interaction, one accusation that can’t be immediately addressed and dismissed brings with it enormous consequence. Otherwise, I have a mental picture of expectation but they are clueless as to what I expect. When conflict arises (and it will), because job descriptions are clear and reviewed annually, it doesn’t become a questionable issue of changing opinions and personal feelings or changing my mind from one month to the other. My word is full of integrity. Without this, staff will at times question your honesty with them. This is especially true if you make a presumptuous promise and then, for no reason apparent to them, don’t keep that promise. You are then viewed as a liar, even when you had good intentions. People love to work for someone they trust. This takes time and I have had to develop policies and systems to make sure this is done. It is a skill that can be learned and improved upon. This is also enormously helpful with volunteers who will flourish in an atmosphere of trust. When volunteers know what is expected of them, they can work to achieve those expectations.
I also protect myself and my staff from sexual accusations. So, windows are on all office doors and ministry rooms. No staff member can be with the opposite sex alone at lunch, dinner, or even a ministry function. Where teams are necessary, we do not ever put two people of the opposite sex together unless they are married. In a world of loose morals and loose talk, we ‘work’ to keep our integrity.
Competency: this deals with skill and talents that can be improved upon. As ministers, people skills are imperative. Communication skills are necessary and leadership skills are needed. If I have tremendous revelation but am incapable of communicating it, it helps no one. If I have never developed my people skills, I am not trusted to handle sensitive issues, funerals, weddings and especially public speaking because I am careless or thoughtless about what I say. I usually have a trusted friend evaluate my communication skills yearly to see if they are improving or remaining the same. I have also taken classes for it, as well as have spoken at other events than church to force myself not to take my congregation for granted and prepare well. There are good books to read along these three key skills needed to have high productivity and success. No one achieves high levels of competency without coaching—no one.
Vision: vision is simply bringing solutions to problems. If you have a vision to upgrade your bathrooms, but it doesn’t solve a problem, it simply doesn’t matter. Solving problems that do not matter bring into question your trustworthiness in vision. If you want to reach more young people, but it doesn’t solve a problem, it will simply tear your church apart and pit age groups against each other. The vision has to matter. If it doesn’t, you will lose the trust of your people to go with you and to help you accomplish vision because it just doesn’t matter and solves no problem to them. If you have a vision to reach sinners for Christ, but all you do is speak to saved people weekly, you are revealing your vision doesn’t matter that much. You must have a vision that matters so much it will move you to sacrifice, give and work. It’s a problem that must be solved. When this is true, the integrity of what you are doing rings true and people want to be involved. They want to make a difference.
These key areas then are worth developing: trust in my integrity, trust in my competency and trust in my vision.
Pastor Jim Graff – Victoria, TX
I believe the three skills most important to pastoral ministry are the following: prayer, communication, and leadership. As a young man, I was raised around good leaders. Because of that, leadership came the easiest to me when I started in ministry thirty years ago. I’ve found in coaching pastors that we all have great potential in all three areas. If a good continuing education program is employed, we become amazed at how effective we can become!
Pastor Bernie Samples – Barstow, CA
I think my number one skill in helping me to pastor effectively has been that I’m a people person. I love all kinds of people. I feel gifted in the fact that I’m able to see the potential in people and have the patience to work with them and help develop them to be productive in serving God. I really didn’t have to work hard at this because I’ve always loved interaction with a broad cross-section of people.
My number two skill has been being able to organize priorities and separate personal life from ministry. I learned years ago the value of scheduling office/ministry days and regular days off and honoring both. They help me in that I’m able to totally focus on ministry when “I’m on the clock for Jesus,” and when I’m “off the clock,” I can unwind and enjoy family, working in my little garage/workshop, gardening, ballgames or just enjoy watching a good Western on TV. I don’t feel that I’m especially gifted in this area, but I developed this skill years ago by seeing that if I didn’t I would probably burn out.
My number three skill is the ability to train and delegate to my leaders, things that they can do so I can grow and do the things that only I can do. I’m free to Acts 6:4, “Give myself continually to prayer and the ministry of the word.” This is able to help me be in position to hear from the Holy Spirit and know the difference between “good things” and “God things” for our ministry. I’m not a micro-manager, so when I hand something off, I’m able to monitor it from a distance and allow my leaders to develop it even better than I could have. This skill came pretty naturally to me because I observed the results in pastors who tried to do everything and control everything.
Our church has enjoyed growth through new births and people being free to learn and grow and be used in what the Lord has gifted and called them to do for years! So we are pleased in the results of using the skills we’ve been blessed with.
Pastor Thom Fields – Kennewick, WA
I’d like to say the three most powerful skills I possess are things like my amazing skill of communication, or my leadership skills, musical skills, or maybe even my highly developed skills at total and complete awesomeness. But those aren’t mine. Mine are more boring. Here’s my top three:
I simply attempt to pay close attention to the things that are capturing my attention. An old adage says, “Where you stare, you will steer.” Believe that the thing(s) we pay attention to will do three things for us.
- Alter our thinking
- Capture of heart
- Direct our steps
With that in mind, I attempt to keep tight reigns on the things that are capturing my attention. That allows me to steady my focus on my True Intentions. I rarely wake up in the morning with the intention of taking somebody’s head off. However, due to the presence of others in my life, I’ve noticed over the years that “conflict” has the ability to cause me to often forget what my true intentions are. Conflict tempts me to move away from the purposes of God, for example, in a pursuit of my own purposes. If I can remind myself, even in the midst of conflict, of my real intentions, I can attack issues instead of attacking people.
By paying attention and remembering my true intentions, I can effectively activate the art of prevention. Prevention is simply, in this case, the ability to avoid time wasting mistakes that distract me from accomplishing the will of God. My goal is to eliminate as many mistakes as I possibly can in my pursuit of cheerfully pleasing God.
I believe these three skills help me the most in my pastoral ministry. I’m not “gifted” in any of these three skills. I have to work on them repeatedly in order to apply them. But, without utilizing these three skills, I find I’m constantly repairing the results of numerous mistakes!
Pastor Kevin Berry – Lansing, MI
Great question… well here it goes.
The first skill would be leadership. If you’re a great preacher, if you know how to genuinely care for the flock that God has entrusted to you, but do not know how to lead properly, you will be forever limited in the fruitfulness and success you can have. Leadership includes the vitally important skill of vision casting—being able to see what is in the future and having the leadership capacity to equip and include others in that vision. Leadership means reproducing yourself into others and making more leaders!
Leaders are results-oriented, leaders solve problems, leaders are someone you want to follow, leaders focus—they don’t spray, leaders set goals, and leaders work at being great leaders. Leadership is a skill that must be developed. Nobody is born a leader. When I was born and the doctor handed me to my parents, they didn’t look at me and say, “Look, we have a little leader.” They had a baby. Over time, I have had to work at developing the leadership gift.
The second skill is all about loving people deeply! You see, it’s really hard for people to believe that God gives a rip about them, if you don’t. If you don’t learn how to love people deeply, if you refuse to develop the art of affirmation, and never grow in compassion, some day you may find yourself with an enlarged ministry, but a shriveled heart. You simply cannot be successful in pastoral ministry if you don’t genuinely love the people God has entrusted to your care. While love and compassion are things that God puts in your heart, you can develop the skill of showing that love. It’s learning how to pour courage into others; sometimes it’s learning to listen.
Just recently, a young girl stopped me in the hallway at church to tell me thank you. She said, “Last Sunday you said hi and gave me a hug. I had told the Lord prior to coming to church that I felt invisible and wasn’t even sure that life was worth living any more. I asked the Lord that if I really mattered to have somebody show me… and you did! Thank you!” Powerful!
The third skill that comes to mind is preaching. Anyone can learn to be a better communicator. You can learn how to better engage your audience, how to teach in such a way that people actually remember what you talked about. But from my experience, the most helpful thing you can do to develop yourself as a communicator is to learn to work on yourself more than your ministry—to prepare yourself more than you prepare sermons. The reality is, all genuine ministry will always be an overflow from your relationship with Jesus, not a result of overwork! It is the anointing of the Holy Spirit that will make all the difference. The prophet Jeremiah tells us, “If only you would have stood before me and listened, you would have spoken my words and they would have turned my people from their evil ways” (Jer. 23:22). All the difference can be found in those words – if only you would have stood before me and listened.
I hope this helps you grow and develop as a champion minister in the Kingdom!
Pastor Mike Campbell – Algood, TN
Here are my thoughts on this month’s question of the Three Most Important Skills:
- Administration – This is a gift that God has given me and has blessed me in many ways. I think that this gift is necessary for every pastor to be able to pastor without micromanaging. God has gifted me through the years with the ability to organize things. The gift of administration has allowed me to be able to manage ministry which is the proper flow of people and the necessary resources. It has enabled me to make sure that our resources are being used to the best of our abilities without stymieing our productivity. It has also allowed me to help our staff members to organize ministry in a better manner so that they can grow.
- Gift recognition has enabled me to see potential in our servants, as well as staff, so that we can use them in the areas that will enable them to flourish. It is critical that people be plugged into the right spot and not just a spot. Sometimes this is hard to convey to staff since most staff members are looking to fill spots with bodies. But for the church to grow, we need to consider the gift set for the position and then make sure there is a clear set of instructions for what needs to be done. Matching gifts and needs is the most critical thing that is needed for continued church growth.
- Communication is the hardest gift for any leader to master. I have not mastered it by any stretch of the imagination, and I am still learning this skill. However, I have realized the need for good communication – and especially when there is a lack of communication, it creates a void that others will fill with wrong information. Being proactive in communicating will enable us to fill in the “why” question which helps us to alleviate the fear element.
Pastor Jim Blanchard – Virginia Beach, VA
The three main skills that I utilize are personal prayer, Bible study, and preaching. Although this may sound overly simplistic or seeking to spiritualize the topic, I have found greater success in my pastoral ministry if I make time for these three disciplines in my daily life. Prayer puts me in the proper mindset to minister God’s Word, studying my text, commentaries and meditating upon the word gives me greater ease and confidence in the subject matter and also I do my best to listen to some of my own messages critiquing what needs to be improved upon. Also I do listen to other ministers whom I respect and admire in order to glean helpful insights into my own delivery and preaching. I hope that these areas of discipline are helpful to you in fulfilling your ministry.
Pastor Duane Hanson – St. Paul, MN
It seems there might be two sides to the topic this month. First there’s the question about “skills” that help us in the ministry. Secondly, there’s the additional question about being “gifted” in different areas of life.
It may sound simplistic, but I would offer this observation on the difference between the two. Primarily our “gifts” are imparted by God, while it takes effort and diligence on our part to master the “skills” needed for the ministry. Both must be recognized, developed and brought to maturity through faithfulness.
When I think of the word “skills” in the context of this question, I find myself considering some of the synonyms that help describe the meaning and application of the term, such as expertise, abilities, or talents. Every believer has been equipped with certain gifts and abilities that will help promote the Kingdom of God, and we must each make every effort to develop the skills required to fulfill His assignment in our life. When these skills are combined with our God-given-gifts, the results will be obvious to everyone!
For example, one of the top three skills that I’ve learned and worked hard to develop would be people skills. Pastoral ministry is all about people! Ministers must learn the art of listening to others without responding with our preconceived assumptions. We must develop the abilities to discern what the real needs are, and learn to read between the lines of what we’re hearing from those around us. The wisdom found in Proverbs 18:13 basically tells us …Anyone who gives an answer before they’ve listened to all the facts is stupid and foolish! We must purpose to listen with the intent to understand what they’re dealing with, and identify with what they’re facing in life! Then we can respond with the wisdom of God!
Sadly, I’ve met some ministers who thought ministry only involved standing in the pulpit, and not mingling with the people. But in reality, the ministry is so much more than just “teaching and preaching!” In my experience, the first skill any minister should develop must involve learning to “love one another,” as instructed by The Great Commandment. We must learn and apply the basic principles that love demands of us, especially if we’re going to be effective in reaching people for God. We are called to serve people as we serve God, and not create an environment where the people are required to serve us!
Another skill that must be developed concerns discipleship relationships. Again, this involves our personal interaction with people and our responsibility of “making disciples,” which fulfills The Great Commission! Helping believers grow and mature in Christ takes a serious commitment of time! Jesus spent much of His time with the Disciples, specifically with the purpose of being an example. In 1 Timothy 4:12, Paul instructed Timothy to “Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” (NLT) Each one of these examples—our words, life, love faith & purity—requires that we spend significant amounts of time relating to the people we’ve been assigned to disciple!
Finally, the third skill that has helped me greatly in the ministry involves administration abilities. This could also be considered a “gift” that was imparted by God, which can be identified within our personality profile, and needs to be developed over the years through experience. I’m so thankful I had more than 15 years of experience in retail marketing and management before answering the call of God to the ministry! Many of the skills I learned in the marketplace have helped me navigate the difficulties of managing the ministry and the people entrusted to us.
The gifts God has given each of us are for His glory, and the benefit of His Body! The greatest tragedy I’ve seen over the years is when a gifted minister yields to the temptation of pride and begins to take credit for God’s gifting. This occurs when they begin to trust in the skills they’ve worked so hard to perfect, more than the Giver of the giftedness.
I would also give one word of warning to those who look at certain ministers and desire to imitate their success. Avoid the pitfalls of envy and jealousy that can trip up anyone who fails to be content with the gifts and skillsets that we’ve received from the Lord. We may admire someone who can worship God as a gifted singer and musician, and wish we had their voice and skillful abilities to play an instrument. However, as a Pastor, I’ve had to gently deal with disappointing those who overestimated their giftedness in these areas, and who sincerely desired to be up on the platform leading worship, but honestly didn’t have either the skill or the ability. Just be faithful to God’s gifting, and be diligent with your expertise!
The Psalmist tells us how God dealt with Israel, taking a simple shepherd boy and transforming him into the Shepherd of His people. If we’re diligent and faithful to discover the giftedness God has imparted to each one of us, and spend the time developing the skillsets that accompany those gifts, I believe God can transform any one of us into a useful vessel! No matter what our background, we can all learn from David’s life story by following his example, and living out his testimony…
“…He cared for them with a true heart and led them with skillful hands…” ~ Psalm 78:72 (NLT)
I believe these three things ~ people skills, discipleship relationships, and administrative abilities ~ have primarily helped me in my endeavor to fulfill God’s assignment in my life!
- Steadfast would be the biblical word—“not quitting” would be the athletic word. Some might say stubborn. Ephesians says when you have done all to stand, then stand. Steadfastness is the ability to not be moved by events, people, or whatever, to stay with the task and not give up. God given, as well as life-developed, in events to place a deep conviction about these issues.
- People skills: God-given to a point, then a lot of personal development to add to and enrich them; to set the value of people. Involves being able to take a situation as it is and work with people regardless of their view or ideas and try to resolve the situation. It also involves team work with a win-win outcome, if possible.
- Financial skills: Involves both personal money and being accountable with church monies; to raise funds, to distribute funds, and to report funds. This area involves basic accounting skills. The proper mindset about money is critical as a ministry skill.
I was self-taught and then learned them through seminars in various subjects to sharpen those skills.
- Administration / A Doer
- Compassion and Mercy
These gifts help and remind me to always put others first. I sense God’s anointing whenever I need and manifest these gifts.
I have to work at these gifts every day. Every day is a new day, and every day I need Jesus to fulfill His plan for my life and ministry.