How Do We Tell People “This Isn’t Your Gift”? (When They Believe It Is)

Easter Sunday offered multitudinous opportunities to share kudos with people:flannery-o-connor-4-297x300

  • You look awesome in those pink and green pants.
  • You blew the roof off with that sermon.
  • Your choral anthem was better than Prozac.
  • You totally know how to corral overly-sugared kids.
  • Your leg of lamb is to die for. (Get it?)
  • Your mousse is amazing.
  • Your prayers were so soothing.
  • You play a mean trumpet.
  • Nobody can arrange flowers like you.

It’s much harder to share more difficult news with friends: that they will never sing like Aretha, they will never write like Flannery, they will never preach like Nadia.

Especially when someone believes that he or she is gifted and called to serve as a pastor, receiving constructive criticism about pastoral competencies can feel crushing.  But the truth is that there are almost countless competencies that a professional pastor needs.  (The PCUSA has identified only 33.)  And while someone might be enormously gifted in pastoral care, that same Bedside Manor Rock Star might be an uninspiring preacher.  No pastor has it all.

So, how do we lovingly share with someone that “this isn’t your gift” especially when he or she believes it is?

Yesterday’s post was about failure and the importance of taking risks in life and ministry – even when we fail.  We learn more from our failures than our successes.  But certain circumstances are necessary to learn through, rather than being devastated by, our failures:

  • We need to trust each other.  If I trust you, you can tell me anything and I will take it very seriously, even if it hurts.
  • Ministry is not about us and what we want.  It’s essential to ask, “What’s best for the community?” instead of “What’s good for me?”   I might want to be a celebrity preacher, but if people are not transformed by my preaching, then maybe it’s not my gift.
  • Knowing what are not our gifts is just as crucial as knowing what our gifts indeed are.  I am not a money person.  Don’t make me your treasurer.  There are quite a few other  not-my-gifts but I’ll keep those to myself.
  • We can work on those things that are not our gifts and improve in our areas of incompetency, but honestly, God loves us even if we aren’t perfect.  Who knows? Maybe Jesus couldn’t carry a tune.   (But it’s fun to imagine him singing like a Middle Eastern Rufus Wainwright.  Really.  Picture it.)

It’s a good friend who can look us in the eye and say:  “This is not your gift, but it’s okay.”  “You are great at ___ but you really do suck at ___.”  “Maybe this is just not a good match.”  “You don’t seem happy doing ____.”  

Everybody is called to ministry.  But everybody is not called to every ministry.


Image source.

One response to “How Do We Tell People “This Isn’t Your Gift”? (When They Believe It Is)

  1. Pingback: This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg

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