Subject: Don’t forget.
Body of email: It’s Karen’s birthday today.
After the above email, I immediately went out, bought a $10 gift certificate from our church café, wrote Karen a card, and drove it to the post office to be mailed.
Karen had been an employee within the children’s ministry department for a little over seven years at the time I received this email. The year prior, it was Karen’s 40th birthday, and I did absolutely nothing to acknowledge it. No gift, no card, not even a “Happy Birthday” when I saw her. To be completely honest, it wasn’t even on my radar. Not because I don’t care and appreciate Karen, but for me personally, I feel appreciated in other ways, such as a college valuing my opinion. I unintentionally overlooked these differences.
This past spring I took my staff through a personality and temperament assessment. What I learned that day about Karen and about myself made a huge difference in how I now maintain a healthy relationship with her. At the conclusion of the training, my children’s ministry team gathered and talked about what we learned about one another and how this knowledge could enhance our working relationships. It was there that I learned the impact that a $10 gift certificate and handwritten card meant to Karen specifically.
Apparently the year prior, my lack of acknowledgment of Karen’s 40th birthday had made a statement—a statement that I did not value her nor care about her, neither of which were true. So, the following year when she got a “Happy Birthday” card in the mail, she picked up the phone immediately, called her husband at work, and gleefully shared how much it truly meant to her. I sat there in shock. Shocked that I had offended her so badly. Shocked that a card in the mail warranted a phone call to her husband in the middle of his workday. Sad that I had missed out on seven years of acknowledging Karen’s birthday. As soon as I got home that day, I got out my calendar on my phone and plugged in all my staffs’ birthdays with an annual repeat reminder.
What that particular assessment did that day was a game changer. It opened my eyes to the masterpiece God created in Karen. It taught me that I tend to put the task part of my job before the relational part of my job. This unintentionally leaves people on the side of the road. I am thankful Karen stuck with the team, and since that day, I’ve made some major changes on how I communicate with Karen.
Many people complete these types of assessments and then do not take action. Excited about findings, information is often recognized and even celebrated. Then managers go on with the minutiae of their workdays. Allow me to offer some suggestions on actions to consider and actions to avoid after participating in self-assessments.
ACTIONS TO CONSIDER
Before you begin, invite the Holy Spirit to guide the process.
If we want to know the way God created us, then we have to be open to what He is saying to us and not just what we think about ourselves. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us how we were created. “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:13).
Keep the language alive.
When everyone on the team, volunteer or paid staff, can talk the same language, it’s a win. There are a lot of assessments which offer continued learning. Whether it is reading material (books, blogs, or articles) or additional trainings offered, be sure to revisit the conversation often.
Distribute tasks based off of everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.
If someone is a people person, assign them to welcome new families. Those who enjoy administration can be given a computer with Excel and they will be happy. Living within our gifts provides outcomes that are more productive and enjoyable for the entire team.
Give the assessment that the church uses to potential hires or volunteers within the ministry.
Thoughtfully consider sharing the assessment with everyone involved in the ministry. Too often when we invite others onto our team, we find people who are just like us. Even in the midst of being a little uncomfortable, it’s important to have a wide variety of strengths. Use the results to create a balanced environment for ministry to flourish.
Know who your audience is.
Utilize the results to help you most effectively communicate with others. I know if I’m going to discuss a topic with my senior pastor, I need to give him the details and the outcome, nothing more. Whereas, if I’m going to be working with our associate pastor, I need to come with a set of questions so we can brainstorm the outcome together.
ACTIONS TO AVOID
Don’t bash others.
Unfortunately within our humanness, it’s easy to look at someone and label them a certain way, especially now that we have this newfound knowledge that the assessment offered. Assessments are meant to be a tool to assist teams in appreciating how one another is made, not to be used as ammunition against them.
Don’t limit yourself.
“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). God doesn’t make mistakes … we do. When findings dictate what people are capable of, we aren’t fully allowing the Holy Spirit to shape and mold us. How do we take the information learned about ourselves and still allow the Holy Spirit to shape, mold, and stretch us so we are fully living within the will of God?
Don’t make excuses for why things can’t get done.
At the end of the day, there is still a job that you were hired to do. Don’t take the information and use it as an excuse for why you can’t do something.
Don’t force outcomes.
A friend of mine went home the day of the assessment and cried because she wanted to have a different outcome. It wasn’t until she retook the assessment and realized that she was wrapped up in all she thought she should be that it came out more accurately. Keep in mind these types of tests are self-assessments. We are only capable of learning as much as we are willing to allow the Holy Spirit to teach us.
Don’t assume because an assessment says that you are one way, you will always stay that way. Personalities are constantly forming. Research is showing us more and more that we are still psychologically developing into late adulthood. We serve a God who can and will call us to something beyond what any assessment says we are capable of.
Whether it’s Life Keys, Myers Briggs®, Real Colors®, DISC®, or Strengths Finder®, remember that we are living in an earthly world. Celebrate the depth of our Heavenly Creator and what He is capable of when we open ourselves up to the prompting of the Spirit.
Body of the email: Karen has always liked her job, but this year I’ve noticed a difference in her. And as her husband, that’s a joy for me to see. I’m so glad she’s a part of your team!
Bethany Hammer has served as a children’s director for the last 7 years at the church she grew up in. She is a daughter, wife, and mother of 2 children—Joey, age 5, and Lily, age 3.
See if Bethany will write a brief description of each of the assessments she mentioned in the last paragraph—to use as a sidebar.