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Spiritual gifts are unique expressions of the various ways God’s grace is at work in our lives to equip us to serve and glorify God. Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 highlight the importance of spiritual gifts and provide diverse examples of those gifts, ranging from teaching to generosity. If we move through an ordination process, people help us discern our gifts for ministry. When congregations seek to raise up new leaders, they look for people who possess the gifts for Christian leadership.

Gifts are essential for faithful ministry. But are they enough?

Resources on spiritual gifts often distinguish “gifts” from “skills and abilities,” as if we can lead well with the former even if we don’t possess the latter. But the fact is that we need both God-given gifts and well-developed skills to flourish and make an impact. One of the three factors associated with burnout, in the assessment developed by Christina Maslach, is professional efficacy: the degree to which a person feels capable or competent in their work. When we do not feel professionally capable, we run the risk of becoming emotionally exhausted.

Skills like time management, delegation, effective supervision, leading change and group facilitation can be taught and cultivated with practice and feedback. We need these skills when we are the senior pastor, associate pastor or chair of the congregation’s governing body. Sometimes clergy are hesitant to learn skills from nonreligious sectors, but that’s a missed opportunity. In addition, a close reading of biblical texts, like the Pauline epistles, might illuminate the skillful ways our early church ancestors worked through conflict and developed new leaders.

Thank God for spiritual gifts, but let’s not forget to cultivate the skills we need to “lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1).


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Solitude is a skill. You can get better at it with practice.

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Before you go…

At my first pastoral call, 25 years ago, I quickly learned how little I knew about leadership and institutional finances. That awareness started me on a journey that continues to this day. I enrolled in a noncredit class at one of the business schools in our area and I completed a course on leadership. Later, I enrolled in a weeklong course, “Financial Management for Non-Financial Managers,” at another business school. Over the years, I’ve taken additional courses, attended summer institutes and read books and articles to help me fill in gaps for skills I did not learn in seminary.

Perhaps the best source of training for me has been mentorship. I’ve always tried to identify people in the church with legal, human resource and financial expertise. I ask them questions, seek their advice and watch them work. Doing this has helped me cultivate special relationships and improve a variety of skills that make me a better pastor. What skills do you need to develop?

You can always reach me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity