Pastoral Ministry and Strengths-Based Leadership

Have you ever rationalized ignoring your weak areas of ministry? “I’m not a people person, so I spend most of my time preparing sermons.” We all make excuses to avoid pastoral work that doesn’t come easy.

But is this reasoning valid?

Avoid weak roles and focus on strong ones?

One major book  in the strengths vs. weaknesses conversation is Strengths-Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie. I highly recommend it. Their thesis: the most effective leaders focus on developing their strengths, not their weaknesses. I have seen this principle make me a more effective leader in many ways.

But there is an important distinction – especially for pastors – to make when applying this principle.

We must distinguish the strength being used and the role in which it is used. Being weak in a role doesn’t mean that you should avoid it, or that you cannot be strong in it. It means you have not put your strengths to work in that role. The way to become strong in weak roles is to learn your strengths and use them in those weak roles.

No pastor is strong in all his roles

Pastors have three roles: prophet, priest, and king. Most pastors are weak in at least one of them, if not two.

I’m the pastor whose strength is preaching (prophet), but I’m weak in spending time with people (priest). Utilizing my small group leaders is one way I overcome this weakness. But this doesn’t excuse me from relating to my flock myself. You can’t outsource shepherding.

Pastors must throw themselves into the necessary aspects of ministry – even where they are weak – and trust Christ’s grace to be sufficient in their weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

That being said…

Put your strengths to work in weak roles

Being weak in the priestly role doesn’t mean I have no strengths to use in that role.

My top strength from Strengths-Base Leadership is input. They define it this way:

“People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.”

My input strength makes me great with names (good shepherds know their sheep’s names, right?).  I put this strength to work every June when I get a new batch of junior highers. They often exclaim, “You know my name already?” That’s junior higher-ese for, “I can tell you care about me.”

This also applies to the post over at The Gospel Coalition, “What If I’m Not a Gifted Evangelist.” The person asking this question is confusing strengths with roles. Such a person needs to identify their strengths and then put them to work in their (non-negotiable) role as an evangelist.

As you use your strengths within the roles where you are weak, you’ll develop more into the complete pastor God has called you to be.


  1. In the three roles of a Pastor if Prophet is preaching and Priest is shepherding and spending time with people than what is King?

    • Eric McKiddie says:

      Good question, Jordan. The king role has to do with leadership and vision.