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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Understanding individual strengths and communication styles can lead to improved relationships among church staff persons, lay leaders and spouses, a widely known author and speaker maintains.
Author John Trent and LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention offer pastors, church leadership teams and individual members a way to unlock the secrets of effective communication and ensure a mutual understanding of each person's value and strengths.
"Ministry Insights and Marriage Insights," two behavioral assessment tools offering detailed feedback on participants' core strengths and styles of relating with others, are available on the Internet from LifeWay's Internet Ministries.
Trent, chairman of Ministry Insights, Scottsdale, Ariz., has written and spoken extensively about relationships that honor God by understanding one's strengths and the strengths of others. His 24-question assessment tool has been used for more than two decades in pen-and-paper form.
The online assessment process takes approximately 10 minutes, and results are provided in a matter of minutes though a 22- to 28-page report, provided by e-mail to the participant. In-depth analyses include graphs designed to make comprehensive interpretations easily understood.
For additional follow-up, a self-paced workbook, "Going Deeper, Gaining More," is available to help establish an action plan to develop strengths and to work on needed improvements.
At Metropolitan Baptist Church of Houston, three staff and eight lay persons who form a long-range planning team for the church recently used Ministry Insights as a tool to prepare them for their work.
Mike Ruth, executive pastor of the church, said, "I felt it was advantageous. The vast majority of the people felt the profiles were dead-on in terms of the traits, strengths and weaknesses of the individuals.
"Along with that, it was insightful, eye-opening if you will. Some said, 'I didn't know I was like this,' and others would respond, 'Yes. you are.' No one seemed to be personally offended by those comments. It was very positive," Ruth said.
"I thought it was personally helpful to find ourselves and to see how we make decisions," he continued. "It accomplished what it was intended to do, which was to help us understand each other better. I would recommend it."
Trent, who has used the Web-based assessments in team-building sessions for churches, as well as in marriage counseling, said, "Individuals who make up church staffs, leadership teams, small groups and families receive a powerful gift when they understand their own God-given strengths and behavioral styles.
"During the last 20 years being in hundreds of churches and counseling thousands of couples, I have found some tremendous similarities in the team-building process. Very little time is spent in really understanding who the other person is, their strengths and how can we work together in an effective God-honoring way. One of the things I have championed for years is encouraging people to understand their unique God-given strengths.
"When we work together, or when we are married to one another, people assume they are going to be alike, but personality-wise they may be very different."
Trent said he believes 1 Corinthians 12 sums up individuals' roles in living and working together.
"The whole body is not an eye or an ear," he paraphrased Scripture. "God has placed each member in the body. Once we realize the team we have been given and we can really understand the unique strengths God has blended together as a team, it is amazing what can result in closeness and effectiveness. Sometimes people think 'because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body. Because I don't have the gift of teaching or preaching, I don't have a place in the kingdom.'
"I encourage people to look at the person of Christ. You see in him all the positive characteristics and you see him doing the most loving thing when someone really needs it. When you realize that the closer we get to the Lord and the more we understand who he is, the more like him we become, the more balanced we're going to be in those characteristics.
"How do we live out God's love in our marriage and in our children? I see a direct tie between a person's ability to recognize and appreciate someone else's strengths and their level of acceptance of that person. Closeness really comes through deeper understanding. Now, more than ever we need close-knit teams."
Trent said he believes most pastors hear in the course of a year "one page worth of what they did right and 27 pages worth of what they did wrong." He said he believes having the results of a personal assessment leads the pastor to focus on traits that make him valuable. Typically, the individualized report provides up to 27 pages of genuine, positive feedback and one page of areas that need strengthening.
"The pastors I see today walking away from the ministry are people who feel they labor without feeling they are effective. Now more than ever we need to strengthen pastors and pastoral teams. Most Christians are pretty aware of areas they need to work on, and this addresses that, but it also tells them how God has gifted them."
Ministry Insights allows participants opportunities to effectively blend differences with colleagues, discover others' motivations and create ways to avoid conflict with others.
Gary McClure of LifeWay's Internet Ministries group said churches have used the tool to evaluate job candidates, enhance teamwork, match new church members with ministry opportunities and support pastoral counseling.
Marriage Insights can be just as effective with engaged couples as it can with married couples, he said.
The cost for Ministry Insights is $24.95, with quantity discounts available. Individual assessment through Marriage Insights is $24.95. Couples may participate and receive two individual reports for $29.95.
Online details, including samples of reports, may be found at www.lifeway.com/ministryinsights