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Step 1. Define your skills, values, and purpose

Who are you, what are your blessings, and where might you like to exercise those blessings?  If you don’t know who you are, you will not be able to discern what positions might be good for you, and therefore you will not be able to effectively sell your strengths to a search committee.   Just as a parish begins a search process by creating a profile describing their assets, challenges and aspirations, so too clergy should begin their search by identifying their experience, skills, values, dreams and purpose.   This portfolio of information serves two purposes.  It will provide information for your resume, and OTM Ministry Portfolio, and responses to search committee questions.  It will also provide clergy with a yardstick to help discern whether given parish opening is a good fit.

Reality, and the humans who inhabit reality, can be perceived on multiple levels.  My colleague, Rob Voyle, likes to talk about seven domains of life, which he arranges on a spiral from the surface of reality to the depth of reality that is God.  He names the domains: environment, skills and abilities, expectations, values, identity, purpose, and Source of Life.  My three tiers of skills, values, and purpose is a shorthand approach to Rob’s more detailed understanding.

Skills and abilities are capacities to competently carry out tasks.  Abilities tend to be inherited or innate.   Skills are learned and refined through education and experience.  There are generic capacities, like the capacity to learn, to walk, or to speak clearly and there are capacities specific to our calling as clergy, like the ability to preach, offer pastoral care, or lead vestry meetings.  While parish clergy need to maintain minimum competencies in basic areas of ministry, we tend to excel in and enjoy exercising a few competencies.  Identifying our favorite skills and abilities and matching them to the skills and abilities desired by a search committee is a key step in the discernment process.  A food way to identify your best skills is to think about experiences when you have excelled in your ministry.  These experiences can help you both identify your core skills and effectively communicate those skills when dialoging with search committees.

The competencies that we favor are an indication of the values that are most important to us.  We tend to excel in areas the areas that embody our values.  To use myself as an example, I enjoy preaching, teaching, and writing.  I value clarity.  I want my vocational journey to take me to places that honor that value.  There are some jobs, advertizing or politics come to mind, that require communication skills, which do not necessary value clarity.  Matching skills and abilities are not enough.  The underlying values need to match as well.

Understanding our purpose takes us deeper into our souls by asking questions immortalized in Paul Gaugin’s painting, Where Do We Come From What Are We Where Are We Going.  Search committees and vestries are looking for a clergy person who can help their parish fulfill its God-given purpose.  Clergy should be asking (paraphrasing Rob Voyle), “Can this parish and I enter into a relationship with God, to be the people of God and fulfill our common Divine purpose?”

Because our purpose rests deeply within our being, it is difficult to describe with mere words.  Just take a look at a few parish mission statements to understand how difficult it is to describe one’s mission or purpose.  Metaphors and pictures (hence the Gaugin reference) do a better job of presenting our purpose than descriptive sentences.  For example, the metaphor for my purpose is navigating into the future, which is captured in the subtitle and lead picture of this blog.

The Clergy Leadership Institute’s Introduction to Appreciative Inquiry is a great two and a half day workshop that helps clergy identify their core skills and values and craft a “powerful purpose statement”, a succinct summation of a clergyperson’s blessings.  A sample exercise used in these workshops can be found here.  These workshops are offered around the country several times a year.  http://www.clergyleadership.com/training/schedule.html   Occasionally, I offer a follow-up session on Navigating Career Transitions to this introductory workshop.

NEXT POST – Identifying and entering appropriate searches