Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts with Help from Online Tools

Nov 28, 2023 9:00:00 AM / by Rev. Carla Wilson

My congregation recently used a leadership retreat day to experiment with a corporate team building tool called Clifton Strengths. It turns out I am "strategic," "focused," and a "relator." At a youth ministry conference, I discovered I am an Enneagram 3 (the Achiever). My Myers-Briggs Type Indicator from seminary taught me I am right in the middle, between Introvert and Extrovert. None of these characteristics describe me fully or define my potential, but each one informs my self-care needs and style of relationship building. Through exploring my skills and spiritual strengths, I have been able to make proactive and informed choices about lifegiving and healthy ministry sites, conference events, and schedules. I continue to learn my "Youth Ministry Style," and so can you.

The concepts of spiritual gifts and fruits of the Spirit are deeply biblical (1 Corinthians 12:11, Romans 12:4, and so on). References to the body of Christ's many parts fill the New Testament. Our areas of strength are gifts to ministry, to our neighbors, and to God. Our areas of less resource can be opportunities for partnership, invitation to self-acceptance, or encouragement for prayerful discernment. What they are NOT is a definitive sign of failure or a lack of calling. Your "style" may be different from youth ministers, parents, or teachers you admire or work alongside, but it may be just what a particular child or youth needs to make effective connection.

Links to an online discernment tool, Journi, and other spiritual gift assessments are available via the ELCA. These are great starting points for style finding, as are tools like the Enneagram or Clifton Strengths. Always, these thought stimulators should be partnered with earnest prayer and an ask for guidance you trust God will answer. Consultation with a spiritual director, pastor, or trusted mentor can be wonderful support as well. 

When we embrace the diversity of our gifts and their expression, we can encourage and model acceptance for young people. When sharing our strengths and growth areas, we affirm grace our children can emulate. When we release the need to be everything, we can be members of amazing and faithful teams, commit to being ongoing learners, and lead from joy and fulfillment rather than stress, duty, or obligation. I am much happier and more effective at a gathering where I schedule "extrovert recovery time" and do my research to find the coolest free time spots in advance. I am a better leader when I lead through my gifts. You can be too.

Topics: Youth Ministry, 1 Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 12, Romans, gifts of the spirit

Rev. Carla Wilson

Written by Rev. Carla Wilson

Still a professional diversity trainer and cultural competency consultant, The Rev. Carla Christopher Wilson also serves as Assistant to the Bishop in Charge of Justice Ministries for Lower Susquehanna Synod of the ELCA. A former Poet Laureate of York, Pennsylvania and an adoring dog mom, Carla lives in Lancaster, PA with her family.


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