Book Review: “Leading From Your Strengths” (Jun-Jul 2004)

By Matt Dabbs

by Greg Taylor
June – July, 2004

Leading From Your Strengths: Building Close-Knit Ministry Teams
John Trent, Rodney Cox, Eric Tooker

(Broadman & Holman, 2004). | $12.99 hardback 112 pgs ISBN 0-8054-3061-X

There is scant scientific evidence to prove this, but in my fifteen years of ministry experience, ministry teams break apart more often because of “team shock” – personality conflict and tense team dynamics – than any other cause.

Can teams do anything to lower the chances of blowing apart due to personality conflicts and tensions? Yes. John Trent’s new book and Leading From Your Strengths process is “all about knowing your God-given strengths, understanding and valuing the strengths of others, and blending the differences to reduce frustration, increase closeness, decrease conflict, and dramatically increase caring and commitment on your team.”

Trent and co-authors Cox and Tooker use an analogy of your ministry team rafting a river as a way of describing the process of learning to work together to navigate the torturous white water of life together and ministry. Also, the book comes with an offer for a free online personality assessment. The book has a reference number that you enter on their Leading From Your Strengths Web site. In addition, Trent uses his classic system of dividing personality types into Lion (conductor), Otter (promoter), Beaver (analyzer), and Golden Retriever (supporter). Of course there is much more depth to the system explained both in the book and web site.

The mission team I worked with in Uganda talked about personality both as a way to understand each other and a humorous way to break the ice of tense situations: when a lion roared or an otter embarrassed others, a golden retriever tried to please everyone and made the rest of us look like chumps to the Ugandans, or a beaver would expect everyone else to work the same long hours as he or she did.

I began talking about “team shock” when individuals both on my own mission team in Uganda and on a variety of other teams I have come in contact with over the last decade expressed personality conflict in their ranks. This anxiety missionaries and ministry team members anywhere in the world – not only overseas missions – feel about their work, their environment, very often is a symptom of deeper relational problems with one or more team members.

Before we ever launched into ministry, our mission team spent years together, meeting, getting to know one another’s families, backgrounds, stories. We knew the mess that each of us brought to the table and we eventually came to accept one another as we were as we challenged one another to become what Christ is making us daily.

If you are involved with a ministry team, church staff, supporting a mission team or an elder overseeing a church staff, Trent’s book can be a helpful guide down the white water of “team shock.”New Wineskins

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