Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Discovering Our Strengths

Last night we wrapped up our Summer Growth Group “Discover Your Strengths” with a BBQ & Games hosted by fellow group members, Larry & Paulette. It was such a great way to end one of my very favorite groups!

If you haven’t heard of the Strengths Finder, or any of the books around it, I think you should definitely check it out. It’s a sort of personality profile developed by Gallup and I first came across it having been assigned to read Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton. There are now other versions of the book with the same theme and access to the same profile/test. Again, worth checking out and taking if you never have.

If you have read the book and/or taken the test, skip to the next paragraph. If not, here’s the deal. The book & test are based on the thought that if we discover our strengths and find a way to hone in on them, we will do much better and likely have a more fulfilling life than if we only concentrate on our weaknesses and spend our energy improving them. The book uses several examples, like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, who have made their careers by focusing on their strengths rather than attempting to become “well rounded” athletes. (Remember MJ’s stint in baseball?) Anyway, there you have it, my quick & dirty version of the book. Still interested?...

Tony and I led the group together, although Tony made it clear to the group from the first meeting that he was taking the role of a “Sub-Leader” and not a “Co-Leader”. He had never read the book or taken the test, so he was just as eager as everyone else to do some self-discovery. He became the name-tag & game guy, while I focused on prep & conversation topics for the group each week. Worked out great for both of us!

As you can see from the picture, we had a great crew. It was fun to go through this book and learn about each other’s strengths as well as our own. Along with the natural self-discovery, we hoped to gain some new perspective on the strengths of those around us and begin to value people in a new way. There were some strengths that we discussed that initially came across to people in the group as annoying or off-putting traits. It was great to dig into those and find value in traits we might have otherwise dismissed.

In case you’re curious, here are our Strengths:
Michelle’s Top 5
Strategic - The Strategic theme enables you to sort through the clutter and find the best route. This perspective allows you to see patterns where others simply see complexity.
Futuristic - "Wouldn't it be great if..." The kind of person who loves to peer over the horizon. As if it were projected on the wall, you see in detail what the future might hold, and this detailed picture keeps pulling you forward, into tomorrow.
Relator - Relator describes your attitude toward your relationships. In simple terms, the Relator theme pulls you toward people you already know. You are comfortable with intimacy and once the initial connection has been made, you deliberately encourage a deepening of the relationship.
Arranger - You are a conductor. When faced with a complex situation involving many factors, you enjoy managing all of the variables, aligning and realigning them until you are sure you have arranged them in the most productive configuration possible.
Focus - Guided by the theme of Focus, you need a clear destination. Lacking one, your life and your work can quickly become frustrating, so you are constantly setting goals and filtering distractions.

Tony’s Top 5
Adaptability - You live in the moment. You don't see the future as a fixed destination. Instead, you see it as a place that you create out of the choices that you make right now.
Command - Command leads you to take charge. Unlike some people, you feel no discomfort with imposing your views on others. Once your goal is set, you feel restless until you have aligned others with you.
Ideation - You are fascinated by ideas. You are delighted when you discover beneath the complex surface an elegantly simple concept to explain why things are the way they are.
Input - You are inquisitive. Yours is the kind of mind that finds so many things interesting. The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity
Learner - You love to learn. Whatever the subject, you will alsways be drawn to the process of learning. You are energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence.

What’s fun about these for both of us is that we can see so many ways we get to utilize our strengths in what we do here at Great Lakes Church. Tony spends so much time leading and making quick decisions (Command), as well as learning and developing new ideas for media, music, & atmosphere (Learner, Ideation, Input), and changing course as the needs arise each day and each week (Adaptability). I get to dream, make plans, & share vision all the time about how to help Great Lakes Church become and continue to be the church God gave us all a heart for (Strategic, Futuristic). I get to connect with people and build relationships that will matter for eternity (Relator), bring people and resources together for common goals (Arranger), and help set goals and deadlines for myself and those around me (Focus).

Even better is realizing that we did not come into these Strengths by reading a book. Rather, they were in us, as God given gifts and talents, evidence of his plan and purposes for our lives. These traits we learn about ourselves are just more ways for us to learn to lean into Him, be thankful to Him, and bring them back to Him to be used as He would lead us.

We learn from the early church that we each have gifts and strengths and should make the very most of them and continue to honor each other above ourselves. [Romans 12: 4-12]

Last week when we met as a group, our topic was “Managing Around our Weaknesses”. It was great to share our struggles, as well as our dreams together. One couple was in the midst of deciding to go down to one income and home school their children when they began the group. They’ve since decided to make the leap and can both see how their differing strengths will give them what it takes to do this well and make their family a priority in a new way. We also took communion together as a group on this week, acknowledging before Jesus Christ and each other that we are indeed weak and it is in our weakness that He is made strong. We are not strong unto ourselves, but by the phenomenal and unending grace of God. It was sweet and powerful all at the same time for me.

Thrive Church
I was invited a couple of weeks ago to visit Thrive Church in Katy, Texas (just outside of Houston). The pastor there, Tom Elmore, is a long time friend of our friend and Pastor Dave Nelson. Tom and his team have a similar goal and vision for Thrive Church as ours for Great Lakes Church. They launched on Easter of this year and invited me to come and check things out, offer input, meet with leaders, and in some ways consult. I have to say, it was one of the most thrilling and life-giving trips I’ve been on in a while. It was the type of thing I’m pretty sure I would do for the rest of my life. To see something created from nothing, to be with people who love God and want to reach people, to encourage leaders to dream big but make processes simple at the same time. They have an incredible team and are off to a great start to be certain. It reminded me again that what we are doing here in Kenosha is so much greater than this local city. We are a part of a movement of God, a movement to break down the barriers that keep people from entering into a relationship with Him and the family He has prepared for them. We are a part of a movement that will toss aside rituals and traditions in favor of transparency and keeping the shame level low. I couldn’t be more excited for this life and this adventure.

The Grays
As Tony mentioned in his entry last week, we recently welcomed Gabe & Katie Gray and their three children to Kenosha. They moved here from Seattle to help with Great Lakes Church after having it on their hearts for nearly a year. It is great to have them here, with their perspective and “can-do” attitude. It’s also nice that they live within walking distance of Tony, Tyler, & I. We’ve had fun walking over there and getting our butts kicked at Mexican Train Dominoes, Phase 10, & Gin Rummy. We might need to find something else to do with them besides play games. But, I do love introducing them to all of the amazing people and volunteers who are already here at Great Lakes. People who have been on board and ready to do whatever is needed to make Great Lakes Church Great!

The Winnett's

Now, adding more to our growing church family, we will welcome Grant and Natalie Winnett and their brand new baby girl, Abela into town this Friday! They’ll arrive from their former home in Colorado just in time to attend our next Great Lakes 101 class on Sunday. Natalie and I have been friends for nearly 10 years. She was one of two girl friends who stood next to me on my wedding day. She is also the woman who, through her love, helped me to enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ for myself. So, yeah, I’m pretty excited about this. Aside from all of the ways she has been an incredible friend to me over the years, Natalie has a ton of experience in Kids Ministry and is ready to hit the ground running to help at Great Lakes in this very important area. We can’t wait to see what happens.

Baby P
I’m now 16 weeks pregnant and I think I’ve turned the corner from the constant nausea. Still irritated with whoever named it “Morning Sickness” – it IS all day sickness and now I only have it a couple of times a day which is a huge relief. I’m not quite at the point where I fully enjoy eating, it still feels like a chore. I have come back to coffee, but only about once a week. I do look forward to re-committing my love for my morning cup, but it’s probably better for the baby that coffee has been one of my many aversions. Tony has been great with everything. Since most things make me want to puke (sorry, still can’t figure out a polite way to say “vomit” or whatever) he is not only taking care of the cooking but most of the cleaning in the kitchen. I wonder if that alone is worth being pregnant forever? I haven’t felt any movements yet, though friends tell me I should be just a few more weeks away from that fun milestone. I also haven’t gained any weight, so no “baby bump” pictures to share just yet. Is it strange that I’d like to go ahead and start looking pregnant soon? I’m really hoping by the time we come home for our Seattle visit (Aug. 21st) that I’ll look at least a little prego. You may find me sticking my stomach out anyway…

Love to all!


kathleenemckenzie said...

i'm so happy to hear that everything is going so great for you guys i miss you so much and can't wait to see you in two weeks.
love you
you're lil sis

Paulette George said...

Michelle and Tony,

I love this blog! Especially this part, "Even better is realizing that we did not come into these Strengths by reading a book. Rather, they were in us, as God given gifts and talents, evidence of his plan and purposes for our lives." This is a wonderful reminder that not everyone has to fit into my way of thinking, because ta da--we are all uniquely created by Him.

Oh, and Tony, I still think I should have gotten a point for "I" as a school supply.

It was a great class. Thank you for everything.


Mrs. Butler said...

seriously, michelle. you MUST look pregnant by the time you come to Seattle. go big or go home!...ok, just kidding. can't wait to see you!