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Have you ever pondered your giftedness? Do you take every personality inventory that social media sends your way? Let me suggest a way to identify and develop the talents and abilities that God has created in you. Additionally, this tool could be an asset to college students within the ministries you are called to serve.

In the spring of 2020 I was trained as an internship supervisor. Part of our training, through Luther Seminary, included completing the Gallup CliftonStrengths with Karen Gieseke as our certified CliftonStrengths coach. There are 34 total CliftonStrengths talent themes. There are options to find out your top five talents or to receive the ranking of the entire list of 34 talents. The 34 themes are divided into four categories: executing, influencing, relationship building, and strategic thinking. Through the assessment which shared my top 5 talent theme results, I discovered my top five talents are: communication, woo, includer, positivity, and harmony.

Overwhelmed by the beginning of the pandemic and serving as a solo parish pastor, I initially set aside this learning and moved on to other necessary tasks. Jumping forward to 2021 when I found myself in a new role as the campus pastor at the University Lutheran Center on the campus of South Dakota State University, I was contemplating how I might provide some training for our student leaders. I wanted to provide them with something they would find beneficial and carry with them well beyond their time in leadership at our campus ministry. This caused me to revisit my top 5 CliftonStrenths assessment, and I decided to invest more resources in this form of leadership development. I contacted Gallup, who assisted me in unlocking the whole list of my 34 strengths, for an additional cost for the fuller and more expansive report. In addition, I contacted Karen (who also happens to be a SDSU & ULC alum) to see if she thought this type of assessment would be beneficial to these college students.

Karen’s resounding “YES!” was accompanied by this Barna study article that helped me see that current young adults are seeking this type of information about themselves. Gen Z, those born from 1997-2012, finds that knowing their strengths, gifts, and abilities helps them define themselves. Most college students are part of Gen Z. They want to identify who they are as unique individuals. They also want to develop their strengths, and according to the Barna study they cite church as a place to do that development.

In January 2022, Karen led our six student leaders through the CliftonStrengths inventory. They joined the ranks of over 27 million people worldwide who have completed the inventory. Karen met with us again in February to compile all our strengths and look at our talents from a team perspective, including the deeper understanding that: talent x investment = strength.

The student leaders found it insightful! Karly, a senior pharmaceutical science major, said, “I think that the CliftonStrengths was an excellent way for me to discover more about myself both as a person and as a leader. It gave me a better understanding of how I view the world and how the other leaders of my team tend to interact with others. It has allowed us to better use our different strengths to overall improve our team dynamic, especially with having coaching specific to us as a team.”

Student leaders saw why some of our team was always ready to welcome and include new students. Those leaders are strongest in relationship building and influencing. They noticed why others of us led from positions of strategy, analysis, and cognition. Those leaders are strongest in executing and strategic thinking. Most of all, we were able to identify that the way we lead is unique to each of us and not to be positioned over and against other strengths on our team. We each have the capacity to lead from any of the 34 strengths. We learned that each of us has our own God-given arrangement of natural talents and what is natural will vary. That is a positive difference among us! This was a definite reminder that the talents within the body of Christ differ, but each gift is useful and necessary in making the body complete. When those gifts are discovered and developed we have the capacity to lead with immense strength.

So, I wonder, how can your leadership in campus ministry help college students discover and develop their talents and strengths? How can you use this tool and others like it, to gift Gen Z with the resources to know who they are as uniquely created individuals and what their gifts are, so that they can lead with strength?

Mack Patrick

Author Mack Patrick

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