The Gaps

by Dave Miller, Church Relations

I think we’d all agree that self-awareness coupled with an understanding of our own shortcomings is paramount in understanding how to set goals and strive for the next milestone of leadership.

When we frame this up for residents, we talk about the competency of “Continuous Growth.” Does your resident (or that young staff leader) have the same perspective of their skill set that you do?

We like to use this tool (pictured below) to help discovery together where the gaps are in skills. This is particularly helpful to begin the 2nd year, or the final six months of a tenure together.

How to use the Gap Tool

STEP ONE: BRAINSTORM.  Ask your resident “what do you think are the five or six skills that a ____ (youth pastor, kids, worship, tech, etc.) leader would need?” Allow them to come up with the list. In the attached (fig.1), a student ministry resident brainstormed out the following: 
Communication, Preaching/Teaching, Pastoral Care, Organization, Team Building.

This list is a great one, and actually would work with many roles (like kids for example) while Worship Leader or Production Director might be more specific

Spend time doing this and you will need to ask questions if they aren’t completely aware at first glance what the skill set should be. For example, they might mention “Planning Center” since they’ve been up to their elbows in it for a year.  You will need to prompt them that this is a part of something much larger (like organizational leadership), etc.

Make sense? Good now once the list is on the wall you are ready to…

Fig 1 Brainstorm the skills

Fig 1 Brainstorm the skills


STEP TWO: MEASURE.  Put a Likert Scale next to the skill set. In a Likert scenario the following is true:
1-3: below standard & skill must increase
4-6: adequate for the job (at a six they are killing it and getting a raise!)
7-9: they are exceptional and actually too developed in this area and should probably move on to something greater

You’ll want to drive the point home that they should be aiming for a 4-6. Don’t think about a quiz where a 6 out of 10 is a ‘fail.’ In this scenario, a six out of 10 is at the top of the game. It’s excellent.

Once you have explained how we are going to measure then take a moment to look back and …

STEP THREE: GET PERSPECTIVE. Depending on how long they’ve been with you, ask them to think back to where they would assess they were when they began. In the (fig.2) attached example (9/17) it had been about a year since this resident began. Ask them “why do you say that?” when they give you an answer. See if they’ll tell stories (maybe share a laugh about a failure that doesn’t seem that bad any more).

Then have them assess where they are right now. Keep asking questions like why do you say that? What’s an example? Spend time here going deeper. Do not freak out if their assessment is radically different than yours. This is an opportunity to specifically tell them things they’ve done well. “You were a .5 and now you are a 2 this is awesome.”

Ok, so we looked back at where we were, we looked around at where we are right now, and so it’s time to…

Fig 2 Look back at where we were (9.17) Where we are now (9.18) where we want to be (9.19)

Fig 2 Look back at where we were (9.17) Where we are now (9.18) where we want to be (9.19)


STEP FOUR: LOOK FORWARD. Then ask “where would you like to be in _____ (one year or 6 months)?” Have them give you the number.

STEP FIVE: MAKE A PLAN. Ask them to tell you what it’s going to take for them to make these moves forward in each skill area. Try to avoid unmeasurable and theoretical answers like “pray about it” “think about it” or “just try harder.”

As with all things the best plans are measurable and predictable with dates (fig.3). Put to do dates on the sheet! Save the sheets and use it next week (and the coming weeks after that) in your one on one sessions to track progress. Are they doing what they said they were going to do?

Fig. 3 - Action items, take this further…action items, with due dates.

Fig. 3 - Action items, take this further…action items, with due dates.


STEP SIX: LEARN. In the following week(s) it will good to understand the need and the potential change in behaviors (by the leaders and the resident) that is coming.

For example, we’ll need to do different things if we want to see marked and dramatic improvement in certain areas over the coming six months that is radically different than the last six months. We can’t keep doing the same things expecting different results.

coachingDave Miller