What should you look for in leaders and ministries?

Kara Powell | Mar 15, 2012

Over the last few years, I’ve had the chance to interact with some of the leaders of Excellence in Giving, a full-service philanthropic firm designed to increase the joy and effectiveness of donors to non-profit organizations. I found this recent blog about “Nonprofit Performance Evaluation” by Dr. Paul Penley, Excellence in Giving’s Director of Research, both inspiring and challenging.

In addition to looking at important questions of board purpose and function, Dr. Penley invites us to think critically about leaders’ self-awareness - both of themselves and the organizations they lead.

The simple way to gauge a leaders realistic self-assessment is a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Strengths) analysis. Most visionary leaders will have an easy time describing the organizations Strengths and future Opportunities. The most telling category of the SWOT is Weaknesses. I have witnessed on too many occasions the inability for a leader to identify more than one weakness. All too often the only reported weakness in the non-profit world is lack of funding. When a leader surveys his organization and only finds the need for it to be bigger, I lose confidence in his or her ability to make strategic adjustments for quality assurance and mission achievement. Any SWOT should easily have two or more weaknesses that the CEO or senior management is currently working to address.

As I read this, I had to ask myself: when is the last time I’ve done a SWOT analysis, either on my own or with other FYI team members? It’s been close to a year. That’s far too long.

How about you? When’s the last time you’ve thought about your ministry’s internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as the external opportunities and threats?

If you’re not sure how to do a SWOT analysis, we at FYI have created this article and downloadable template to walk you through the process. I don’t know about you, but one of the things I enjoy most with my colleagues is their self-awareness. I think it would be superb if youth leaders were leading the way in being aware of their ministry’s liabilities and assets. Maybe it would become contagious with our churches overall.

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.

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