“Competence” may have a very special meaning within the theme of the 52nd NACBA Annual Conference, “Pickin’ Your Tune—Writing a New Song.” It could mean that you have the essential capacity to understand and choose: what your current job (tune) requires; how to perform it well and what you need to learn; what options, resources, and decisions are open to you; and how to compose a joyful new song of expanded opportunities to honor God, serve His kingdom, and bless others.
“A willingness to trust the other person depends on your estimate of the person’s competence to perform the task at hand. Trust is task-specific—that is, leaders may trust someone with one task but not with a different task. . . Competence is a necessary component of trustworthiness, but competence alone does not earn trust. It is, however, a critical beginning.”
--A Claim for Competence, Tasks, and Trust: – from Dale E. Zand, The Leadership Triad, p. 114
1. What Does “Competence” Mean Today?
“Competence that builds trust
- is a combination of spiritual gifts, values, attributes, knowledge, and skills
- that prepares and enables a Christian minister, lay or staff,
- to perform a specific task, or set of tasks, even ministry position,
- within a congregation or organization,
- to standards required for successful job performance.”
So, competence is the spiritual, mental, and physical capacities to perform a specific job! The question is, “Are you prepared for your ministry service and leadership tasks?” Are you up to each challenge? When it comes to consistent performance, “can you cut it?” Are you able to do this assigned task, but not that one? Are you in overall “high performance fitness?” Do you “have what it takes to get the job done?” However we may ask the question, the answer we give about our competency level really does matter. Big time!
My Reflection: As I reflect on my twenty-two years of pastoral ministry,
and three decades since, the “competency question” was often addressed
directly and indirectly. I found it to be a probing expectation of myself, of
fellow staff members, and key lay leaders. Far too often when I failed at some
point of competency in ministry, I knew it, was frustrated, even embarrassed.
But then my better self responded in a way that proved beneficial—to be
motivated toward improving my capabilities and performance through self-awareness,
training and practice. Also, when I did accomplish a worthy task with effectiveness,
it was encouraging and gratifying more than just a flush of pride.
Glossary—“competency” –from Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
1. The state of being competent; fitness; ability; adequacy; power. "To make them act zealously is not the competence of law.”--Burke;
2. Property or means sufficient for the necessaries and conveniences of life; sufficiency without excess. "Reason's whole pleasure, all the joys of sense, lie in three words: health, peace, and competence”--Pope; "Superfluity comes sooner by white hairs, but competency lives longer.”—Shakespeare
3. Law: Legal capacity or qualifications; fitness; as, the competency of a witness or of evidence; b: Right or authority; legal power or capacity to take cognizance of a cause; as the competence of a judge or court.
2. Competency: What is the Biblical View of Preparedness?
Competency as preparedness for the service of Christ is worthy of a fresh review, starting with a biblical viewpoint. Competency is expressed in the Old and New Testament texts, and by a variety of rich terms such as: to do your best, to prepare, to put things right; and by workmanship, skill, gifts, talents, and good works. Among the texts are:
Zondervan Commentary: : In these two verses Paul challenges Timothy to be an approved workman. …"Do your best" is spoudason, which literally means "make haste," and so, "be zealous or eager." . . ."one who does not need to be ashamed" is one word, the compound adjective anepaischynton (only here in the NT), literally "not to be put to shame." Application of competency as “one who handles correctly, not deviating from the truth,” may be applied as graphic work pictures to your contemporary roles of service and leadership:
• “holding a very straight course”;
• “plowing a straight furrow”;
• “cutting a road across country in a straight direction”;
• “laying a straight stone wall”;
• “cutting a straight pattern of cloth”;
• therefore, “guiding the word of truth in a straight path” without turning aside from the truth of the gospel, either in frivolous debates or contrary behavior.
Zondervan Commentary: We read only of those who are appointed to leadership. Their ministry, of course, is exercised for the sake of the whole community (vv. 12, 13)….(v. 12) The aim of the ministries mentioned in v. 11 is now disclosed. It is the equipment of all God's people for service. "To prepare" (pros ton katartismon) is "to put right." In surgery katartismos is applied to the setting of a broken bone (BAG, p. 419). In the NT the verb katartizo is used for the mending of nets (Matt 4:21) and the restoration of the lapsed (Gal 6:1). . . (v. 13) The ultimate end in view is the attainment of completeness in Christ.
3. Competency and Trust-Building: Research
to the Point
A principal interest in this article is to focus on how competency contributes to trust-building in service and leadership. Consider the findings of outstanding authorities in the fields of leadership, management, service:
“The fourth most admired leadership attribute is competence. If we are to enlist in another’s cause, we must see the person as capable and effective. The universal expectation is that the person be able to get things done for the business unit. In this sense, having a winning track record is the surest way to be considered competent. The type of competence that constituents look for seems to vary with the leader’s role.” (p. 19.) Research also asserts that
leaders are expected to have technical competence at the level of their constituents, to have required leadership skills for their job, to learn the business and to know its current operation.
Level # 1: “Trustworthiness at the personal level is based on character, what you are as a person, and competence, what you can do. If you have faith in my character but not in my competence, you still wouldn’t trust me. Without character and competence we won’t be considered trustworthy…Without meaningful ongoing professional development, there is little trustworthiness or trust. Trustworthiness is the foundation of trust.” (p. 31) As an aspect related to competency, Covey’s Habit 7 adds elsewhere: “‘Sharpen the saw’ is the unique endowment of continuous improvement, self-renewal, innovation and refinement.” (p.47)
- ambition and competence leaves us with a self-serving leader who puts personal power above a vision for the good of the whole.
- integrity and ambition without competence can lead to a well-meaning leader unable to make anything happen, taking the organization down a righteous dead-end.
- competency paired with integrity will often lead to good works, but not challenge barriers and open new ground.
Dimension #1 Reasoning—competencies include: Conceptual Skills, Logical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Holistic Thinking, and Communication
Dimension #2 Coping—competencies include: People, Information, Networks, Excellence, and Integrity
Dimension #3 Knowing—competencies include: Knowing the Job, Knowing the Organization, Knowing the Business One Is In, Knowing the World, and Knowing Oneself
Dimension #4 Believing—competencies include: Visioning, Coaching, Motivating, Team Building, and Valuing
Dimension #5 Being—competencies include: Identity, Independence, Authenticity, Responsibility, and Courage
Personal Competence: These capabilities determine how we manage ourselves.
- Emotional self-awareness: reading one’s own emotions and recognizing their impact; using “gut sense” to guide decisions
- Accurate self-assessment: knowing one’s strengths and limits
- Self-confidence: a sound sense of one’s self-worth and capabilities
- Emotional self-control: keeping disruptive emotions and impulses under control
- Transparency: displaying honesty and integrity; trustworthiness
- Adaptability: flexibility in adapting to changing situations or over-coming obstacles
- Achievement: the drive to improve performance to meet inner standards of excellence
- Initiative: readiness to act and seize opportunities
- Optimism: seeing the upside in events
Social Competence: These capabilities determine how we manage relationships
- Empathy: sensing others’ emotions, understanding their perspective, and taking active interest in their concerns
- Organizational awareness; reading the currents, decision networks, and politics at the organizational level
- Service: recognizing and meeting follower, client, or customer needs
- Inspirational leadership: guiding and motivating with a compelling vision
- Influence: wielding a range of tactics for persuasion
- Developing others: bolstering others’ abilities through feedback and guidance
- Change catalyst; initiating, managing, and leading in a new direction
- Conflict management: resolving disagreements
- Building bonds: cultivating and maintaining a web of relationships
- Teamwork and collaboration: cooperation and team building
1) The ability to think in terms of systems and knowing how to lead systems.
2) The ability to understand the variability of work in planning and problem solving.
3) Understanding how we learn, develop, and improve; and leading true learning and improvement.
4) Understanding people and why they behave as they do.
5) Understanding the interdependence and interaction between systems, variation, learning, and human behavior. Knowing how each affects the others.
6) Giving vision, meaning, direction, and focus to the organization.
Scholtes, because the new competencies are systems-oriented, summarizes some of the characteristics of a system 1) A system is a whole composed of many parts, e.g. an auto. 2) Each systemic unit has its own definable purpose. 3) Each part of the system contributes to the system’s purpose. 4) Each part has its own purpose, but when it affects the whole system it is dependent on the other parts. 5) To understanding a system, we must understand its purpose, its interaction, and its interdependencies.
4. Competency-Based Training: For Congregational
(adapted from several sources, including “The Competency-Based Approach to Training” by
Rick Sullivan, Sept.1995: www.reproline.jhu.edu/english/6read/6training/cbt/cbt.htm
Competence-based training (CBT) has been a leadership and management movement over the last three decades, and is itself being raised to a higher level of expectation in its actual contribution. Intentionally or informally, churches have been incorporating CBT into traditional training programs. Following is my summary of elements of a CBT (or, “on-the-job training”) system as they relate to Christian congregations, organizations, and ministers:
5. Competency Trust-Building: Actions,
Practices, and Behavior
Practical application of this review of competency can be applied to most aspects of your service. Remember, competency is capacity of knowledge and skills put into actual performance. On a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high), rate your assessment of your competency level; then plan your training actions!
1st Develop trust by doing your present work consistently well.
_____What is the level of your present performance? Provide your own assessment. Let this be your mindset and your commitment: “I may not know how, but I am learning and I want to be at my very best in each task of my Christian ministry.”
_____Seek excellence in each task that you are expected to do. Develop your own plan for competency-based training, a plan or process that fits your personal reality
2nd Take an Inventory of your Ministry Tasks and Functions
____ Analyze the job description of your ministry position; what does it actually require you to do in order to successfully perform its expectations? Make an annotated list of your specific tasks, even if your job description does not include an up-to-date record.
____ Evaluate your performance in each required function. What do you do well? What do you neglect? What do you think you should do about performance of each ministry task? Ex.: planning, supervision, budgeting, teaching, administration, pastoral care, etc.
____ Listen to your people, not just their criticism or complaints, but the truth behind what they say about your performance level. Analyze such insights and act on them.
____ Set significant performance goals for yourself; stretch yourself in the direction you wish to go, establish a time frame.
3rd Take specific planning and action about competence development based on such findings and personal expectations.
____ Do your best each day with each task; thrill in effective service to others.
____ Commit yourself to life-long professional, personal, and spiritual development. “Trust is task-specific--that is, leaders may trust someone with one task but not with a different task. . . . Competence is a necessary component of trustworthiness, but competence alone does not earn trust. It is, however, a critical beginning.” --Zand, Leadership Triad, p. 114
____ Develop required technical skills for competency in your ministry functions.
Mark 6:3 “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him that he even does miracles? Isn’t this the carpenter?” 7:37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
In the NT the word translated “carpenter” refers to an honored trade of Jesus’ day, a craftsman capable of working with wood, stone, and metals. Jesus gave evidence of competence, not only with His wisdom in teaching and His power for miraculous signs, but also in the technical craft of carpentry. He knew how to use skillfully the tools of His trade. These two verses demonstrate the diversity of tasks, the task-specific nature of competence, and the necessity of physical and technical skills. Verse 7:37 reports the assessment of those around Jesus, “He does all things well.” This could mean good, better, beautiful, commendable, excellent, honest, honorable, and right. (See also the “well done” of Mt. 25:21-23)
____ Enlarge your people skills to high competence levels. Trust-Building by Elder is one of six SkillTrack® Leadership training on interpersonal skills including: self- understanding, trust-building, interpersonal communications, assertive leadership, conflict management, and motivating others.
____Grow with and beyond your present ministry opportunities. Go beyond a maintenance mentality and be ready for the next door opened to you.
“Competence gives the leader credibility. How can a leader lead if there is no understanding of the overall purpose? . . . A person of competence values and delights in watching others grow. A competent leader is always learning and growing.” –Ellen Castro, 52 Ways, p. 26
Closing Reflection: This article attempts to present and champion one of several ways that any leader, including Christian minister, can set about to build trust by your competent performance in every area of your kingdom tasks. That’s leadership.
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