by Rob Cizek

What makes pastors unhappy? It is so valuable to ask questions of the people you encounter, especially when they are experts in their field. Recently I met a person who makes their living coaching pastors. This is a prominent person with an insider vantage point from which to view church leaders.

I used the opportunity to ask, “What is the greatest challenge to healthy ministry?” Without hesitation the person answered, “Misalignment . . . misalignment of pastors’ skills and gifts and the work they actually do.

Wow. It’s amazing to think that of all the challenges pastors face, gift alignment problems are what are making some sick.

My expert gave the example of an unhappy senior pastor. This pastor used to be an incredible associate pastor. In that role the pastor’s strengths and gifts were used every day. He was happy and effective. This happy associate later became senior pastor. It seemed to him (and most people) the next logical step up the ladder. However, as senior pastor, this person isn’t using his strengths every day. He is manufacturing energy to do a job that doesn’t fit him. He is suffering and so his church.

Over time, pastors can become so “others focused” that they no longer consider themselves. They fail to ask, “Am I happy?” or “Do I feel God’s pleasure in doing this?” While self-sacrifice is part of following Jesus, being a mismatched part of His body is not.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ . . . The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.  (1 Corinthians 12:12-23)

Most people have a sweet spot. It’s doing the work that they are called and gifted to do. The work comes naturally and in a way that satisfies.

On either side of that sweet spot is work we can do, but it requires unusual amounts of effort. These are the areas in which we are capable but not gifted. These areas may get us a paycheck, but they will never get us awards. If we continue to work outside our sweet spot we become weary, worn down and burnt out. This mismatch of skills and work assignment isn’t good for us or our teams. Just because we are capable of something doesn’t mean we should do it.


Aligning our strengths with our job really isn’t hard. Here are some simple tools that will help you determine your skills and gifts. Once we know what they are, it’s relatively simple to find the kind of assignments that play to our strengths.

JOURNAL FOR A WEEK: Strengths expert Marcus Buckingham recommends that we keep a small notebook with us for a week. Each time we do something that energizes and encourages us, write it down. Conversely, when we do things that leave us drained and frustrated, write them down. The things that energize you are the things you should be doing professionally.

STRENGTHSFINDER ONLINE ASSESSMENT: Take this test online for $10 and it provides you with your “Top 5” strengths. I use this with my staff and with all finalists for a job opening. Most people say it paints an accurate picture. It gets illuminating when you compare your results with those of your co-workers. Take it here:

FREE SPIRITUAL GIFTS INVENTORY: In addition to our innate talents, God is at work in us. The Holy Spirit gives each of us special abilities:

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.  (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)

To help determine your gifts, these assessments are available free online:

Free Spiritual Gifts Test:

Free Spiritual Gifts Inventory:

Honestly, how good of a fit are you to your current job? Are you energized when doing your duties? Do you accomplish them with natural ease or forced effort? Do you look forward to going to work? Do you enable your organization to go further or are you holding it back?

Don’t be a frustrated, misaligned cog when you can be an aligned and energized superstar. What we do is so important it shouldn’t be any other way.

How did you discover your strengths and align them with your work?

Rob Cizek is Executive Pastor at Northshore Christian Church, a non-denominational church of 1,500 and Christian academy of 1000 in the Seattle area. He oversees daily operation of the organization and its ministries. He also organizes a networking group for executive pastors in the Puget Sound area. Rob, his wife, Janice, and two children live in Everett, WA. Rob regularly posts resources for church leaders on and Twitter at:

This post originally appeared here November 22, 2013. Used with permission from the author.