Newsletter #418 – Unique Contributions

I’m a psychologist who regularly reads Fast Company magazine in part because of its window to cultural trends and its emphasis on leadership. The magazine rarely mentions churches but the current (December 2010/January 2011) issue features a story about the annual leadership summit at Willow Creek Community church. I attend the summit most years and was impressed with the magazine’s informative and generally affirmative evaluation of an evangelical church that honors God, learns from what he has taught leaders in the ministry and secular worlds, and annually teaches roughly 125,000 leaders and wannabe leaders to be more effective in their lives and ministries.

More than 20 years ago, Willow Creek pastor Bill Hybels had lunch with management guru Peter Drucker. A committed Christian, Drucker asked the young pastor, “What is the unique contribution that God is asking you to make?” Hybels concluded that one of his unique contributions was to create a resource for pastors who didn’t have firsthand access to thinkers and world-class leaders like Drucker.

The question remains relevant today, applicable to counselors, coaches, teachers and others who seek to encourage, guide or mentor. Only a few are chosen to be influential leaders but are we each called to make a unique contribution that arises from our unique experiences, abilities, educational opportunities, passions and God-given calling?

Finding one’s unique contribution can be a long process. It may come in some clear way from God. Ask Moses or Saul of Tarsus. It can come from prayer, reflection and scripture. It comes from the guidance of mentors, even distant mentors who appear on a stage or in a video. It comes from coaches and counselors. We also learn from reading. Consider this Hybels quotation: “For reasons known only to God, I’ve been put in a position of influence. Reading is one of the most economical ways to get better at it.”

How would you answer these two questions? What is the unique contribution that God is asking you to make? And how does this apply to the ways in which you help or build up others? Please feel free to share your answer or leave a comment.

9 Comments

  1. Thank you for your reminder about the unique contribution that God intends each of us to make. I believe that my life work continues to be walking alongside men who have been carrying father wounds into their adult lives which impact their relationships and personal lives. I have been leading a men’s therapy group for the past ten years and we just had an extended session this weekend, heralding a season of graduations. What a sacred privilege it is to help influence group members and to see the transformation of their lives through the community we have together created.

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  2. As a person moving into the coaching arena, the question of unique contribution is currently significant to me. Prayer, mentors, friends, pastor,wife, reflection, reading (lots of it) are most helpful in identifying a coaching speciality. Having God speak outloud to me would be wonderful in more ways than one. However, He hasn’t and I think that if He did, He would say something like, “how come you ignored all my other messengers and communications to you?” So I listen closely to hear the whispers and passions in my heart, the truth of His word and the counsel and encouragement of the people He’s placed in my life. Right now coaching conflict sounds rather unique, and more than a play on words.

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    1. Hi Loren,
      Over the years I have learned that beyond all of what you wrote (which is good) sometimes God shows us our unique contribution by the people he sends our way. I seem to hear most from younger emerging leaders or middle age leaders who are getting direction for their careers or their career re-directions. Since these people contact me the most, these are the people that might be good clues about my niche or unique contribution. Who has been showing up recently in your life or what has been showing up in your reading or your informal contacts with the people you know. Not very scientific but maybe helpful.

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  3. Love this, Gary! A new way to ask the #1 question I pose almost daily as a Christian Life Coach:

    “What is the unique contribution that God is asking you to make?”

    And I love the follow up question as well:

    “And how does this apply to the ways in which you help or build up others?”

    Thank you for the encouragement and teaching you offer so generously.
    Blessed to stand on the shoulders of such giants as you!
    Geri Swingle

    Reply

  4. For the 43yr.since I first knew Him the Lord has been allowing me to learn about what a relationship with Him is about. Though the learning is far from done, it’s time to pass on in whatever way He directs, to younger generations who desperately need the information. Sometimes it’s straight info, sometimes encouragement, and sometimes a bit of a kick to the posterior but I feel as if what’s been given has to be passed on. In the midst of this process I have found that the indifference of younger generations is a myth. They want to communicate on their own terms but that’s okay. When the Lord gives a passion for someone He also gives the means of communicating. Seeing that glimmer of understanding beginning to dawn is a reward beyond explanation!

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