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Leaning into Your Giftings as a Missions Leader

Missions leaders are multi-faceted, and being one requires a diverse set of skills that reflects the diversity of the ministry of global missions. No one culture, or type of leader, has the final say on the methods and means of spreading the gospel, as God’s Word is the ultimate authority on what we do and how we do it. 

Missions leaders ought to embrace their natural giftings and, where possible, strengthen weaknesses with the support of a team of staff and lay leaders alike. Of course, there are certain qualities all leaders should have that are essential for leading healthy ministries. All leaders should seek to be above reproach, to love God’s Word, and to feel a sense of urgency for getting the gospel to the nations. Missions leaders should be people-focused and should view systems and processes as tools to move the church forward in her mission of seeing God’s name glorified among the nations. At the same time, missions leaders may lean into their unique giftings with confidence that God fills in the gaps through his people and gives us wisdom and discernment to know when our individual skill sets are not enough. Indeed, he has made us to be a people who need one another and who glorify him when we collaborate together to carry out his plans. 

Missions leaders ought to embrace their natural giftings and, where possible, strengthen weaknesses with the support of a team of staff and lay leaders alike.

Before a missions leader can lead out of her giftings, she needs to understand her own particular set of skills. There are lots of tools and resources for helping leaders grow in awareness of strengths. One of my favorite tools is Patrick Lencioni’s Ideal Team Player. This short assessment helps a leader to know how he scores in three categories: Humble, Hungry (self-motivation/urgency), and Smart (emotional and people intelligence). One might also utilize Strengths Finder, DISC profile, and other practical tools. In my opinion, though, nothing can replace a personal assessment from a trusted fellow leader who knows your capacities well and sees them in action. 

Once an understanding of one’s giftings is grasped, a leader can lean into his or her strengths in several ways.

Cultivate Your Giftings

Leadership requires stewardship. How are you leveraging the giftings God has given you that allow you to lead well in global missions? If you have a natural gift for teaching or training, seek to hone those skills by regularly offering equipping sessions for church members to connect more people to the foundations of global missions. Serve short-term teams by training them for overseas trips. If you are gifted in more galvanizing areas, such as fundraising or rallying people around a vision, lean into these gifts as well. They are instrumental in growing a church’s global reach. Finally, a missions leader who is administratively gifted is a true gift! Don’t look down on your “behind the scenes” role as less important or more mundane. The amount of logistics it takes to move even one person overseas is great, and  administratively gifted leaders have much to do in service to global missions. Help those who lead around you to understand how necessary these types of roles are for organizing God’s people around God’s mission. 

One important note: There is no shortage of resources for today’s leader. Conferences, blogs, podcasts, books, and networks make us more connected and equipped than ever before. But don’t forget to stay in contact with the real world. We can only consume so much information about ministry before we actually have to do ministry. The best leaders grow through raw experience coupled with reflection and evaluation. 

Simply making yourself available and serving closely alongside others year after year will go a long way in helping people “catch” what their leaders are modeling.

Fill in the Gaps

It is important to know that one leader cannot do it all on his own. From my own experience, I have found that while I excel in brainstorming, vision-casting, and strategic planning, I am less adept at implementing and often lack attention to detail (unless a communication piece needs proofreading, then I’m back in the game!). At my previous church, we began assembling a team to support global missions. Some organized signups for training classes, others developed training slide decks, and others owned missionary care through their skills of organization, communication, care, and prayer. Though I was the staff leader, there is no way I could have done all of that work on my own, at least not well. As leaders, we can’t be so focused on the value and development of our own skills that we neglect the many other leadership styles and skill sets of the people among us. Be intentional to invite along people whose skill sets complement your own or fill in the gaps. At the same time, be on the lookout for those who help you hone your own skills and strengthen you in your role. 

Reproduce Leaders 

One of the most difficult, but perhaps most effective, ways to cultivate and lean into your giftings as a missions leader is to seek to reproduce them in others. Reproducing requires a leader to be self-aware, to be others-focused, and to practice patience, guidance, and support—qualities that will strengthen those you are leading. If you are gifted with lots of cross-cultural experience and knowledge, pass it on. Bring apprentices along on your next trip, hold a roundtable and share your insights, and train people on how to be cross-cultural learners. Or, if your giftings are in areas of administration, seek to teach others how to organize a mission trip. Let other people see your gifts and skills up close. 

There are so many small parts that make up the big machine of global sending, and in the busy life of the church, we often miss how each individual adds his or her gifts to the larger whole. We are often guilty of neglecting to see how each member blesses the body. But when you do pay attention and see this diversity as good, you can further it by reproducing yourself. This is much easier said than done, and if your natural gifting is not in areas of training or leader development, don’t be afraid to ask for help. At the end of the day, though, simply making yourself available and serving closely alongside others year after year will go a long way in helping people “catch” what their leaders are modeling. 

We may be tempted to think that we have to possess and cultivate every necessary skill for leading, but doing so would exhaust us and would very likely prevent others from stepping in to offer their own gifts. Missions leaders have much to do, and in a changing world, the work is also changing. We are wise to remember that while many leadership qualities will always be necessary, others will change as methods and strategies change. We should be encouraged that God knows this and that he will equip those who seek him. Leaders who steward their gifts and who collaborate with and develop others will find rewarding and fruitful ministry.


Ashlyn lives in London, U.K., where she serves with her local church, Redeemer Queen's Park, overseeing local discipleship groups as well as missions partnerships between the U.S. and the U.K. She also works for the Alliance for Transatlantic Theological Training (AT3) as the Director of Operations. Ashlyn is originally from Tallahassee, Florida, where she served on staff at City Church Tallahassee for over ten years. She is a graduate of Florida State University and completed seminary courses at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, where she hopes to return as a student one day.


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