The give and take of growing in Christ

This reflection was written by Principal Jesse Zink for this week’s Wingèd Ox, a weekly news digest distributed to the college community. You will find reflections from previous weeks here.

Dear colleagues,

If you’ve ever interviewed for a job before, chances are you’ve been asked a question like this: what are your strengths and weaknesses? It’s a tricky question to answer. If you sing your praises too much, you’ll look like you think you’re God’s gift to the employer. If you’re too honest about your own weaknesses, then you’ll give them reason not to hire you. The result is that you have an incentive to not quite tell the truth, in either direction.

In my time as principal, I’ve been involved in hiring a number of people for a variety of different positions. Regardless of the position, there is one question I ask of all applicants (and their references). It’s a variation of the strength and weakness question and it goes something like this: at the college, we value people who can work well on teams. We also understand that no one person is going to bring to the team every gift that the team needs to succeed. When you work on a team, what gifts do you not bring to the team? In other words, where do you need to be complemented by others?

I ask this question because, first, it’s true: college faculty and staff do spend a lot of time working on teams. I ask it because it’s unexpected (though now that I’m writing about it it might not be). It usually makes people stop to think, rather than reaching for a rehearsed answer. But I also ask it because in my mind it gets at the really important part of the strength and weakness question: how one’s strengths and weaknesses affect others you work with and the overall staff community. If someone tells me they need to be complemented in a particular way and I know someone else on our team already has that gift, then I can see better how they would fit in our team.

But I also have theological reasons for asking this question. I think it says something essential about the church. In my imagination—however far this may be from the reality on some days—the church is the community where people are constantly giving to and receiving from one another the gifts that God has given to each of us. That means all of us have something to offer others as well as something to receive from others. The question I ask puts people in that frame of mind: what will they be giving to the team and what will they be receiving?

I will likely never interview you for a job, but I encourage you to reflect on this question as you think about your ministry and life in the church. When I am part of the Christian community, what gifts do I have to offer that community? And, equally as important, what gifts do I have to receive from others so I can continue to grow to full maturity in Christ?

Faithfully yours,

Jesse Zink