Friday, February 23, 2007

The Right Tools

Some of you may remember that I broke my hand while in Zambia last May. Though I've healed well, and after four months of rehab I regained nearly 100% of my function, I still have trouble with the ring and pinky fingers of that hand.

Holding mugs, in particular, still causes discomfort. That is, unless I'm using the right mug for that hand.

A good friend had the foresight last summer to get me a hand-warmer mug (mine is pictured left) for my birthday. Designed and patented by the folks at Clay in Motion, the mug features a pocket (instead of a handle) into which you can slid your fingers.

Mine (the one pictured) is a left-handed mug (for my injured left hand): I slip the four fingers of my left hand into the pocket on the left, then wrap my thumb around the smooth right side. It warms my hand and fingers enough to loosen the stiffness of my old injury and lessen the pain. It also allows my whole hand to carry the weight of the mug, not just my weakened fingers.

This hand-warmer mug compliments and supports my injury-induced weakness. It allows my hand to function to its fullest mug-holding potential, when other mugs do not.

The same could be said for teaching tools.

We all have areas of weakness (injury-induced or not). It doesn't matter how much (or how little) training we've had, we all possess blind spots and less-than-perfect areas of knowledge, leading skills, or teaching ability. God made us each with areas of strength, but no one person is gifted in every area of gifting. That's why we're in the Body; we need each other.

Sometimes the way we profit from the gifts of the greater Body is through using others' teaching aids and tools: books, illustrations, curricula, lesson plans, study guides, facilitators' guides, visuals--things developed from their strengths and areas of gifting.

What's important, however, is to examine these tools to see if they're the right fit for us. Some will be, but some may not.

Much frustration could be avoided if only we'd realize we had the grace and freedom to adapt other tools to fit our styles and areas of strength. Just because I use a certain tool doesn't mean you have to use it that way, or even that you have to use it all. Some other tool might be better suited to support your area of weakness.

Just as a right-handed hand-warmer mug would have done little for me (or not nearly as much as the left-handed one has for my injured left hand), so an ill-suited tool will do little for you.

The next time you're weighing a supplemental teaching or leading tool, though others may rave about it, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this tool suited to me?
  • Does it dovetail with my weaknesses to strengthen them?
  • Is it consistent with my theological convictions (or, if not, is it flexible enough for me to still use; can I adapt it)?
  • Does it "fit" me (my style, my strengths, my ability or skill level)?
  • Does it "fit" the group to whom I'm ministering?
  • Would something else (or someone else) better cover this area of weakness?

Don't hesitate to try new things. And remember: it's okay to be uncomfortable.

But also remember not every tool is right for every leader.

Give yourself grace.

'Til next time,


1 comment:

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