This week I'm camped out in a hotel room waiting for a Converge Church Planter Assessment Center to begin tomorrow morning. I'll be one of many assessors on a team to help the candidates discern God's will for their first or next ministry. The center will be assessing 10 couples over a three-and-a-half-day period. I'm a veteran assessment team member having served in seven of them a while back, and I've been looking forward to another go at it. As I reflect on beginning the experience again tomorrow, I want to share with you a major observation - a ministry assessment experience should be required for all seminary students. Here's why I say that.
Let's start at the end of the assessment center experience. Both husband and wife go through the assessment together and come out of the assessment center with a "Yes, you are ready," or "No, you are not approved at this time". The couple might also be assessed as needing to fulfill some recommendations before they begin their desired ministry. This kind of team assessment is virtually unheard of today, except for a few groups who do church planter assessment centers. Ministry is not a religious job, but it is a calling where both husband and wife partner in serving the Lord and His church even though only one may be serving in an official capacity.
An effective assessment center uses an assessment grid. This usually involves a list of characteristics, qualities, and skill sets that you can observe in successful pastors, missionaries, or ministry leaders. Without a thorough assessment, you can graduate from a ministry training academy knowing all about theology and ministry but still lack the practical skills needed for the Lord's work. An assessment center experience can identify personal liabilities and missing skills, then make recommendations on how to gain what is lacking.
The assessors at such an assessment center ask hard questions, behavioral questions. Hard questions can be one of the best tools for learning life and ministry skills. I would say that asking hard, behavioral questions is seldom used in traditional academic and ministry training.
Assessment centers place participants in role-playing scenarios that resemble real-life ministry situations. The assessment team uses these situations to test the abilities of the participants, add then make recommendations for improving needed ministry skills before someone is thrown into a real situation where success matters. Such situations might include preaching, evangelism, vision-casting, team formation, and leadership, etc. These skills are not usually sharpened in the classroom but are greatly needed in ministry. And assessment center participants should want to be at their best when they are required to do them in their ministry, and team observations and recommendations will help them improve.
Experiencing a ministry assessment center will help you discern God's will and calling. It may also indicate a closed-door for ministry or one that is wide open. The wisdom of experienced ministry workers and leaders is shared with the participants to help the couples process who they are and how God might best use them in ministry. At this particular church planter assessment center, the tried and tested experience of the assessors will equal over 200 years of wisdom and knowledge gained by experience on the front lines of ministry. That's a gift that is more valuable than gold.