Consciousness and Competence

I recently sent a tip entitled “Give it Away”, about some thoughts from Scott Livermore on handing ownership off to students and volunteers.  Any kind of skill development takes time and goes through this simple progression of stages:

  • Unconscious Incompetence
  • Conscious Incompetence
  • Conscious Competence
  • Unconscious Competence

We begin not knowing what we don’t know.  Then we progress to thinking we can’t do that.  Then as we learn how to do something, we really have to focus on what we are doing the first few times doing it.  Finally, the skill becomes so ingrained that we can do it without thinking about it.

This progression is true for any skill development: playing piano, painting a room, driving a car or sharing our faith.  I often think about how distributing ministry to students and volunteers is like teaching my sons to drive.  There was only so much modeling I could do with them.   But at some point I needed to get out of the driver’s seat and let them take the wheel.  In fact, I noticed that they thought they could do K turns, back out of the driveway and stop smoothly at a stop signs until they tried it themselves.  It turned out to be more difficult than they thought.  But it was giving them experience that was the key to developing those skills.

Back in August Steve Douglass wrote about “Finding the Leader”.  Very insightful.  He wrote:

We are all about spiritual multiplication—which involves passing ownership of ministry on to others.  But that won’t happen if we view most of our disciples as “disqualified” for one reason or another.

If we find it hard to have faith that God is able to use them, we won’t even try to challenge them toward their potential as a leader.  Or, we may embark on a process of discipleship that is so drawn out that people drop out needlessly.

Am I advocating that we should ignore that people have certain barriers to becoming multipliers?  No, not at all.  I am just advocating that we:

1. Have faith that God can make people useful to Him.

2. Look for people whose hearts are right before God (“good soil”).

3. Work with them aggressively to use their strengths and grow in their weak areas.

4. Give them a chance to try to minister, perhaps a little sooner than we might think.

5. Encourage them throughout the process.

Anytime you find yourself reluctant to do these things, think first of one of your own experiences or those of someone you know well.  How “perfect” were you when you got started?  How skilled were you at evangelism and discipleship?  How different are you now than when someone believed in you and let you try?

As you think about potential leaders, where do they fall on the conscious/competence scale?  What are the next appropriate steps to move them to the next stage?  And what stands in the way, on our part or theirs, toward making taking those next steps?


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