"For Those Who Are Passionate About Reaching The Younger Generation"

Youth Ministry Topics Recruiting Adult Leaders

Critique of Personal Assessment Tools

Dr. Mark Senter

From: Jeff Thompson

To: Christian Education Committee Date: November 14, 1989

Re: Personal Assessment Tools for Recruitment and Placement of Volunteers

In keeping with our discussion of personal assessment tools to help develop volunteers within the ministry of Walnut Heights Bible Church, the following is an informal critique of several of the primary assessment tools available at this time.

Name: "Spiritual Gifts"

Source: Guidance Assistance Programs, P.O. Box 105, Winfield, IL 60190

Description: A four-page forced choice test designed to help individuals learn how to use their spiritual gifts in the church. The tool is designed to be self-scoring and uses a graph to plot outcomes. Ten categories of ministry concerns are identified: teaching, Christian education, counseling, preaching, children, youth, visitation, caring, pastoral, and evangelistic. Critique: "Spiritual Gifts" is more of a ministry preference test than an indicator of spiritual gifts. Though it does not attempt to link spiritual gifts to the categories of ministry concerns nor provide suggestions of how to interpret the results of the test, the tool could easily be used by a person working with volunteers as a means of gaining further insight into individual ministry preferences -through discussion after the test has been completed and the results plotted on the graph. Time required: Fifteen minutes.

Validation: None claimed.

Cost: $.30 each; slightly less when bought in lots of 100 or more.

Name: SIMA (System for Identifying Motivated Abilities) Source: Mattson, Ralph and Miller, Arthur. Finding a Job You Can Love. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982. Description: The book adapts a system developed for making personnel decisions in Fortune 500 caliber companies and makes it available to individuals without the hefty "consultant fee" charged when trained staff members debrief and interpret the results.

SIMA is based on the premise that each person is created uniquely yet in God's image and therefore resists the standard agree/disagree, forced choice or multiple choice formats employed by a majority of assessment tools. Instead the person taking the SIMA identifies recurring activities which she has enjoyed doing throughout her lifetime and believes she has done well. Then through a process of analyzing the information which she has written down, discovers a pattern of motivated abilities which should be present in any job (paid or volunteer) to which a person commits herself.

Critique: The process is rather time-consuming and would best be used in a group process. This could occur over a period of weeks where group accountability encourages the individual to complete assignments or with individuals who are actively looking for a "new job."

Though the book does not discuss the concept of "spiritual gifts," the idea of motivated abilities comes very close to being as useful in helping the Christian discover ministry activities for which she is uniquely suited. To direct volunteers into ministry positions, one would have to link motivated ability patterns with tasks available in the local church situation.

Time required: A minimum of three to five hours. Validation: Extensive validation claimed for the more extensive SIMA process; none claimed for ministry placement of volunteers in churches.

Cost: The book currently lists at $6.95.

Name: Team Ministry: A Guide to Spiritual Gifts and Lay Involvement by Larry Gilbert

Source: Church Growth Institute, P.O. Box 4404, Lynchburg, VA 24502

Description: The Team Ministry workbook contains a 108 item spiritual gifts inventory which uses statements to which the reader is to identify: almost always / occasionally / not very often. Responses are recorded on an answer sheet which clusters responses among nine spiritual gifts: evangelism, prophecy, teaching, exhortation, pastor-teacher, showing mercy, serving, giving, and administration. Bar graphs are then used to visually identify primary gifts.

The rest of the booklet is designed to be used in a class-room setting with an instructor explaining spiritual gifts. The information provided assists the volunteer in understanding the types of activities which the author associates with each gift but does not connect these with specific types of ministries.

Critique: In all likelihood the inventory will be most useful in situations where the volunteers being tested share the style of vocabulary most often associated with traditional evangelistic churches. However, a majority of evangelical churches should find the "Spiritual Gifts Inventory" useful.

The author spends time explaining the individual gifts in a very helpful fashion, but fails to provide suggestions as to what it means if a person scores high in two or more categories or what type of ministries should be considered as a result of such combinations.

Time required: One hour for inventory and two to four hours of class time.

Validation: Despite popular acceptance the test claims no validation.

Cost: $4.00 for workbook (including inventory).

Name: Houts Inventory of Spiritual Gifts by Richard F. Houts

Source: Fuller Evangelistic Association, call 1-800-C-FULLER to place an order; California residents call 1-818-449-0425. Description: The inventory is a self-assessment instrument to help individuals ascertain their ministry gifts and related opportunities for Christian service. The sign gifts of tongues, healing, and miracles are not included.

The test contains 128 statements intended to help the Christian reflect upon her life and rate the extent to which each statement is appropriate in her experience. A worksheet is provided which enables the person to identify the degree to which each of sixteen spiritual gifts are in evidence in a person's life. A glossary is provided to define the manner in which the gifts are understood for use in the inventory.

The final two pages of the inventory provide lists of suggestions of service opportunities. Eight public and four support gifts are identified and five or more types of ministry opportunities are provided for each gift. The person taking the inventory thus has a means by which to make decisions about areas of service within the church community, though not tightly defined.

Critique: Rather than an inventory which identifies a person's spiritual gifts in any permanent fashion, the inventory appears to be a current reflection on a person's ministry preferences. The results may change over time, so the inventory could be used periodically to assist an individual in clarifying the types of ministry for which he is currently suited.

The statements used are satisfactory but not sophisticated. If a person is looking to outguess the test and intentionally score high or low in certain gift areas, he could do so with relative ease.

Though there are lists of service opportunities provided for each gift, there are no suggestions for combinations or pat-terns of giftedness. If a person is extremely high in two or three gifts, it would seem that this combination would help focus the type of ministries for which one would be best suited. Yet no suggestions are given.

As I used the inventory, I found it to be a rather accurate reflection of where my areas of giftedness lie.

Time required: A half hour to forty-five minutes.

Validation: Despite popular acceptance the test claims no validation.

Cost: $2.00 for the inventory book.


Mark H. Senter III is chair of the Department of Educational Ministries and associate professor of educational ministries at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He has been at Trinity since 1982. Prior to that, Senter served as youth pastor for 11 years and as pastor of Christian education at Wheaton Bible Church for 7 years.

Senter's areas of expertise include youth ministry, volunteerism, administration, and continuing education. He is a member of the North American Professors of Christian Education. He is a consultant for churches and parachurch agencies in periods of transition.

Senter's publications include Reaching a Generation for Christ (co-edited with Richard Dunn) (Moody 1997), The Coming Revolution in Youth Ministry (Victor 1992), Recruiting Volunteers in the Church (Victor 1990), and The Complete Book of Youth Ministry (co-edited with Warren Benson) (Moody 1987). He contributed to More Than Conquerors and his numerous articles have been published in periodicals such as Youthworker, Moody, Christianity Today, Leadership, and Christian Education Journal. Senter has also written chapters for other volumes on youth ministry.


This article was originally chapter ten of Recruiting Volunteers in the Church, by Mark Senter III, Victor Books, copyright 1990 by SP Publications. Currently out of print. Used by permission of Mark Senter.