What does it take to be an effective minister of the gospel? That was the question that launched Rockbridge Seminary. When we began this new approach to seminary education, we worked with hundreds of pastors to identified 35 competencies for effective ministry. Those competencies were organized by purpose: fellowship, discipleship, ministry, evangelism, and worship. Out of our study, we developed an instrument to help Christian leaders assess their ministry skills. To date, over 3000 leaders have taken the survey. The scale is a 4-point scale and is scored as follows: Beginning-1, Developing-2, Strong-3, Well-Developed-4. The top five skills identified by full-time pastors are:

Top Five Ministry Skills Identified by Pastors

MS #

Ministry Skill

Average Score


F-4 Works effectively with others.



E-6 Respects persons of different cultural, social, and religious backgrounds.



F-2 Sensitive to the needs and feelings of others.



F-5 Listens and responds in ways that let people know they have been heard.



F-1 Builds and maintains healthy relationships with others.  3.25



These findings bear out that effective ministers have effective relationships with others. In ministry as in life, relationship skills trump all other skills. Coming in number 7 in ranking was “Demonstrates godly humility and sacrificial love for those in the church.” Our churches are better when we have leaders who are servants.

Other interesting findings are what pastors scored themselves low in. Here are the bottom five ministry skills identified by full-time pastors.

Bottom Five Ministry Skills Identified by Pastors

MS #                                     Ministry Skill

Average Score


E-3 Leads the church in planning and conducting cross-cultural missions.



E-2 Leads the church in an effective program of evangelism.



F-6 Develops small groups and leads them to birth new groups.



F-7 Leads the church in developing a process for connecting new members into the life and purposes of the church.



D-4 Leads the church in planning, conducting, and evaluating a comprehensive program of discipleship and Christian maturity.





We believe there is a correlation between these scores and the failing discipleship in our churches. An informal poll conducted by the author at a pastor’s conference discovered that 95% of pastors were not part of a small group experience, either as a leader or participant. Recently a pastor told me that the pandemic revealed the Church’s deficient in discipleship. He said, “We’ve placed too much emphasis, time, and resources on a one-hour weekend event, rather than discipling our members who can disciple others.” The ministry skills assessment affirms that diagnosis.

Students at Rockbridge also complete the assessment in their first and last course. In addition to their self-inventory, a 360-degree assessment is collected from their mentors, peers, and people they serve. As would be expected, students enter Rockbridge with lower scores than the scores of full-time pastors. Upon graduation, Rockbridge students in the 2016 cohort scored higher in 34 of the 35 competencies than when they began their studies. What was more surprising is that upon completing their studies at Rockbridge, students scored higher than the full-time pastors in 32 of the 35 competencies. If you would like to see a chart of these findings, please go to this link.

If you would like to take the assessment click on this link.

Graduation 2020 Ceremony

You may watch the Rockbridge Seminary 2020 Commencement program by clicking on this link.