Nov 9, 2022

New Research on How Veterans View & Practice Their Gifts

Veterans Day acts as an important reminder to recognize and thank former military personnel for their service to our nation. For pastors, the acknowledgment of veterans need not only happen on the Sundays surrounding this national holiday—church leaders and congregants can continue to show their care and gratitude for veterans year-round by investing in their unique gifts and abilities.

This article offers a peek at some recent data—an extension of Barna’s Gifted for More study—exploring the types of gifts veterans say they have and their awareness and application of these skills.

Gifted for More

A new framework for equipping Christians to share their abilities and skills in everyday life

Veterans Name Technical, Management & Teamwork Skills in Their Top Gifts
Gifted for More (2022)—a Barna report created in partnership with Lutheran Hour Ministries aiming to broaden and deepen research on personal gifts—explores 12 common skills, talents and abilities identified among Americans.

These gifts are defined as follows:

  1. Technical: Performing specific tasks that require a specialized set of skills
  2. Interpersonal: Interacting with, caring for and building relationships with others
  3. Entrepreneurial: Identifying new opportunities, setting goals and designing strategies to achieve them
  4. Financial: Planning, organizing, directing and controlling financial activities
  5. Critical thinking: Processing data to problem-solve or make informed decisions
  6. Artistic: Expressing oneself in creative and artistic ways
  7. Intercultural: Relating to people from other cultures and social groups
  8. Communication: Communicating with individuals or groups in a clear and engaging way
  9. Leadership: Organizing people to reach a shared goal and effectively leading them toward that goal
  10. Management: Managing both tasks and people
  11. Civic: Making an impact as a citizen within an organized community
  12. Teamwork: Effectively collaborating and working alongside others

Among veterans, the most common primary gifting is Technical, followed closely by Interpersonal gifts, then Management and Entrepreneurial gifts. Communication, Intercultural, Leadership and Civic gifts are least common as primary gifts.

Common secondary gifts include Management and Critical Thinking. At times, veterans are keen to say they possess skills among their top five yet are unlikely to select these same skills as a primary gift. For example, Teamwork often shows up among top five gifts for participants (43%) but is rarely selected as a primary (5%) or secondary gift (7%).

Comparing top five gifts across this survey of veterans and Barna’s previous study of giftings among all U.S. adults, we see just how much the Technical gift is associated with military service. There is a 21-point difference between the percentage of veterans (53%) and of all U.S. adults (32%) who see this among their top five gifts. Management is also a gift more likely to be selected by veterans than by the average U.S. adult. Meanwhile, the general population is more likely than veterans to identify personal gifts such as Communication or Artistic or Civic talent.

Nearly One-Quarter of Veterans Says They Know Their Gifts “Extremely Well”
Knowing and naming a person’s gifts is important. Still, if these skills and abilities are not being utilized or developed well—individually and in community—then the label or profile applied to personal gifts may not matter so much. It is paramount to understand how gifts are being nurtured and employed. As our partners at LHM say, everyone is a gift, with gifts to share.

Overall, we see veterans say they know their gifts “very” or “extremely” well (62%). Veterans are more likely than the general population to report awareness of their gifts. The biggest leap occurs among the 39 percent of veterans who know their gifts “very well,” something just 29 percent of all U.S. adults report.

Military service may consistently, and under a great deal of pressure, put veterans in a position of exercising certain gifts—perhaps more often or with more intensity than the average U.S. adult experiences. This in turn may allow for an up-close awareness of what a veteran perceives their gifts to be.

Faith is also an influence in this intentionality. Christian veterans who say their Christian faith is very important to them are more likely than other veterans to place high importance on knowing and understanding their own gifts and skills. In addition to a vocational leaning into gifts, these faithful veterans may be driven forward by scriptures (such as Galatians 6, Titus 1, 2 Timothy 1, 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, among others) that urge Christ-followers to know and grow in their spiritual gifts.

Gifted for More

A new framework for equipping Christians to share their abilities and skills in everyday life

More So Than U.S. Adults Overall, Veterans Believe Their Gifts Are for Society
On the whole, veterans are pretty open-handed with their gifts. More than half (51%) say their personal skills are for anyone who could benefit from them, something just 43 percent in the general population affirms. Similarly, two in five veterans (39%) feel their gifts are intended for society as a whole (vs. 23% of all U.S. adults).

One profound difference: While half of all U.S. adults feel their gifts are for their family, only 18 percent of veterans share this belief. There may be a number of reasons for this; it is possible that, because of the nature of military service and the distance and personal cost it can require of veterans and their families, a service member doesn’t immediately associate their gifts as a “good” for their family.

It’s also interesting to note that a veteran is less likely than the average U.S. adult to say their gifts are meant for a divine purpose. Expectedly, this percentage climbs among Christian veterans who say their faith is very important to them; one in four (25%) says their gifts are for God’s purposes. Still, this faith-related option falls behind society as a whole, community or neighborhood, friends, employer and, generally, anyone else who could benefit.

The transition to civilian life can be daunting. However, as the research demonstrates, veterans return to civilian life with a large suite of gifts that can be used for the betterment of their community, their churches, their families or their new occupations.

About the Research

About the Research
Original Gifted for More Research: For this study, we conducted a quantitative survey of 1,504 U.S. adults with an oversample of 1,000 additional practicing Christians (meaning they self-identify as Christian, say their faith is very important in their life and, over the past year, on average, they attended church at least one time per month). In total, responses from 1,374 practicing Christians were analyzed in this report. This online survey was conducted from June 16–July 6, 2020. The margin of error for the sample is +/- 2.3 percent for all U.S. adults and +/- 2.5 percent for practicing Christians at the 95 percent confidence level.

Another quantitative survey focused on Lutheran Hour Ministries’ Every Gift Inventory—that is, the 12 giftings and mastery measurements shown in this report. This online survey was conducted among 1,019 U.S. adults from September 3–12, 2020. The margin of error for this sample is +/- 2.9 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

For these two general population survey efforts, researchers set quotas to obtain a minimum readable sample by a variety of demographic factors and weighted the samples by region, ethnicity, education, age and gender to reflect their natural presence in the American population (using U.S. Census Bureau data and historical Barna data for comparison). Partly by nature of using an online panel, these respondents are slightly more educated than the average American, but Barna researchers adjusted the representation of college-educated individuals in the weighting scheme accordingly.

Veterans’ Research:Between May 13 and 25, 2022, Barna Group conducted an online quantitative survey of 662 veterans of the U.S. military. The respondents answered Lutheran Hour Ministries’ Every Gift Inventory and several survey items from the Gifted for More survey. Minimal statistical weighting has been applied to maximize representation by age, gender and region. The margin of error is +/- 3.5 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

Photo by Jessica Radanavong from Unsplash

© Barna Group, 2022.

About Barna

Since 1984, Barna Group has conducted more than two million interviews over the course of thousands of studies and has become a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generations. Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization.

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