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Why we do this

Play to Your Strengths is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with a mission is to help people thrive in life through understanding and applying their unique strengths.

We are guided by these principles:

  • Everyone has been entrusted with talents and strengths.

  • People find fulfillment and success in life when they apply their strengths.

  • The world needs people to use their strengths to bring about positive transformation.

  • Strengths development, and coaching are life-giving.

  • Most people are painfully aware of their weaknesses. It is fun and refreshing to have conversations about what we do well.

Our Core values:


  • We strive to always deliver our best

  • We look for constant improvement

  • We are willing to be vulnerable


  • To value people first

  • To have sustaining impact


  • We develop unique experiences

  • We do important work in a fun environment

  • We are driven to try new things


  • Creating moments

  • Revealing capabilities

  • Imagining new possibilities

Why Strengths?

Most of us are painfully aware of our weaknesses. But we thrive when we focus on our strengths.

People who know and use their strengths are more likely to be engaged and productive at work and have a great quality of life (Gallup, Inc.).

Play to Your Strengths uses the CliftonStrengths (formerly Strengthsfinder) and StrengthsExplorer assessments as foundations for our coaching and workshops. The assessment is the first step in beginning to understand your strengths; it generates your unique sequence of top 5 themes of talent.

Our training takes you beyond identifying your strengths to using them as a catalyst for transformation.


Meet our team


Steve Gahagen, DMiN: Founder and Executive Director

Steve Gahagen established Play to Your Strengths out of a lifelong passion for developing leaders and creating environments that inspire people reach their full potential. He launched a church in 1990 that has had a positive impact on its north metro Minneapolis community and equipped people to fully utilize their strengths.

Dr. Gahagen has a doctoral degree in Strengths-Based Leadership from Bethel Seminary in cooperation with Gallup University. He has developed leadership curriculum and facilitated workshops for businesses, non-profits, schools, and churches. Through his various roles, he has also had the opportunity to coach countless individuals.

Steve’s strengths of Ideation and Strategic enable him to imagine and implement new ways to challenge people to thrive. For example, he created the “Walk4Water," an event in which hundreds of participants raise money for clean water projects in Africa. His strength of Restorative helps him when encountering problems. And his strengths of Responsibility and Belief empower him to work hard, remain steadfast, and get things done.

Top 5 CliftonStrengths Themes: Ideation, Strategic, Restorative,  Responsibility, Belief


Rachael Ingersol, MA: Programs Director

Rachael has eight years of experience managing projects for non-profit organizations. She has a bachelor's degree in Music and International Studies from Southern Nazarene University, and a master's degree in International Development from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at University of Denver.

Rachael uses her strengths of Analytical and Responsibility to monitor and evaluate programs and ensure team objectives are completed. With Learner and Input, she enjoys finding resources to share with the team and learning new skills that she can put to use to further our mission.

Top 5 CliftonStrengths Themes: Learner, Responsibility, Analytical, Harmony, Input


Madie Hubert: Youth and Schools Program Coordinator

Madie has a great passion for working with youth and helping all ages discover the "sweet spot" of their strengths. She has a bachelor's degree in Music Ministry and Spanish from Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois.

Madie is especially thankful for her strengths of Adaptability and Positivity because she can make tough or unexpected situations productive and enjoyable. She uses her strengths of Empathy and Includer to ensure that people feel connected and heard. Her Input strength allows her to accumulate information and ideas to dream creative possibilities.

Top 5 CliftonStrengths Themes: Input, Empathy, Includer, Adaptability, Positivity


Board of Directors


Melissa Durand: Strengths Coach & Mentoring Club Leader

Melissa Durand develops connections with different individuals and groups in the community, and builds partnership opportunities. She enjoys seeing people grow in love and compassion for others by providing opportunities for them to share their unique strengths and talents. Because of Melissa’s passion to see young people thrive, she has played a major role in establishing Strengths Mentoring Clubs with local schools. Melissa has a Bachelor of Science in Social Work with a minor in Sociology and Early Childhood and Family Education from Winona State University.

Melissa’s strengths of Empathy and Developer allow her to see the needs and potential of people around her. Those strengths have played a role in her being part of a dog fostering program. She has used her strengths of Connectedness to bring people and organizations together to make a difference. Her strength of Adaptability helps our team successfully navigate the different school environments in which we work.

Melissa has been married to her husband, Pat, for 25 years and they have two adult children.

Top 5 CliftonStrengths Themes: Empathy, Connectedness, Developer, Belief, Adaptability


James Stuart: Sheriff of Anoka County

Sheriff James Stuart is the 17th Sheriff of Anoka County, since the office was established in 1857. 

Sheriff Stuart is a Marine, a graduate of St. Mary’s University and the 102nd session of the National Sheriff’s Institute, and studied Public Safety Leadership at the University of MN, Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. He is committed to the development of our youth, community partnerships, and service that exceeds expectations. It is his belief that by working together, we can make a difference.

Sheriff Stuart was nominated for “National Sheriff of the Year” and was awarded the Medal of Merit by the National Sheriff’s Association in 2015 and 2016 for his contributions to the community and to the field of criminal justice. Sheriff Stuart is active with the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association as an Executive Board Member, and he represents law enforcement on the MSA Legislative & Training Committees. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the National Sheriff’s Association.

Sheriff Stuart effectively uses his strengths of Communication and Woo in his numerous speaking engagements across the county. His strengths of Strategic and Futuristic enable him to see a vision for law enforcement in Anoka County and beyond. His strength of Empathy keeps him connected to the needs of the people he serves.

James has been married to his wife, Lisa, for 29 years and they have three children.  They reside in Andover, MN and are very active as a family in their church and in the community.

Top 5 CliftonStrengths Themes: Communication, Strategic, Empathy, Futuristic, Woo