A spiritual gift is a gift that keeps on giving… sort of like a Holy-Spirit-charged Energizer bunny!
A spiritual gift is given to a believer by the Holy Spirit not for that believer’s edification, but rather for the building up of the body. When the gift is used for its intended purpose, it keeps on giving and giving and giving. Gifts are not meant to be kept to ourselves like some secret treasure. They are meant to be unwrapped and celebrated and put to good use! Doesn’t it follow, then, that ministry leaders have a responsibility to discover which gifts have been given to their community of faith so that they may see how they (as a community) fit into God’s body-building plan?
About a month ago I met with a woman who had completed my Youniquely Designed for Ministry workbook. The purpose for our meeting was to reflect on what she had discovered about herself and the way God has been equipping her for ministry over her lifetime. When we began talking about spiritual gifts, she commented, “I’ve known for some time now what my gifts are–I took a spiritual gifts assessment years ago–but I never knew what to do with what I learned.” She went on to explain that a former ministry leader had encouraged her to complete the assessment… but that’s where discovery stopped. I silently prayed that the indignation I was feeling was not written all over my face!
What good is it to exhort believers to identify their spiritual gifts if those gifts are never used? Any ministry leader who is engaged in teaching gifts-based ministry needs to know this:
We must be prepared to direct those we lead to meaningful opportunities to live out the truths they discover for the good of the whole body of Christ.
It is fun to teach on spiritual gifts, and it is fun to discover what gifts the Spirit has given. But it takes determined effort to help someone figure out how and where and when to use those gifts. It’s also the most rewarding part of the whole exercise!
There’s more to this discovery process than simply filling out an assessment. Ministry leaders must…
- teach about the gifts that are mentioned in scripture and how they are manifested within the body of believers, all the while making room for more gifts to emerge
- listen to what is coming out of this adventure into self-awareness
- point the way to meaningful opportunities to experience the truths being learned
The discovery process necessarily looks different from one faith community to the next. However, one key component is common to all: gifts discovery is a relational exercise. It’s not a “check this one off the list” kind of endeavor. As a ministry leader, when I ask someone to engage in discovery, I follow through with a conversation designed to unpack all that the person is learning. I direct them to ministry opportunities where they can “test drive” their findings until we find one that fits. I check in with them a few weeks or months down the road for another conversation designed to assess whether it really is a good ministry fit and–if it’s not–to re-direct them to another opportunity, framing it as a learning experience rather than a failure.
If you are encouraging gifts assessments and only recording the results for your database, you are missing out on one of the most rewarding aspects of ministry. Build relationships that allow you to teach, listen, and point the way to unwrapping the gifts that keep on giving and giving and giving…