As you probably know from my previous writing, I’m a big proponent of engaging volunteers in the ministry of the church. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to start a practical conversation about mobilizing volunteers better in 2016. But before we get into some practical advice, I want to address one of the most important and yet often ignored aspects of equipping volunteers to do ministry: helping them identify and then use their gifts.
God gives every Christ-follower one or more spiritual gifts. He does this to strengthen the body of Christ. When God’s in control of these gifts in our lives, the impact of our mission, together, is incredible. It’s one of the ways God designed the church to reproduce itself.
But how do we help people determine their gifts?
We should teach about the gifts.
There’s some great wisdom to share from 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4 and Romans 12, as examples, about various types of gifts that God gives people. We need all those gifts working together to maximize the impact of the church.
We can encourage people to take a spiritual gifts assessment.
However, I’d use some caution there. I’ve found you can really manipulate the results of those types of tests. Because of that, I’ve had people try to convince me they have a gift because the test told them they do.
As a side note, you should never give someone a platform based on their interpretation of their gifts. For example, if someone comes to you and claims they have the teaching gift and they want you to give them a place to teach, don’t do it. They likely don’t have the teaching gift.
If they really had the teaching gift, they’d already be using it and people would be showing up to hear them teach. God gives people a platform if they have the teaching gift. It’s not your responsibility to provide them a platform. The same thing goes for the leadership gift and every other gift that God gives to people. If God provides the gift, he’ll also give us opportunities to use those gifts.
That leads me to the very best spiritual gifts test.
It’s actually found in 1 Corinthians. Paul wrote:
“A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” 1 Corinthians 12:7, NLT
In other words, we should just encourage people to be sensitive to the needs of others. When God prompts us to help someone in need, we will naturally respond to that need based on the gifts God has given us.
Rather than taking a test, we need to be more cognizant of the people around us. Where do others need help? How am I compelled to respond? The Holy Spirit will prompt a response. We just need to act. We don’t have to wait for the church to create a program or ministry to respond. We can respond immediately, because we are the church.
This approach to help people discern their gifts removes the barriers so that people can be mobilized into ministry today. People don’t have to sit around wondering, “How will the church use my gift?” Instead, they can watch for needs in the people God puts in their lives and jump in immediately to use their gifts and help the church fulfill its mission.
God gives us gifts to help others. We can start doing that today.
Tony is founder and chief strategic officer of The Unstuck Group, a company that helps churches get unstuck through consulting and coaching experiences designed to focus vision, strategy and action. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church in Dallas, Georgia, NewSpring Church in South Carolina, and Granger Community Church in Indiana. He’s written several books, as well as articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com. He writes about leadership regularly at tonymorganlive.com. His next book, The Unstuck Church: Equipping Churches to Experience Sustained Health, will be available from Thomas Nelson in May 2017.