A few days ago, I was reading a post on Facebook from a fellow leader. She was lamenting over the fact that she had just had a conversation with a person in the church about having an intentional relationship with their youth. He was sharing ideas on how’d he would like to become active in their lives.
It was either in the midst of the conversation, or shortly there after, that this leader became aware of a need in the church. A Sunday School teacher for the teens would not be able to make service, she thought of this man, and reached out to him to fill in. He said no and she was disappointed in his response. She continued her lamenting, pointing out that teens want to see they are valuable and people want to invest in them. She was disappointed this man couldn’t see it.
It is easy to look at that situation and feel that there was a bit of hypocrisy on the part of the man. One second he is talking about investing in the lives of the youth, but when an opportunity presented itself he found the exit as quickly as possible. However, I saw something very different. What I saw was a man who was willing to step in and share his gifts and talents with the youth, and instead was being funneled into serving in an area that is not his gifting.
I’ve seen this in the church before. I’ve experienced it myself.
As a woman, and a mother, one of the very first places churches have wanted to put me to work as a volunteer is in the children’s ministry or VBS. There is an assumption that because I am a woman and have children of my own, that this is where my gifting is. Hardly. Or, perhaps this just happens to be a space in the church where there is a need and I visibly have all the qualifications. Either way, I can tell you that to date I have never had anyone in church leadership sit down with me and talk about my gifting and how to use it in the church. Instead, I have waited until I saw a need that I felt I could fulfill.
My husband once volunteered at a church in our home town, reaching out to the Pastors to see where he could be of service. They never accepted his offer, and to this day have no clue on how much a blessing my husband would have been. Even being as involved in churches as I am, I’ve never witnessed leadership take an effort to get to know my husband and his gifting. Oddly enough the one occasion that I can think of, where someone reached out to my husband for his assistance… my husband handed the phone to me because I was actually the one more qualified to answer. Clearly despite being apart of that community for over ten years, they really didn’t know either of us.
The crazy thing is that we call ourselves “the body”, and scripture tells us that every person in the body is given Spiritual Gifts… to be used in accordance to God’s will. Yet, by and large, we are consistently limiting the use of those gifts to the areas WE think they are best used. Or, dismissing gifts we don’t see the need for and asking people to serve outside of their gifting to fill up the holes on our volunteer rosters.
Statistically we know that in most churches, 90% of the work is done by 10% of the people. Some sites argue it’s more like 80% done by 20%, but the point stands. In every church 80-90% of it’s members are not using their gifts in the church. Yes, some have been called to use their gifts outside of the church through various ministries and organizations. None the less, it’s crazy to think that the overwhelming majority of the body is atrophied.
In the human body, when a person is in a coma or paralyzed, the muscles atrophy. Why? Because they are not being used. So, these muscles begin to deteriorate. In nature, when an animal no longer needs certain aspects of their body, they evolve to future generations that don’t have those body parts. It is why we have blind cave fish. Since they have lived in caves so long, absent of the sun, they no longer need their vision due to swimming in complete darkness.
What I see in our churches today is a LOT of atrophy. Parts of the body that are no longer working because they haven’t been used. They become comfortable writing their tithing checks, dropping of donations for the local Christmas present drive… but that is about it.
We MUST become intentional with our members, helping them to identify what their spiritual gifts are. However the work doesn’t end there. Once we know what the gifts are, we can then figure out how these gifts can bless our church or community. As leaders, however, we have to realize that we are not the ones who get to pick and choose the gift based on our own/organization needs.
We must stop boxing in the Spiritual Gifts,
labeling them according to what we think we need.
This is incredibly important, especially with our desire to engage the millennials into our church community. Millennials desire to be a part of something, active participants. The want to be a part of a church that isn’t just talking the talk, but walking the walk. Which means our numbers grow and millennials begin to fill those pews… we MUST have opportunities for them to use their gifts.
There is no way we can accommodate all of these new volunteers if we expect to plug them into the same old volunteer roles. What a prime time to expand our ministry offerings.
- Take the time to get to know your new members and their spiritual gifts.
- If they don’t know what their spiritual gifts area, help them figure it out through spiritual gifts testing.
- Talk to them about how they see themselves using their gift in the community or church.
- Build connections between members who share gifts, or organizations that you know could benefit from those gifts.
- Lessen the load on your paid staff by pairing them up with those who have gifts and talents that can be a blessing to them.