Boxing In Spiritual Gifts

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.

  1. Take the time to get to know your new members and their spiritual gifts.
  2. If they don’t know what their spiritual gifts area, help them figure it out through spiritual gifts testing.
  3. Talk to them about how they see themselves using their gift in the community or church.
  4. Build connections between members who share gifts, or organizations that you know could benefit from those gifts.
  5. 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.

 

 

 

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Marginalizing Spiritual Gifts – #Write31Days

MBA

We’ve been taught that good things come in small packages.   If your husband presents you with a small box on your birthday, instinctively you know that it contains a piece of jewelry.   We’ve learned that often the big boxes hold things like new bed sheets or a set of pots and pans.  Or, your favorite candy bar that has been repackaged into umpteen dozen boxes because someone believes he has a sense of humor.  Nonetheless, it is a conditioning that tells us that we can’t assume how good the gift is based on the size of the box.  A gift that looks professionally wrapped may contain your one hundredth neck tie.  The one still packaged in the shopping bag with the store logo on it, could be exactly what you’ve been wanting.

This is also how I see our spiritual gifts.  You can’t necessarily look at a person and determine what their spiritual gift is, or where they are destined to use it within the context of the church.

A man who looks raggedly dressed may actually have a gift of stewardship.  I think of a man who dressed modestly, people assumed he was poor, but upon his death it turned out he had several million dollars that were donated to organizations close to his heart.

The stoic looking man, who sits in the back of the church, may not say much.  Yet, when he prays the words are like a sweet offering to the Lord.  Full of sincerity and compassion, and a love of the Lord.  My Father in Law was like this.  He had a sense of humor, don’t get me wrong… but sometimes, he could be incredibly hard to have a conversation with.   Yet, when he would pray… he would weep through most of it.

That woman in the long flowing dress, you may not realize it but she has a degree in advertising design.  She is responsible for all of the materials the church mails out to the community, the signage in the church, etc.  She joyfully works on her off days on church campaigns.

As you walk down the hallways of your church building, beautiful paintings fill up the what would otherwise be blank walls.  There is an eighty year old woman, who has painted her entire life.  She blesses the church with her talent.

You just never know what the spiritual gifts are that lie under the surface of the people we see before us.  Yet, quite often… when it comes to areas of service like finances, construction, pastor searches, technology, et’al our church leaders look to the men in the body.   When they need more volunteers in the nursery, Sunday School teachers, meal ministry, holiday decorators, greeters, and VBS volunteers… they look to the women.  We have allowed ourselves to marginalize spiritual gifts by gender.  We assume based on what the package looks like, what type of gift is inside.

A friend of mine shared a scenario where a group of men and women from her church were invited to a dinner to kick off that years ministry work.  When they arrived they found the tables themed to different areas of services.  Name cards were placed at each table.  Someone in the leadership of the church had assigned all of these individuals to a ministry job in the church, without even discussing it with their volunteers.

This leader felt they could discern the individuals gifts and assign them tasks based on that discernment.  No spiritual gifts tests were administered.  No conversations happened between the leader and these various people to determine what gifts or interests they had for serving.  Even still, the people were just assigned the task without even being given an opportunity to say yes or no to the position.

When we make these assumptions we are really marginalizing the spiritual gifts based on our human perception or need.  We are too focused on filling holes in our volunteer needs than we are looking at the individual person’s gift and figuring out how to connect them to serving in the church.

Another way we can marginalize the gifts is when we allow ourselves to become hyper focused on our ministry goal.  It is almost as if we put on blinders and the only way we can see that goal being achieved is through the methods we are comfortable with, what fits in our box.  We can’t think outside of that box and any ideas that differ are cast aside.  We may even get defensive and think that anything outside of that box will take away from our vision or goal.  It too is cast aside.

If we are a body, made up of many parts, and each part having a job or purpose…

If we are all one in Christ, not Jew or Gentile, master or slave, man or woman…

If we all receive different gifts to be used for different purposes…

Then why do we hear of statistics that suggest that 80-90% of church needs are met by 10-15% of the body?  Why are more people not serving?  Why do we not have 100% of the needs being met by 100% of the body?

Because we are failing somewhere.

We are failing to recognize that spiritual gifts are not based on our genders.  We fail to see our men as capable nursery workers and children’s teachers.  We fail to see our women as capable administrative leaders, teachers, and staff members.  We fail to see past the specifics of our own vision to value the gifts and vision of others who are serving along with us.  It is almost as if we think the Lord is only capable of doing ONE thing, in ONE way, within our church or ministry walls.  As if multiple ministries can’t coexist and support each other.  We put all of our eggs into one basket.

We fail to put effort into connect with each of our members, helping them figure out what their spiritual gift is, and develop those gifts. We fail to give them a place to serve with their gift in our body or ministry.  Then, we wonder why our gifted people leave our church or move to another ministry to serve.

When we marginalize the people in our church, we are taking control of something instead of surrendering it to the Lord.

Sometimes we need the reminder that just because a ministry isn’t something we understand… or something that we personally need; doesn’t mean it is not valuable.

Sometimes we need the reminder that just because a person doesn’t show up in the exact package we expect… or doesn’t fit our defined roles; doesn’t mean they don’t have value to add.

If Not Here, Then Where? Asking the right question about female leadership.

MBA

Have you ever found yourself in a conversation with someone about “Female Pastors”.  I am sure at some point, you have been involved in one… overheard one… or maybe even that discussion was between Me, Myself and I as you pondered the subject.

This is a subject I have discussed with others, and myself, multiple times.  For the bulk of my Christian walk, I have found myself on the “against it” side.  This last year, my beliefs have been significantly challenged.

I looked into the scriptures, and yes there are women of notable importance in the pages.  There are clear cut leaders who are in fact women, but that doesn’t negate the scriptures that clearly indicated male headship.

RIGHT?

So began my struggle.

It is not my struggle alone.  Christians and congregations around the globe struggle with this same question.  I have spoken to women who are staunchly against it, and men who are totally for it.  I have spent time speaking with women who are Pastors, and men who are in their congregations. I’ve looked to the experts, who stand against it… and those who are starting to change their mind. Ultimately the question comes down to:

Is it biblical?  Yes, or no.

Then one day, I thought to myself:  “Maybe we are asking the wrong question…”

I am going to suggest that the answer isn’t as black and white, as we tend to think it is.  Instead I think the question we should be asking isn’t going to have an answer a simple yes or no answer, but instead an answer to a series of questions.

In fact, I think the question we should be starting with is: “If not here, then where is female headship permissible and beneficial?”

I contend the following:

  1.  In the scripture regarding the gifts of the Spirit, there is no indication that gifts are given based on gender.  So, it is possible for a woman to be gifted by the Holy Spirit with teaching, shepherding, leading.
  2.   In Galatians 3:28 we are told that in Christ we are all one. (There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.)  If we are all one in Christ, would this not also apply to the gifts of the spirit and commission into pastoring?
  3. In the OT to the NT there are occasions recorded in the scriptures of women who were called into leadership positions or referred to as specific types of leaders.  There are specific times and occasions, where God saw fit to raise a leader that was female.  We need to explore why He would do so.
  4.   As we draw closer to the day when Christ returns, God is going to pour His spirit out on everyone,  men and women.  (Acts 2:17)  Prophets, just like Pastors, are given the responsibility of rightly handling the Word of God, and conveying that message to His body of believers.  If women can be called to prophesy, what would discount them from pastoring?

Does this mean that I believe that ALL women are going to be called into Pastorship?  No, not at all.  1 Corinthians 12:28 supports that our gifts will be used in different callings, not all are called to do the same thing.  Nor is the gift of teaching, leading, and even shepherding mutually exclusive to Pastors.  I recently spoke with my Pastor’s wife about this subject.  She stated that there are many people in our church that would be considered “shepherds” yet they are not Pastors.

While I have become opened to the possibility, we have to look at the scriptures themselves to understand the WHO and the HOW.

I find myself now asking the next question:  “If a woman has been called into Pastorship, where would that calling be permissible?

Dr. Eric Mason, a Pastor, recently posted two tweets that caught my attention.

 In Titus 2 women are called to teach other women, there is no debate as to our responsibility to lead other women.  Yet, in the last year I have encountered women who are not even allowed to teach other women in their church.  Why is there such fear or trepidation about allowing women to lead?  Additionally, I’ve noticed, that when they are allowed to lead or teach, there is a great amount of scrutiny over their leadership.  They are not allowed the same freedoms in leadership as their male counterparts.

Clearly this is not something EVERY CHURCH faces, but it is something I see that swims across all denominations and even the independent/non-denominational lines.  It is not relegated to churches with senior Pastors who are on the edge of retirement, I see it among the young Pastors too.  It is not geographically pinned down either, it is common in big city churches and small country ones alike.

Last summer, I sat in a room with over fifty women who were all feeling called to seminary but hesitant because of a justification of the time and expense. Why?  They can’t see where that degree will be used.  Where are the jobs?  Where are the leadership positions?

When women are making up over 60% of our congregation on any given Sunday, and 75-90% of our volunteers that keep the ministry programs functioning… We have a LOT of women, with spiritual gifts and callings, that are going unrecognized. Their gifts are not being invested in and they are not given the opportunity to use them.

If we can all agree that at the very minimum that the scriptures call women to teach/lead/guide/shepherd other women… the conversation can begin & an answer can be found.

  In most churches we have a Head Pastor, Associate Pastor, Worship Pastor, Youth Pastor, and Children’s Pastor.    There would be absolutely no conflict to the scripture to have a “Women’s Pastor”.  A woman, gifted in the role of shepherding other women.

  • She understands the unique needs of women, and their experiences.
  • For women who need counseling, they may find her safer than speaking with a male leadership figure (particularly if her counseling is related to abuse by a male figure in her life).
  • For our male Pastors, having a female who can provide Pastoral counseling creates a place of safety in the church.  If our male Pastors are not put into the position to counsel women, they have cut off an opportunity for temptation or false accusation.

I have had several conversations with Women’s Ministry leaders across the globe, and this is something they keep bringing up on their own.  It’s happened too much for me to not notice.  They feel that having a female staff member, a “Women’s Pastor” would benefit the women of their church in many ways.

Will this be any woman?  No, not necessarily.  If a woman is going to be called into Pastorship, over anyone, she has to fulfill the same biblical requirements as the men do.  It has to be a calling from God, affirmed and supported by her spouse (her Pastor if she is single), she must be a woman who is a sound student of the Word, a Godly woman who is well respected, speaks wise instruction, lives in a way where she can not be accused… basically everything that is included in the beginning of 1 Timothy 3.

I find that from a scriptural basis, there is absolutely no reason why a woman can not step into a Pastoral position over other women.  In fact, it may be a HUGE blessing to the women in your congregation.  It can be a safe guard for your male Pastors.  It also answers the questions of how a woman can use that gift, without feeling she is contradicting the scriptures.

At this point, someone is yelling WHOA!    It may be because you think I have gone off my rocker.  On the flipside, you may be someone who is in 100% support of women as Pastors (even head Pastors) and think I am a stick in the mud.

The subject of women in the role of Head Pastor is a heated debate, and I am not interested in engaging in a topic that is going to divide our family of believers.  It’s just become more clear to me that we have allowed stereotyping to bookend what a Pastor can and can’t be, what they can do and can’t do.  We kept the subject so black and white, that we missed the glaring opportunity staring us right in the face!

If the scriptures say without any doubt that women are to lead women, then the creation of a new Pastoral position that fulfills that commission should be something we can all agree with.

And, it’s totally complimentarian.  Because, this Women’s Pastor is working as a help meet and under the authority of her Pastor.  We’ve been arguing over whether a woman can fill a certain role, without ever considering her calling may be to fulfill a NEW role entirely.   It is also egalitarian, because it allows the genders to work together in equal roles in the shaping of the church.

A Women’s Pastor is just the beginning of the creation of leadership roles for women, even staff positions, within the church.  There are churches who have “Women’s Ministry Directors” who are not and do not desire Ordination as a Pastor, but are on staff overseeing the Women’s Ministry programs.  Perhaps the “Small Groups” and “Children’s Pastor” positions are ones that we can begin to open up to women.

But what about being a Pastor over men?  What would that look like?  When would that be permissible?  That is a whole other set of questions, that I am still working through.

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on this!

Do you think it is permissible for a woman to hold the title of Pastor, if she is over other women?   Would you want a “Women’s Pastor” leading the women and women’s programs in your church?

I’m Asking for Trust, Not Power

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I’ve spent a little over a year doing some self examination, particularly in the area of leadership.  I came to a realization today, and jumped right to the keyboard to share it.  What I realized was my greatest struggle in leadership (now, and in the past) has always fallen in the difference between POWER and TRUST.   This applies to my management background and even within my ministry work.

Men, generally speaking, are looking for power and authority.  They climb the corporate ladder because they want to be top dog.  This isn’t true for all men, and this doesn’t negate that they work really hard and make sacrifices to get there.  It is that drive to “be their own boss” that makes men want to elevate their position or even start their own company.   Even in the church there is usually a progression:  Youth Pastor => Associate Pastor => Head Pastor.  In ministry it is common for a man to work his way up too, he may start out as an usher and then become head usher.  This forward movement is normal for men.

Women, I contend, have a different motivation.  Most women are not looking to be in power or have ultimate authority, but instead they want to be trusted to get the job done.  Women will stay in the same role for years, even a lifetime, if they find the job fulfilling.  In ministry, you can see this displayed in Sunday School teachers or Women’s Ministry leaders who have happily been serving for decades.  For many years the predominant use of women in the church came down to very domesticated roles, like rocking babies in the nursery, teaching Sunday School, singing in the choir, decorating the church, secretarial, and acts of hospitality (coffee on Sunday mornings, or food for the sick).  Historically, that is a fairly accurate role… but as time passed and women became educated and entered the workforce, there was a shift.

Women have become innovators and inventors, they write software, perform surgeries, run multi-million dollar organizations and corporations.  They have become college professors with doctorates, leading experts in many fields, politicians, business owners, and entrepreneurs.  Women have contributed significantly to the world through art, music, and literature.  When they raise their hand to volunteer at church, they are looking for a way to use those talents and skills to help the church in it’s vision.  However it is pretty common to usher her toward the children’s ministry director or hospitality team.

After my first was born, I chose to become a stay at home mom.  In nearly seventeen years, and multiple churches as we moved, there has not been a single conversation regarding my professional background among church leaders.  Not one.  Yet many of those skills would benefit any church or organization I have worked with. 

Not a single one could tell you that I was the fasting rising, and youngest manager in my company.  Nor, that my numbers were the best in our region (and in some instances our state).  They wouldn’t know that I wrote training manuals on how to more efficiently execute certain positions in the company, and was moved to a training location to prepare future managers.  That I managed a staff off one hundred people, nearly a hundred thousand dollars per day in sales, and nearly half million dollars in inventory on any given day.  I have hired people, trained people, and fired people.  I have negotiated commissions, raises and contracts.  I have experience in marketing campaigns, organizational structuring, etc… etc.

I don’t list this as a source of pride, but simply a fact… a short resume of experience that goes continually untapped in multiple arenas.  I know that I am not the only one, I am not the only woman who has sat in the pews from week to week and knows deep down she could be doing more. I’ve talked to women who have approached their Pastors offering up their experience, only to be brushed aside. 

I spoke with a woman recently who lamented that her church hired a young barely experienced guy for a job that she had thirty years of experience in.  She would have VOLUNTEERED to do the job, but she had no clue her church was even hiring.  When I asked her if the church knew she had experience in that field, she said YES.  Apparently on numerous occasions she volunteered and every time was told her services were not needed.  She wasn’t even given a chance.

I know that feeling.  I’ve offered my services and been told “no thank you”, I have been mirco-managed too.  I also know what it is like to be in a leadership role with the total support and trust.  As I reflect upon those experiences I realized it really had nothing to do with being in authority, power, or being the top dog.  Knowing that those whom you are working or serving with TRUST you is the game changer.

If a woman in your church has experience running a multi-million dollar organization, her gifts are better utilized on a finance committee, building committee, or even on staff versus putting out coffee and donuts each Sunday.  The woman in your church who has been a hiring manager is a great person to include on your Pastor/Staff search committees, creating clear cut job descriptions, and listing your job postings.  A woman in your church who has a background in hospitality is a great person to consult when the church wants to throw a large event to ensure nothing is overlooked.  My great aunt was an accountant for a major corporation, and served as the treasurer of her church for decades. 

It would be irresponsible to not consider that some of these women who left a given field may NOT want to do the same job in the church.  Or, they may be happy to be consulted with for major projects but have no interested in full time commitment to a particular role.  This is especially true for our retirees who are using this time to travel and spend time with their growing families.  However, even some of our retirees are happy to share their experience and knowledge, so we can’t discount them either.  In as much, you may find the corporate CEO who never had a family of her own is happy to rock babies every chance she can get.  We shouldn’t assume the best place for women to serve in the church.  Instead we should be proactively placing them based on their experience, spiritual gifts tests, and speaking to them in regards to their area of interests. 

Women in church leadership want the staff members to trust that they are capable to do the job and to allow them to lead, not without accountability of course… but with support.   Women want the church leaders (and this includes women’s ministry leaders, and other subministry leaders) to talk to them about their professional or educational background.  Then work together as a team to find where you are best suited to serve.  I recently read that there is growth in the number of women who are leaving the church, and I can’t help but think this may be the reason why.

Generally speaking, when you give a person a job or a role within a church that uses their gifts and talents… they become invested.  They will remain part of the body long term.  However, when a person feels overlooked, unappreciated, or undervalued they tend to leave and find a place where they are.  If we want to slow down or even stop the departure of women from the church, we need to be proactive in connecting them to the church in a meaningful way.

#Write31Days Challenge – Post 22 – Discerning Spirit

MBA

Making decisions can be quite difficult.  Some decisions are part of our daily lives, such as deciding how to spend our finances.  Other decisions come alone sporadically.  They are big ticket decisions like moving, going back to school, or changing vocations.  There are also decisions that come along that are eternal, like should I follow Jesus or not.

In order to make the right decisions, we must have discernment.  There are those whom the Lord has given the spiritual gift of discernment.  They have a natural ability to determine the best course of action in any situation.  They have a “God’s eye view” in their perspective of life, for themselves and for others.  Then there are those who do not have this natural gift, yet wisdom and discernment is still an expectation for believers.  We are called to be wise and discerning in all areas of life.

We are to be discerning in our daily encounters.  For example, it is discernment that helps us to become good stewards of our finances.  It is discernment that helps us decide if our child can spend the night at a particular friend’s home.  It is discernment that causes the knot in the pit of your stomach, which causes you to lock your car doors and go a different direction.  We can asses the situations around us and use that inner voice (gut instinct) to determine if something is right, wrong… safe, or dangerous.

We are to be discerning in the large decisions that we make too, especially since they often to do not impact only our own selves.  Making a choice to move will impact your spouse, your kids, and any commitments you have made that would have to be foregone.  Going back to school requires discernment because it not only impacts people, but also your finances.   It is important in these decisions that we are not only seeking God’s direction, but making sure we look at the big picture so that we understand what the impact is going to be.

We are also called to be discerning in our spiritual life because there are false teachers, false prophets out there that the scriptures have warned us about.  We need to know how to identify them, through discernment, in order to avoid them.

So… if you are not gifted with discernment, how do you GET discernment.

Discernment is rooted in wisdom, wisdom is rooted in knowing the Lord, and we know the Lord through His Word.

If you are not naturally gifted in discernment, you must begin an intentional process of studying the Lord’s Word to increase your knowledge.  This knowledge will ensure that you have a grasp on the character of God, knowledge of his statutes and the scriptures, so that you may test teachers/leaders/prophets to His word.   Through knowledge you will gain wisdom, as you begin to see how the Lord conducts himself in the various scenarios that play out in the scriptures.  Essentially, what would Jesus do?

With knowledge from study, wisdom through application, and then adding in the third piece which is prayer… we can begin develop discernment.

We pray for the Lord to give us knowledge, wisdom, and discernment.  We want Him to help us in this process, so that while we are still learning, we have the Holy Spirit working on our behalf.  There will never become a time where we can fully understand the will of God, all the mysteries of the scriptures, on our own this side of Heaven.  We must have the Holy Spirit working in us to do so, but knowing that doesn’t absolve us from the responsibility of seeking His wisdom and knowledge.  We can count on the Holy Spirit to help & guide us, but we are still called to have a spirit of discernment within us.

To be discerning, we must start at the beginning.  Know the Word, to know what isn’t.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,     – Philippians 1:9-10

 

 

 

Unused Gifts

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1 Corinthians 12:4-11

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b] 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

It was about 11 years ago, when a man went with his church to a Promise Keepers conference.  The truth was that this man had grown up in the church, he had gone through discipleship training, and at one time had a spirit that was thirsty for the Lord.  He had read his bible cover to cover, many times.  He had wisdom and knowledge of the scriptures.  Life, however, would distract him.  His fervor for service would diminish.  He toiled and labored to provide for his family, so much so that it was hard to give up that one day during the week that he didn’t have to get up for work.  Most days, he would… the family would head over to church and he and his wife would discuss the message on the way home.

He was too tired at the end of a long shift to sit through family devotions, or read the scriptures with his wife.  He trusted her with the spiritual leadership of his children, the managing of the home, etc.  This trip to Promise Keepers was just what he needed to open his eyes.  The message directed at the men convicted his heart, he recognized that he had become a lukewarm Christian.  An ember began to burn that called him to service in his church.  He was renewed in spirit.

On the bus ride home, the Pastor asked some questions of the men from the church.  The man stood up and announced “I was a lukewarm Christian, I was wrong, I don’t want to do it anymore… where can I serve????”

A few men shouted, “AMEN!”… there were some high fives as he moved toward the Pastor.  The Pastor put his hand on the man’s shoulder, smiling… and said “No brother, how can we serve you?”

The Pastor’s intentions were good, but because he didn’t take the time to get to know the man and what he had to offer, he dismissed the man’s offer.  The man was crushed, he wanted to serve, use his talents, but he was denied.  He returned to his seat, but the high fives on the return trip suddenly felt empty. 

When he returned home, it would take him several days before he could even bring himself to share what happened with his wife.  She could see how hurt he was.  He had a lot to offer, but he wasn’t going to be given the chance.  He wanted to serve, but he was turned down.  In the days following the trip, and the weeks even further out, not a Pastor or Elder would reach out to him.    They were not even going to follow up on their offer to serve him!  Time passed, and the ember went out. 

It’s been 11 years, and to this date … the man has never offered his gifts again.  The church missed out on an amazing opportunity, and frankly so did the man. 

I understand how he feels.  There have been plenty of times in my life where I felt like I was being over looked for the gifts and talents I had to offer.   In some cases, I was overlooked completely for a task that I was more than qualified for.  In other cases, I was given something totally outside my of my gifts because it was just naturally assumed I would be good at is… simply because I am a woman.  When a person is overlooked or rejected enough times, they will stop offering.  If you only offer them the tasks that you assume they are good at (without ever talking to them about it), resentment and frustration can build.

This happens in the church quite a bit, the man’s story is not unique.  God has given us all gifts to be used for His glory, but that’s the key… we need to use them.  We want to use them in the church, but if the church isn’t willing to recognize them or utilize them, one of two things will happen:

  1.  We stop offering our gifts.
  2. We take our gifts elsewhere.

I took an informal poll of some ministry leaders, the question was:  Do you have your volunteers (or church) take a spiritual gifts test, regularly?

I was surprised by the few who answered, YES.

If we look back to the story I shared (which is true, by the way)…. it could have gone a lot different.

The Pastor put his hand on the man’s shoulder, smiling… and said “Brother, that’s great! Call me this week and we’ll talk about where you could serve.”

or

The Pastor put his hand on the man’s shoulder, smiling… and said “Brother, we’d be happy to have you serving with us.  Stop by my office this week, I’ll have spiritual gifts test waiting for you.  Fill it out, and let’s set a date to have lunch.”

or

The Pastor put his hand on the man’s shoulder, smiling… and said “Brother, that is so exciting.  Do you know where you’d like to serve?”

In all three examples, it would have given the man the opportunity to meet with the Pastor, to share his background and experience, and provided the groundwork for identifying his spiritual gifts in order to determine the best place for him to serve within the church.  It acknowledged him, without rejecting him.  It created a plan of action that was immediate.

This is something that we must be careful of, with the members of our church.  We can’t make assumptions about what they are good at, or their knowledge, the time they have available, or what we think their gifts are.  We also can’t ignore the fact that every person in the church has a gift.  We need to make the effort to get to know the people, find out what their gifts are, and plug them into the places they can use them.

Our gifts are more than the choir, parking team, nursery, greeter, and info desk volunteers.

Women by nature are not all gifted for VBS and Sunday School, because they are women.

Men are not by nature all gifted for landscaping and construction, because they are men.

I wonder, when we talk about women leaving the church, as well as the younger generations, how much of it comes from a lack of not feeling utilized by the church?  If you don’t feel wanted or needed, why stay?

What if…….

  • all new members classes included a spiritual gifts test?
  • fall small groups started off with group leaders handing out spiritual gifts tests?
  • instead of saying to the whole church we need these few volunteer spots filled… we looked at their tests and placed everyone … somewhere.

I think we know that realistically, not everyone will turn in their test.  Nor, can we expect that everyone is going to be available to volunteer.  People do have jobs, kids, and even other volunteer commitments.  However, by starting the process of identifying their gift we can engage their minds.  They will begin thinking about if, when, and how they could be used in the church.  We can guide them toward ministries that are seeking volunteers, or even come up with something for people to do in their gift range while they wait for something to become available.

If we engage people’s gifts into the service of the church, on a regular basis, they become invested & connected members of the body.  They will feel wanted, valued, connected, important, and feel they have a purpose for being in this body of believers.

An unopened gift can never be fully appreciated.

For the Love of Women’s Ministry

biblestudy

This has been a very interesting summer, as I have been developing a Women’s Ministry college course.  I’ve been entrenched in books on every topic from Women’s Ministry leader books, to deeper books on the biblical stance on women as leaders in the church.  I’ve been digging into the scriptures, looking at historical evidence, and frankly…. my head is going to explode.  There is a lot of information rolling around in my head, and much of it has challenged and even changed the way I viewed certain topics.

It has also increased my passion for women’s ministry, but a different women’s ministry from what I have ever known.  It has also opened my eyes to some of the glaring holes we have in resources, as well as lifted my spirit as I have uncovered things in the works across the country that are going to turn women’s ministry on it’s head.

Women play a huge part in the life of their church, most recent surveys estimate women make up 55-65% of most congregations, additionally they make up about 80% of the volunteer force of the church.  This volunteer force are the ones responsible for teaching and leading other women, teaching our children in Sunday School, leading Kids Clubs, volunteering for VBS, and this is in addition to service like preparing meals for new moms, taking care of hospitality for Sunday morning, rocking babies in the nursery, volunteering for secretarial duties in the church, cleaning up the church, etc.

Yet, it is becoming more apparent, that the majority of these women who are volunteering to teach and lead are not being discipled for those positions.  Are we ensuring that our women are qualified to teach or lead, or thankful for the warm body willing to volunteer?  Are we encouraging our volunteers by equipping them with mentors?

Women’s Ministry has lost focus in recent years, becoming unbalanced in what they offer to the women in the church.  There are more social events, fewer study groups.  Study groups are focused on content from books, versus content from the scriptures.  We are studying books about the bible, instead of the bible itself.  We have lost our ability to interpret scripture on our own.  We come together for social events to foster community, which is important, but at the cost of spiritual growth.

Why has this happened? 

In part, it is because Women’s Ministry has no real support at the moment.

Women’s Minsitries are often independent ministries within the church, that exist in their own sphere.  Pastors, sort of leave the women to fend for themselves.  They lack invested guidance, and many are not truly clear about the church’s vision.  The goal of a women’s ministry should be to use their calender of events and studies to support the vision of the church.  But in order to do so, the leader team really needs to understand what that is.  We need our Pastors to not only allow women’s ministry to exist in the church, but also to step in and help mold it.  We need a Shepherd.

When it comes to resource materials on Women’s Ministry, much of what is available is very outdated.  There are books and websites that lean more toward party planning, and less about making sure our ministry is gospel centered.   Additionally, many of these books are out of touch with the current obstacles and difficulties women face TODAY.    We are lacking books of substance, that train us on how to be effective leaders, run effective and gospel centered ministries, how to minister to the women in our church, and with changes in societal norms…. these subjects are just going to get more confusing.

Women’s Ministries are being led off the cuff, wading the waters and uncertain of what to do.  We begin to mimic other ministries, or do age old activities because “that is what women’s ministry does”.  We are afraid to break those molds, because women won’t come.  Or, we want to… but we can’t get the support of church leadership because of the stereotype of women’s ministry in the past.

I spent the last week speaking to women’s ministry leaders across the country.  I wanted to understand what the greatest obstacles women’s ministry leaders face.  I received the same answers, state to state…. east coast to west coast.

1)  We don’t know how to reach the 20 year old women in our church.

2)  We don’t have a budget to work with, to get the materials we need.

3)  We don’t have support from our Pastors.

I reached out to a woman who wrote her doctorate thesis on Women’s Ministry, and sadly… she didn’t have an answer to these questions.  She confirmed that these are indeed real problems, on a board scale, but there hasn’t been an answer in the church.  She surmised in her thesis paper, the best way to address it was to step outside of the church and start a parachurch organization.

I was saddened that this was her conclusion.

Then I looked at the statistics on the number of women leaving the church, and began to wonder.

I dug a bit deeper…. why are women leaving the church?  Why are women not committing to bible studies?  What are we missing???

Spiritual Gifts.

We are missing the fact that we have a church made up of mostly women, where God has bestowed gifts upon them to use for His purposes.  We are not identifying them in the church, we are not developing them in the church, and we really are not using them in the church.  Women feel as if they have more to offer than child care and making coffee.  They have gifts of teaching and mentoring, that are being unused.  So they leave, looking for a place where these gifts will be embraced.

Spiritual Growth.

Women want to grow spiritually, they want to dig deeper in to the word, and they don’t know how.  We have failed in bible literacy for women, underestimating what they can and cannot do (or understand).  We offer them cake, but eventually they get tired of cake and then they stop showing up for study groups.  It’s because their spirit wants something more substantial…. they may not even realize that is what they are missing.  They do know the group is not meeting a need.  We need to create programs that address this need.   Not just asking for volunteers to lead studies, but identifying and training study leaders.  Give those without confidence, confidence.

Spiritual Community.

Something that really breaks your heart, is when you hear a woman from your church tell you that she is lonely.  Recently a well known author posed a question on her facebook page, she asked what was the one thing women felt they were lacking in their church.  The answer, community.  Women want to not just have a church family on Sunday, or bible study nights.  They want to go back to the earlier church days where we were a community who “did life together”.  Older women responded that they missed having lunch with the church on Sundays after services.  Another commented that in 10 years of being in her church, she had only been invited to dinner with another family ONE TIME, and that her invitations were going unanswered.   She lamented that she had a closer relationship with her “non-Christian friends” than those she worships with.

A women’s ministry needs balance, and needs to be Christ focused.

Have social gatherings, like brunches and ladies night out events.  This is where we begin to form community.  It is the place where we start getting to know each other, establishing trust, and building relationships.  Use these social gatherings as an avenue to tap into the spiritual gifts of the women attending.  As you learn of their spiritual gifts, funnel them toward study groups that will help develop their spiritual growth and maturity, and build closer tight knit community. It is here that women will begin to have deeper bonds and are given the ability to serve each other with compassion and love, counsel and guide, mentor and disciple.  Then, as we wrap it all together, we have built up women to serve the church.  Women who are committed to serving in ways that support the over all vision of the church.

As our Pastors begin to recognize this shift in ministry, where we are intentional about every event & study pointing toward Christ and supporting the church’s vision… I believe we will see greater support for the ministry.

The change must start with us. 

The great news is that there is a widespread recognition amongst women’s ministry leaders that there is a shift coming in women’s ministry.  The are organizations that are developing to train women’s ministry leaders, and provide support and encouragement.  Several are focusing on the Pastors, and getting them on board with effective women’s ministry.  Three books are currently on the market that should be in your Women’s Ministry library.

  empty  wordfilledwomenoftheword

As these various organizations and ministries complete their programs for Women’s Ministry trainings, and more support resources come available, I will definitely be sharing them here.

It’s time to look at our women’s ministry with new eyes.  There are many men and women who see a revival on the horizon, within women’s ministry, or at least with women’s ministry a contributing factor.  Churches can’t afford to lose their women because they feel unrecognized, under appreciated, and under valued.  And women, we can’t take a posture that we will just leave the church and do it on our own.  Let’s not divide our churches any further, but restore unity within the body.  Be a part of the solution.