Identifying your congregation’s gifts and talents
This article was written by Randy Bloom, US Regional Director, East.
Many years ago, at the end of a planning meeting, our supervisor shocked us with the statement, “I’d advise you all update your resumes. Not that we expect anything; it would be good to be updated just in case.” Just reading this account you might be experiencing a bit of the shock we felt. For many of you, “been there, done that.”
I went home and updated my resume. It was a bit awkward. Not only had it been a long time since I’d visited my resume, I was reminded how difficult the process is. Not only do you list your experiences, you also need to extol your virtues. That is, you need to describe your abilities in a positive way—“put your best foot forward”—as you attempt to sell yourself to a new employer. You want to let them know you have something that will help them—something they need and want.
Assessing the gift mix of your congregation is like putting together a resume. The process of developing a “congregational resume” will help your congregation get focused. Further, it helps your congregation grow healthier as you discern how Jesus wants you to participate in his mission to your community.
One of the first steps in the process (the first being focused prayer) is to ascertain your congregation’s gifts and talents. This understanding will give you a good indication of how the Lord has prepared you, collectively, to participate in his mission to your community. You want to know what you can do collectively to help your community. You want to know what your congregation has to offer your community—to help it (even if they aren’t asking).
So, how do you develop your congregational resume? How can you know the collective gifts, talents and experiences of your congregation? What does your congregation have to offer your community? What does it have that your community needs? We can learn from any job resume.
What life experiences have your members had, within the church context and without? What have they done and what are they doing that could be of benefit to your community? What would they do if they could? Don’t know? Ask. A simple questionnaire will work. Examples include vocational experience—teaching, accounting, management, construction, food preparation, health care providers (the list is endless), and specific community service.
What are your members passionate about? What “fires them up?” Don’t know? Ask. Examples include strong families, helping the poor and oppressed, reconciliation, racial harmony, serving, Christian education, counseling, financial responsibility, etc. Knowing their hobbies can provide insights into their passions.
What are the predominate spiritual gifts in your congregation? A good way to find out is to conduct a spiritual gifts inventory. You can contact your regional director for some recommendations for an inventory you can use.
By becoming familiar with the unique needs of your community, your church can position itself to serve according to the predominant gifts, passions and experiences of the members. Addressing community needs with loving concern and practical service provides opportunities to understand the spiritual climate of your community, the general attitude people have toward Christianity and what spiritual questions they have.
Keep in mind as you proceed, no church can reach or serve everyone. It is impossible to reach all people simultaneously. You will be most effective, as good stewards of the resources Jesus has given you, if you focus your gifts and limited resources on a specific people group or community and in a few specific ways. As you gain experience and grow in resources and numbers, you can diversify your missional work to include a wider range of people.
You may wonder, “How can I find out what people in my community need?” While simply observing people within their cultural context is valuable, there is no substitute for personal contact. By preparing some carefully worded questions in advance, you can take advantage of everyday contact with people to learn about your community. You can participate in community events and make a point to meet people and ask good questions about the community. Local publications provide a wealth of information, as do civic and professional organizations and online databases.
Now that you have a wealth of information about your church, work with your leaders to develop your “resume.” List your collective experiences, passions and gifts. What stands out? What predominates? List the needs of your community. Then ask, “Given the experiences, passions and gifts we have been given, and considering the needs of our community, what can we do?”
Then you take your “resume” to your community by talking to community leaders and government officials in a more informed way about the needs of the community and how your congregation can help. Pray the Lord of the harvest will open doors for you and provide whatever additional resources and assistance you may need. Go with confidence. Be patient and persistent. Opportunities may not come right away.
This process can help you better discern the gifts, passions and experiences the Lord has given members of your congregation by and through the Spirit. Why has he? So that your congregation can join Jesus in his mission of grace and reconciliation to the world around you. I pray you move forward with faith and hope to develop your resume and participate with confidence and joy in the unique ministry Jesus has called you to.