As with all things in ministry and mission, context matters.
By Cara Garrity, Development Coordinator
In college I had the opportunity to study abroad in London, UK. My first night there I asked a waitress “where is the bathroom?” After a few strange moments, someone in my group kindly translated for me and asked, “where is the toilet?” Apparently in London, I had just asked where the bathtub was. Context matters.
Not only is development a process, but it is highly contextual. The GCI Process of Development tool is not a one-size-fits-all formula for developing disciples for ministry participation. It is a tool that must be contextualized because, for development to be effective, context matters. Otherwise, we might find ourselves accidentally asking for a bathtub in a restaurant.
What are some ways to consider context when referencing the GCI Process of Development?
The context of calling. Ephesians 4:11-16 and Romans 12:4-8 provide us guiding images for development. In the greatest sense, we are all developing as disciples of Jesus. Os Guinness would call this is our primary calling. (See the Church Hack on calling). What does that look like for a particular person? This is where secondary calling(s) come in. As Paul describes for us in Romans, the body of Christ has different parts; we are given different gifts and purposes in service to God and one another.
This means that development in the church cannot be a one-size-fits-all factory setting that seeks to create all hands, or feet, or noses. It must be a process that develops each person according to who God is shaping them to be – what gifts, passions, secondary calling(s) he has given them. The GCI Process of Development is a tool that must be personalized to the person. Otherwise, we risk taking an ear and trying to develop a hand. Maybe we even become effective at it, but we fail to discern and participate in what God is doing at that moment, in that person’s life, to build his body according to his purposes.
The context of ministry. Who are the people in the neighborhood they are being developed to minister alongside? What do they need to know about the ministry they are preparing to participate in? What relevant knowledge and skillsets do they already have? What knowledge, skillsets, and experiences do they need to gain to meaningfully participate in the ministry?
These kinds of questions can help us contextualize as we use of the GCI Process of Development so that development is relevant and timely for ministry participation. Otherwise, development can end up looking like preparing someone for a beach party by dressing them in ski pants. Context matters.