If you were asked to name your spiritual gifts, what would you say? Can you readily identify specific spiritual gifts members of your congregation might share in ministry? Can everyone be included in your church’s ministry of mercy? Every Christian has at least one dominant spiritual gift, and they differ, as Paul notes in Romans 12:6: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”
The Bible identifies at least twenty spiritual gifts that are distributed by the Spirit throughout the Christian community to enable God’s work to be accomplished.
tongues (speaking and interpretation)
These gifts are identified in Exodus 35:31-33; Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:7-13; Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:12; and 1 Peter 4:7-11. These are not the only spiritual gifts, but they are the ones most clearly identified in the Bible.
Discover Your Gifts is a five-session interactive course designed to enable your church family to discover and use their God-given strengths. Participants complete a survey (also available online) based on the twenty gifts listed above. (See Appendix A for ordering information.)
Friendship Ministries, a nondenominational ministry that encourages the spiritual development of youth and adults with cognitive impairments, has developed a survey describing these nine gifts:
Again, this list is not exclusive, but it identifies the gifts most frequently evidenced in the lives of youth and adults participating in Friendship programs.
We All Have Gifts
We All Have Gifts is a five-session course designed for Friendship groups. The Leader’s Guide includes the survey referred to above and “Ideas for Including Friendship Students in Ministry,” a tool that you can use as you encourage and affirm everyone to use their gifts to serve God and others. The student magazine includes a four-color copy of the survey. If your church family includes nursing home residents, you may also find these tools helpful for including people with dementia in your ministry. (The leader’s guide and student magazine are available from Faith Alive Christian Resources—see Appendix A.)
Using spiritual gifts effectively can be seen as a “3-D” process:
- Discovering your own and others’ gifts by using tools such as the surveys mentioned above.
- Developing your spiritual gifts (and encouraging others to do so) by taking a class, reading as much as you can about your gift, or studying the heroes of faith in the Bible who possessed your particular gift.
- Deploying your gift for Christ’s sake into service for others. Like muscles, your spiritual gifts and those of fellow workers will grow stronger as you exercise them.
Identifying Diaconal Gifts
An excellent way to find out what gift(s) the Holy Spirit has given you is to take a spiritual gift survey. Such a tool can affirm which gift(s) you probably have already identified, and perhaps reveal a gift you did not know you had. Taking a spiritual gift inventory yourself will help you see how identifying specific gifts is important in the process of recruiting people to handle ministry needs effectively. It’s another way to model servant leadership.
Understanding your particular giftedness will allow you to focus your primary energy on using the gifts you have in effective ministry while permitting yourself—without guilt!—to say no to other opportunities that may take you away from deploying your gifts. The key to determining whether you are using your spiritual gifts effectively is to assess if you are being fruitful and feeling fulfilled in your ministry. The Spirit has blessed you with certain gifts for a purpose and will surely bless your intentional use of those gifts!
It can also be very helpful for your entire diaconate to take a spiritual gift survey to find out how you can best complement each other as you lead the congregation. For example, you may find that though Terry is willing to be the benevolence leader, he would be more effective as the chair of deacons, while Sue has the gifts of discernment and mercy that are essential for benevolence. Such a complete survey will also be useful to indicate, as deacon terms end, which gifts will be needed to keep the diaconate well equipped.
Identifying Gifts in Your Congregation
Many churches take annual gift surveys of their members and keep this information in a computer database. This enables you to easily find the names of members who are willing to help with a specific need. If such a database is not available, look through the church directory while asking God to guide you to people who would like to serve in this way. Talk to the other deacons for suggestions about people looking for opportunities to serve.
A gifts survey should be tailored to fit the needs of your particular church and community. Such surveys can be quite extensive, and be filled out in conjunction with a class on spiritual gifts, or they can be as simple as placing an insert in your bulletin, newsletter, or mailboxes periodically, perhaps once every quarter.
Survey of Gifts and Needs
One useful needs survey format has three columns:
- What needs do you or someone you know have?
- What help are you willing to provide?
Under the third column, list such things as Food, Meals, Transportation, Babysitting, Cleaning, Minor Home Repairs, Finances, Car Maintenance, Yard Work, Snow Removal, Mentoring, Tutoring, and so on. Instruct people to put a check mark in either of the first two columns across from the appropriate categories. If your congregation offers more help than is needed, deacons can contact local human service organizations to share the resources.
Consider distributing such a survey before a Stewardship Sunday or at another time when giving is emphasized. Members can fill out the surveys and place them in the offering plates as an offering of time and talents rather than money.
A word of caution: before you conduct a gift survey of your congregation, be sure to devise an efficient system for gathering, tracking, and using the information from the surveys! Nothing is less motivating than for participants to learn that the information was never used. While respecting confidentiality, share with the congregation regularly the results of using the gift survey to match needs. Churches that actively use the gifts of those who fill out a gifts survey will find that the percentage of the congregation willing to fill out the next survey increases dramatically. And it’s just as likely that those who received loving service will be willing to ask for help again.