In the worship last Sunday about affirming one another’s gifts, I spoke about a time when Old First focused intensely on gifts assessments – a way of making a personal inventory to better recognize and appreciate ones gifts. It was before I arrived at Old First in 2009, and part of an important cultural shift for the congregation.
Following the work of church leadership guru Thomas G. Bandy, the church had become concerned that its hierarchical structures kept most people from seeing themselves as ministers. Bandy’s solution was to make the church more “horizontal” – so it was easier for everyone to access and there was room for everyone to identify and pursue their ministries. It was about making the church as an institution less about gatekeeping and more permission-giving, empowering, sending people out in mission. A key part of that process was helping individuals to identify and put in service their giftedness. And I still hope and pray that our church life helps us to recognize how we are special, gifted.
Out of all that work, we got our current governance model, which I think serves us pretty well, all things considering.
But by the time I got to Old First, people said to me, “You can try anything with us you think might help, just no more gift assessments!”
I remembered this when Elsa and I started talking about last Sunday’s service. She suggested, “You could do a gifts assessment.” Laughing I responded, “I know 15 years ago is a long time in church years, and many of the people here now were not here then. But I’m sort of afraid a gifts assessment won’t work.”
So we sort of did the same thing another way, and people seemed open and thankful for the chance to affirm one another. (Have you contacted the gifted person you spoke about last Sunday to tell them the good things you had to say about them?) As I said to the kids in The Time with the Children, ‘church really should be about people affirming one another to the good.’
Anyway, in place of our Words of Gathering last Sunday, I asked you, building off the passage from Jeremiah 1:4-5, to get ready for worship by bringing to mind at least one of your gifts and graces – something about yourself that you believe God included for you from the womb, and for which you are thankful.
Sometimes, at church, we’re ready to list our shortcomings and prayers, because well, we all have them, and by God’s grace, we all deserve forgiveness. We believe forgiveness makes it easier to do better.
But when church asks us directly to name our gifts, sometimes that’s harder. We get shy. We don’t want to sound boastful. Beloved, there’s a difference between knowing and being able to count on our strengths and getting arrogant. Just as there’s a problem in not being about to get out from under your sins, there’s a problem in not being able to gather and use your gifts.
If you are interested in trying a gift assessment… (And sometimes in our lives, we find different gifts in different seasons: even people who remember doing too many gifts assessments 15+ years ago, might learn something new about themselves!) Elsa developed our service from an education resource produced by the women of the Lutheran church (ELCA).
That resource includes a gifts assessment you can take yourself, score yourself and even begin to think about how your gifts coordinate and relate to the context of your life and ministry. You will find it on pages 10-16 of “Gifts for You: Opening your Spiritual Gifts.”
It might help you consider what kind of minister you are! And of course, if you need my help with the test or your reflections on your call as a Christian, I am here to talk.
We are, by the way, a very gifted congregation, and you are probably a more gifted individual than you realize.
See you in church,