Let’s call him John.
He comes to your church for the first time. He hears an inspiring message and decides that he wants to start living for something, and hopefully Someone, beyond himself. He decides that this particular church is for him and seeks information on how to become part of the church. In many churches, his next step would involve going to some kind of a membership class where he learns about the purpose, values, vision, and strategy of the church. This may be buck-shot style and done in 4 hours straight–yes, some do this–or it may be done over several weeks. Perhaps after that he’ll take another class or series of seminars where he learns how to study his Bible, pray, and some basics on how to grow spiritually. Finally, after what may be a few months, he’s ready to learn about how to be involved on a ministry team.
Before he’s allowed to jump in, though, he must first learn about all the spiritual gifts in the Bible. Perhaps he’ll be given some kind of spiritual gifts assessment where he’ll fill out information about the kinds of things that he likes to do. Some churches will even use really fancy assessments seemingly put together by psychologists so that the person will be a perfect fit on the ministry team. Finally, he finishes all the spiritual gifts seminars, he’s filled out his assessments, but he must now meet with an “advisor” who will go over the results with him and help to find him a place where he can best use his gifts and talents.
Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it? But yes, this is the exact process (or very similar) that’s used in many churches all across the world. I’ve used that exact process, in fact, and can tell you a few things about it. For one, it is an exhausting process for everyone involved. Secondly, by the time someone finishes the entire process, some of them are no longer interested in serving. Their fire has died down. They’ve fallen through the cracks. The marathon has been too long and many just get tired.
Why do we do that? Why do we systematize and catalog and poke and prod so much before someone can be a part of a service team? A lot could be said concerning the role of modernism on the church, but we’ll leave that alone for now.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be some kind of metric for people to be involved on some teams. Someone that’s going to be the leader of a team should certainly have a great level of commitment required than someone who will be on a team. I’m also not saying that there’s never a place for someone to learn more about the biblical teaching of spiritual gifts. I’m just not convinced that people should have to go through a long process before they can be a part of a team.
I believe that there should be some kinds of service teams that people can immediately join.
Here’s what we do at Pioneer Memorial Church, where I serve. Towards the end of a message everyone is challenged to make some kind of next step through a response card that we call a Connect Card. One of the next steps is to be involved on a service team. When they select that, they receive an email within 48 hrs with a link that shows them over twelve different teams that they can immediately join. They select the team, write in their contact info, and the leader of that particular team makes contact and gets them involved. What if things don’t go well in that particular team? It’s no problem. We tell them that they’re free to join a different team whenever they want.
You see, I don’t think that people learn about spiritual gifts by going through long lectures, books, and assessments. People learn about spiritual gifts by being involved in ministry–by having to step out in faith beyond their comfort zone and allow God to show up. By doing that, over time, I believe people will start to notice that there’s areas in which they are truly gifted and certain areas that are not as strong, perhaps. Other Christians that are on the journey with them will also notice and hopefully affirm those areas of strength and allow them opportunity to grow even more.
[image by Fort Worth Squatch]