Thursday, July 25, 2013

They Can Plug Themselves In

In our Wednesday evening services, our church is discussing the book, I Am a Church Member. Our pastor asked how we should plug in a new church member to a place of service. There were several answers, but I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the answer, “They can plug themselves in.”

That is most certainly true. There are some people who join a church and whether the existing membership knows how to use them or not, it won’t be long before they’ll be busy doing something. In some cases, they end up doing things the existing church members wouldn’t have thought of. This is the case with the lady who made the observation. Since the time they joined the church, she and her husband have been asked to serve in various ways, (and they have done so willingly) but they ministry they are most known for is one that they were the first to see the need for.

As a church member, I feel that I have a responsibility to “plug myself in.” Whether someone asks me to do something or not, I have a responsibility to God and to my church to find something that needs doing and to do it.

That being said, some people aren’t going to plug themselves in. As I look at the roughly 10% of our church members that I would consider to be leaders, it seems like the one thing that distinguishes them from the other 90% is their ability to plug themselves in. It’s not necessarily a bad thing that 90% won’t plug themselves in. While it might be tempting to say, “we shouldn’t have to tell people what they need to be doing, they should see what needs to be done and do it,” we wouldn’t want someone to show up at church one Sunday and say, “I don’t think the pastor is doing a good job, so I decided I should preach the sermon today.”

There has to be a balance. No one knows what a person is capable of better than that person. When asked to plug a person in, leaders will tend to look to use that person to fill a vacancy. Or they will look to place that person in a position that it is assumed that anyone can do. I’ve heard it said that the reason men are absent in churches is because everything they look for something to do, someone suggests they go work in the nursery. I would hate to think a church would ask unqualified people to work in the nursery, but it’s something to think about. If a church member doesn’t want to end up with the default job, they need to demonstrate an ability to do something else.

But leaders can be more intentional about discovering the abilities of other church members. That may come in the form of a spiritual gifts assessment or some other questionnaire, but that shouldn’t be the only means. I have yet to see a spiritual gifts assessment that wouldn’t suggest that a non-Christian person who took the assessment had some spiritual gift. And what do we do with that information once we have it? Suppose it says a person has the gift of giving. Do we just hand a guy an offering plate and say, “you just give and we’ll do the rest?”

At best, I think spiritual gift assessments can give us a hint for things to look for. A person with a gift for teaching may not be suitable for teaching a Sunday school class, and yet we might observe them mentoring younger Christians in a one-one-one setting. And you might not find the person with the gift of evangelism preaching a revival meeting; rather, they might be sharing the gospel with their neighbors. The best way to discover what a person is gifted in is to watch them in action.