A hallmark quality of successful church planters is being able to bring out, develop, and use the giftedness of others. Most planters and pastors would say they value people using their giftedness, but fewer are willing to invest the time needed to facilitate that process. And fewer still are willing to give up enough control over the ministry to truly empower others in the use of their gifts.
Take Time for Honest Reflection
Try a self-assessment. Ask yourself these questions and try to truly answer them—either aloud in a few minutes, or on paper in a few paragraphs. Be specific and point to as many examples as you can.
- How do you cultivate giftedness in others?
- How do you determine when lay people are ready to be released to use their gifts?
- What process do you use to match individuals with ministry opportunities?
- What process do you use to match the right people with the right ministry needs? Tell me about the last time you used that process.
- Describe a situation in which you misplaced someone in ministry. What were your errors in judgment and how did you later use experience?
- Describe a good example of someone you helped to recognize and use spiritual gifts they were unaware they possessed.
After engaging in this exercise, brainstorm some ways you could improve your ministry in this area. You may even want to put a gift utilization system in place in your church or ministry. Here’s a sample one I used at Community Baptist Church, where I first planted. I imagine it could be adapted to many different ministry contexts.
Here’s an Example
Effie approached me one Sunday after a membership class I taught. She was a young woman in her early twenties, married with two young children, and our church was quite small at the time. She told me how much she had enjoyed the class. Effie then proceeded to tell me what types of compassion ministries our church needed in order to provide outlets for those gifts: a ministry to bring food to people when they are sick or have new babies, hospital visits, a crisis hotline, etc. She listed every social need under the sun. “We don’t offer any of that at this church!” she exclaimed. Unsurprisingly, her spiritual gifts test results—received during the class—indicated mercy and leadership.
How would you have responded?
My first inclination was defensiveness: “Of course we don’t have all that! We’re a small church just getting started. What did you expect?” Fortunately, that first response was only internal. I briefly paused to process and—recognizing the leadership impulse and the vision she clearly had—said, “You’re absolutely right. How can you be part of the solution?” My desire was to take the energy she had and move it forward positively by empowering her to the degree that she was able. Had I mishandled that response, she could easily have become a critic. (More on this in the leading change section of The Church Planting Journey.)
Leading by empowering the Spiritual Giftedness of others
Instead, I empowered Effie to develop this ministry area, and met with her regularly to debrief her ministry planning and help her grow personally. The first thing she did was start praying. She soon began to recognize the resource shortages she was facing. A ministry of the scope she envisioned would require a good deal of coordination and communication. She was a visionary leader, but she would need an organizer if she was going to pull this off. She recruited Judy, a woman in the church with the gift of administration, and Judy created a system for organizing and rotating volunteers and for communicating needs when they arose. Together, they launched a ministry called the Care Team.
Effie soon realized she would need at least ten volunteers to avoid having the same few people always making meals and getting burned out. As she recruited people in the church to join the Care Team, she passed their names on to Judy, who plugged them into the system. However, as Effie talked to potential volunteers, she saw that buying the extra groceries would be a stretch for some. Others wanted to serve and give, but felt that their cooking skills were insufficient. Both money and culinary skills were resources necessary to the success of this ministry. Through pairing people together, she was able to spread the load and fill in those resource gaps. Some people even made it into a social occasion, going shopping together, then holding impromptu cooking lessons.
Soon the parents of new babies had meals provided for two weeks. Permission was obtained to set up buffets in people’s homes after funeral services. New people came to faith in Christ, attracted by how well the body of believers cared for each other in times of need. As the church grew, the meals ministry eventually involved more than two hundred people and ran on essentially no budget. Through identifying and providing missing resources such as an administrator, volunteers, cooking skills, and money, Effie built a successful, growing, and life-transforming ministry.
Leading by recognizing and celebrating the Holy Spirit Working through people
Along the way we celebrated successes, addressed challenges, and figured out next steps. Together, those two women built a care team that mobilized hundreds of people to bring meals after funerals or at the births of babies or to visit the sick in hospitals. God did incredible things through their ministry.
By providing targeted support for key leaders, you can build ministries much more diverse and powerful than what you could do on your own. There are few investments you can make that will produce more fruit for the kingdom of God than truly developing and empowering new leaders.
Implementing a gifts-based ministry
We can teach on spiritual gifts and help people identify theirs, but that’s not very productive unless we also create a personalized system for plugging people into appropriate places of ministry. Any good system should address the following objectives:
- Helps people identify their areas of spiritual giftedness
- Matches people to ministry according to their giftedness
- Equips people in their areas of giftedness
- Trains leaders to utilize the spiritual gifts of people
The Church Planting Journey- This newly released book is a comprehensive guide for the church planter. It is the culmination of experience that includes being a church planter myself, and coaching and consulting church planters for more than 40 years. Within the pages of The Church Planting Journey, you will find wisdom, systems, and processes that can help you launch well as well as sustain your unique vision and call. NOW AVAILABLE FOR KINDLE!
The Church Planter Assessment- Are you thinking about church planting or are already in the process? The Church Planter Behavioral Assessment is a valuable tool. To learn more about how you can be assessed email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Focused Ministry Series– These resources help you coach people to get involved in the effective, focused ministry that God is calling them to.