Living into My Spiritual Gifts
By Bryan Tener
In my first appointment as a pastor of a small rural congregation, I recognized that I did not have every spiritual gift. I did know and understand what gifts I did have, however. My top five gifts of evangelism, hospitality, mercy, pastoral, and leadership led me to seek to understand the context in which I was appointed. I sought to know the congregation, but I also sought to know the community, the people, the gathering places, the gifts, hopes, and challenges the community faced.
As I lived into my gifts, I discovered that in this community, the school was the local gathering place. I built relationships with the leaders of the district, the superintendent, the principals of each school, students, and their families. I learned the hopes, dreams, and the challenges of people involved in the school and community. Building key relationships with community leaders took place while I was also learning the culture of the congregation. We were also discerning the reality of where we were in the lifecycle of the congregation, determining what ways discipleship and spiritual growth occurred, and deciding on our readiness to engage the community as a congregation.
Building key relationships with community leaders took place while I was also learning the culture of the congregation.
As a congregation, we began to create a strategy to deepen our relationship with the school and form meaningful partnerships. Within the church, we went through a spiritual disciplines study of A Disciple’s Path by James Harnish, which, in part, helped participants discover their spiritual gifts. Not everyone in the congregation participated in this study, but a good group of members did participate and were able to recognize their spiritual gifts.
As our partnerships with the local school began to form, we invited church members to play different roles according to the gifts they had demonstrated. Some church members led and supported a twenty-team kindergarten to sixth-grade basketball league; others formed a fifth and sixth grade middle school once-a-week afterschool program; still others provided teachers with a cookout to kick off the new school year. Many church members provided reading and tutoring help throughout the school year. We had many opportunities to invite members to serve in a variety of ways that helped them live into their gifts as they engaged the community and built relationships with others.
Learning about the spiritual gifts that we have as well as helping our congregation to learn their spiritual gifts can be useful when we pair it with opportunities to use those gifts to engage our communities in relationship building in care and love.