Ministry for non-ministers

No tengo alma de cura.” Translation: I don’t have the soul of a priest.

That’s how one church member in Argentina explained why he wasn’t more involved at church. He wasn’t a preacher. Wasn’t a song leader. Got too nervous to lead prayers or direct singing. There was nothing for him to do.

Hopefully we can see the folly in this reasoning, but I also hope that we can see that the view isn’t uncommon. We hear it a lot in gender discussions. We should be aware of it in all of our church discussions.

Church members need to see that they can and should have a ministry outside of the Sunday assembly. Here are some suggestions on how to go about that, taken from my book Church Inside Out:

  • Leaders expect to be positive and affirming when faced with ministry proposals. The church needs to develop an atmosphere where members can try new things; that’s the best way for people to discover their gifts.
  • Priority is on “outside the walls” ministries. It’s too easy to fall back into thinking about what is done in Bible class or the worship assembly when we’re thinking about how God has gifted us. We need to see that the ability to feed the hungry and clothe the poor is a spiritual gift, and teaching young kids to read is as much a ministry as teaching Ladies Bible class.
  • When someone describes something that isn’t right, it’s taken as an offer to help. If someone wants to talk to the leaders about something that needs improvement, that person needs to know they will be actively engaged as part of the solution.
  • Members need to be aware of needs in order to meet those needs. Part of the job of being a leader is awareness of needs in the community and in the church. Leaders need a mechanism for communicating those needs to the body.
  • The church will not and can not meet every need. But we can expect God to use members to meet the needs that best fit their gifts, and we can expect him to provide gifts for the needs the church is best able to meet.
  • Ministries have to be given the freedom to die. People need to know that there is no shame in moving on from a ministry that is no longer fruitful or no longer needed. People need to have the opportunity to try something and honestly evaluate the results. If what is tried doesn’t work, the church members must have the freedom to let it go.

What suggestions would you offer? How can we help our members to identify and use community-oriented gifts?

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