The final element in our Serving Profile is Spiritual Maturity. As people wish to serve in the church it is important that the opportunities match their level of spiritual maturity. For instance, you don’t want a newly converted person on the welcome team if they still have a free use of ‘fruity’ language from their former life! Nor do you want someone leading a ministry who does not yet have a secure and deep walk with God.
When a person is first saved he or she is like a baby. The writer to the Hebrews upbraids those who have been walking with God for sometime for still being like babes (Heb 5:12-14). Here it is written with correction but nevertheless it gives us an insight into the contrast between the immature and mature in Biblical terms:
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
The mature person can ‘distinguish good from evil’. The babe cannot.
When considering people for a serving position we need to assess their maturity, their ability to discern and to stand firm when the going gets tough. Nehemiah exemplifies such maturity. From the start of the book which carries his name we find that he does not ‘cave in’ when he hears about the state of Jerusalem, but rather gets on his knees and prays, fasts and repents for the sins of his people (Neh 1:4).
Later, Nehemiah withstood opposition from his enemies since he was convinced that the course he was on was the one that God had given him. Indeed, he not only withstood for himself but he gave strong leadership to help those with him not to let circumstances overwhelm them. He would not be deflected from the course God had put him on (Neh 2:19-20; 4:1-5; 6:1-14)
In any church there are many opportunities for ministry and it is important that an intentional ‘matching’ takes place, not only between gifting and skills and the opportunity, as we have discussed at length, but according to the person’s maturity. Some ministries are very ‘safe’ and can provide an opportunity for someone to explore their serving capacity, such as setting up the room with chairs or tidying up after a meeting is over. Others are more in the enemy’s firing line such as a ministry to reach out to vulnerable people. Satan does not like people being restored and will oppose those carrying out the ministry. It requires maturity to withstand his fiery darts.
We have now considered all seven elements of the Serving Profile. Next time we shall consider in practical terms how to help people create their unique profile which will then help them to find a place to serve.
I have just returned from Guinea and will report on that more fully in due course. While there I was able to teach from this Discover and Serve material which I have now published as a book. I was very encouraged by the response.
The book includes all the teaching I have been giving in recent months as well as several appendices to help you implement the course in your church. The cost is £5.99 + postage. 10% discount on 10 or more copies. Please order through email@example.com in the side panel with Book Order in the subject line.
Now to continue the series with a consideration of Time.
The concept of time
We live in a frenetic world, particularly in the ‘west’/northern hemisphere. Every day is often filled to the limit, leaving very little room for reflection and relationships. However, in many cultures time is seen as being primarily for people, an excellent value system in my opinion! They seem less rushed to fit too much into a day.
The Bible has some interesting reflections on time and how we use it. Here are a few relevant scriptures.
‘Teach us to number our days.. 70-80 years’ (Psalms 90:12 )
‘Let the favour of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us’ (Psalms 90:17 )
‘Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established’ (Proverbs 16:3)
‘The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps’ (Proverbs 16:9)
‘Look carefully how you walk …making the best use of the time…’ (Ephesians 5:15-16 )
‘..we are created … for good works … that we should walk in them’ (Ephesians 2:10 )
Also, Jesus gave a victory cry ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30 ) referring to the accomplishment of the purpose for which he came to live on earth.
How does this affect our serving?
The church can consume a great deal of our time and I know, from personal experience, that it is easy to get the balance wrong on occasion, putting church ahead of family-time for instance.
When creating a Serving Profile for someone there are some important factors that need to be considered such as:
1. What stage in life is this person at?
A student must not neglect his or her studies; Newly weds must give time to develop their relationship; Parents must not ‘short change’ their children, and so on. Some people must be protected from over-commitment to church activities - that does not honour God.
2. Do they have some time regularly available?
A businessman who works away from home clearly cannot give evenings to serve in the church. So, why not focus on a once-per-month rota to support the Sunday meeting?
Many tasks in the church are carried out on a rota basis so it is worth being aware of these opportunities, whether weekly or monthly. Some of these will focus on a particular day (often Sunday) while others may be related to a weekday ministry, such as the need to follow up Sunday visitors on a Monday.
3. Do they have chunks of time on occasion?
A teacher may have very little time during term time but in the school holidays he may be relatively available. So it is better to focus such a person’s time on mini projects during those times. This could be running a children’s holiday club, organising an outing for older people, or similar.
It is important not to urge someone into involvement when that causes unwarranted pressure in some other part of their lives. And they must have the liberty to say ‘no’ without feeling condemned or a failure.
Next time we shall consider Spiritual Maturity
Many team building exercises involve some form of personality assessment. The premise is that a balanced team may be built if the various members represent a spread across the different options available. Probably the best known test is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator based on work by Carl Jung. Here there are four pairings or dichotomies that are attributed to an individual through psychometric testing, namely:
Extraversion (E)/ Introversion (I)
Sensing (S)/Intuition (N)
Thinking (T)/ Feeling (F)
Judgment (J)/Perception (P)
This results in 16 possibilities e.g. ESTJ, INFP.
I do not consider that such thorough assessments are needed when helping someone to serve in the church although there may well be benefits if they are inclined to respond well to such an approach. This sort of testing is not everyone’s scene!
I have chosen to adopt a more pragmatic approach which seems to work well for the very intermittent nature of serving in the church compared to an employed situation. I also use pairings, but do not have any form of psychometric test. I merely ask people to indicate one of four boxes where they feel they come on that scale.
Here are the pairs I ask people to consider:
Some people are very ‘people-people’ while others just like to be given a task and get on with it without the interruptions and distractions that people can bring.
Sprinter/Long Distance Runner
The sprinter is very good at the short sharp effort required to get something going but if he or she has to keep going repetitively for lap after lap they become bored and lose focus.
There is a distinct difference between the person who focuses on the detail of an activity and likes to put everything in place, and the person who mainly sees the overview and cannot be bothered with all the detail.
Some people have a hundred good ideas before breakfast while others never have an original thought. The latter are probably happy to follow the creative thinker putting in place all that is needed to let the idea come to fruition.
Some people get their energy and satisfaction from working in a team while others like to be left alone to produce results.
Spontaneity is important to some people since it gives excitement and colour to life. Others get very frustrated if things are not well-planned in advance.
So, how does this work? I ask people to look at the following statements and then put a mark in an appropriate box (I have added some ‘X’s as a sample) which represents where they think they come on the scale between the two alternatives. (Nb By omitting a middle option people are forced to state a slight polarisation, which can be helpful when putting together a team.)
1. I prefer working on a project/with people.
2. When carrying out a task I am a better sprinter (i.e. short term motivation)/long-distance runner.
3. When considering a situation I see the detail/broad concepts.
4. I am a better initiator/responder.
5. When carrying out a task I work better alone/in a team.
6. I prefer to act spontaneously/with pre-planning.
Next time we will look at people’s time availability
On March 7th BBC News reported ‘The Turkana region in northern Kenya is facing one of the worst droughts in living memory with more than 1m people in need of food aid’. The situation is very serious.
Edward Buria, who oversees the Newfrontiers churches in Kenya, agrees. He has launched an appeal for a further £80,000 to continue heloping the population in the communities in which he is working. This will provide bottled water and highly nutritious food, including special Unimix for the very young.
Edward has recorded a message while standing in front of some manayattas, the living accommodation of the Turkana people. In it he refers to an earlier initiative where the Newfrontiers churches provided fishing boats to help people fish in Lake Turkana and thus help themselves to develop more sustainable lifestyles.
If you are able to support this appeal please send donations to The Kings Church (Mid Sussex) through firstname.lastname@example.org. Paul will supply all the necessary details.
In recent months through this blog I have been encouraging people to find their place of serving in the church. One valuable and effective opportunity comes as churches in a town or city combine their people-resources. I have asked one of the members of CCK who is involved in such a programme, Lizzy Dalby, to share some of her thoughts.
For the last 3 years over the winter months, a different church has opened it’s doors each night of the week and welcomed 15 guests for a hearty meal, warmth, a bed for the night and breakfast before they start each new day. The volunteers that make this happen join in with conversation, offer a listening ear, and participate in games and prayer as requested. These volunteers are a vital part of the ministry as they contribute in so many ways.
Recently, when I visited ‘our’ night at the church building one Monday in dreary February, I noticed the van which brings the whole week together. In a very practical way this driver demonstrates love ‘behind the scenes’ as he faithfully transports the camp beds and the guests’ bedding from building to building each night of the week. Such a practical consideration meets an essential need for the guests and enables churches to work together more effectively.
Meet a need
We all like a cosy bed and those who would otherwise be homeless are no exception. The bedding is washed weekly and individually named for each guest. As well as providing warmth within the safety of a manned building, by looking after the bedding in this way, the guests know that we genuinely care about them. We pray they will know that we take seriously the place where they rest and we will help them get through the week with one less thing to worry about. We can practise love both individually and as a church. When someone, who may not have known friendship or security for a long time, is receiving the same loving practical message every night, we are surely promoting unity, care and the message of Jesus for good. Phil is satisfied:
People are friendly, nice large place to sleep, food very good and you all make us feel very welcome.
Serving people living in poverty is a privilege while also being busy and tiring. This work is no place for ‘one-man bands’ or for those expecting be superheroes. Teamwork, whether it is between a group of ten volunteers one evening or across the churches, is essential to ensuring that caring for people with damaged lives is done in a rounded, considerate and generous way.
When that van turns up each night, the team receiving it steps into responsibility for the night ahead. The next day, the team can send the van to the next location knowing that they have played a key part in the bigger picture.
In Galatians 6:2 Paul wrote, we are to ‘share one another’s burdens’. This is true both literally and figuratively of the Nightshelter in Brighton and Hove.
This is a good place to be for food, shelter, friends and kindness.
Administration is a key ministry in helping churches achieve their God-given commission. It is often a ministry that is under-valued and ‘below the radar’. This one-day workshop seeks to raise the profile of administration by envisioning, equipping and networking. The day will include opportunities for prayer and prophetic input to individuals (see programme below).
Although the workshop is primarily for those involved in Church Administration it will also be of benefit to church leaders in understanding how administration can help them to be more effective. It would be of great value for teams to attend together, particularly if they represent both Leadership and Administration.
I do urge you to be there (sorry if you are reading this from outside the UK - though you would still be very welcome!). There are only a few days left before the booking fee increases so if you have not yet booked I suggest you go to Spirit led Administration and book in now.
While we, in the UK, are battling widespread flooding our brothers and sisters in northern Kenya are being impacted by the worst drought for many years. Edward Buria, who oversees the Newfrontiers churches in Kenya and has an amazing track record of bringing much needed help to the tribal groups over recent years as they have battled against changes in the weather patterns, has recently sent the following request:
I have just returned back from visiting our churches in Turkana and managed to visit especially our two churches in Kakuma where 1000s of refugees are housed. The current famine has claimed a number of lives in one of our churches. Never witnessed such hopelessness in my life. Even the 2005/6 drought wasn’t as severe as the current one.
Met people who told me that they were not interested in money but just WATER or FOOD. Two little girls touched my heart in the midst of nowhere as they stopped us along the way and only showed us by sign language they needed water.
I am just wondering if you could do a small something on your blog on this current drought/famine?
I am aware that people very generously responded to an appeal for the Philippines before Christmas and am hesitant to highlight another need so quickly. But we are obviously talking about saving lives and I feel you should be aware of the need. I cannot imagine what it must be like to lead a church and lose some of your members through famine.
The Kings Church (Mid Sussex) work closely with Edward. They have recently had a team there treating over 500 people with eye problems. They are happy to handle the appeal and transfer funds to Edward. This allows churches to give through a recognised UK charity and for Gift Aid to be collected where relevant (this only applies to UK donors).
Please contact email@example.com for bank details, Gift Aid forms etc.
Thank you so much.
Heart’s desire in practice
As I look at our church I am aware that there are many ministries that have arisen over the years that have started with individual members of the church who have had a ‘heart’s desire’ to see something happen. These are most conspicuous in ministry with people who are poor or in some way in social need or disadvantage.
One evening more than twenty years ago Sue was sitting at home when she felt God tell her to go to Brighton station. She was someone who had a heart for those who were experiencing unplanned pregnancies. In reluctant obedience she drove to the station. After a short whole she saw a woman carrying a small suitcase leave the station and begin to walk in the direction of the abortion clinic. Sue followed slowly feeling ‘how can I just go and talk to this woman?’ When it was clear that she was indeed headed for the clinic Sue plucked up courage and spoke to the woman. How she would love to report that this woman changed her mind as a result; she does not know the outcome. But this was an experience which caused Sue to launch Alternatives, a ministry to such women. Over the last two decades thousands of women have been contacted and helped as a result of Sue’s ‘heart’s desire’ coming to reality.
Some years before that a small group of young married members of the church came to the elders and asked for permission to start a soup kitchen. We were of course happy to encourage them to do so. Since that initiative was launched nearly thirty years ago there have been several expressions of that compassion and enlargements of the ministry: soup and friendship on the street; a drop in; a residential home for twelve adults; a market garden; a farmhouse for people to get the opportunity to live independent but supported lives; a night shelter. This has been umbrellaed under the ministry Friends First.
Or what about the women who wanted to reach out to the many prostitutes in Brighton (as a conference town this is a major social issue in our city)? They soon found that many women had been trafficked for sex from Africa or the former communist bloc. It was a privilege to work with the authorities to get some of these women returned to their homelands.
Debt is a huge and growing problem worldwide as the recession bites. One young woman had a tremendous heart to provide support and guidance to people who were in the debt trap and so a ministry was started for this purpose.
Not all these ministries are still being carried out but they exemplify the importance of allowing people to express their heart’s desire.
As we help people in our churches to find a place to serve - and remember God has called all to serve; no passengers - let’s not do it only on the basis of finding people to fulfil a need but rather look out for people whose eyes ‘light up’ when they are talking about a particular area of possible ministry.
- They feel they ought to out of a sense of duty. Nb ‘Ought’ is a dangerous word. Analyse why when you are tempted to do something out of ‘ought-ness’. God loves willingness.
- They want to please the leader or may even feel sorry for him as he has a problem to solve with inadequate resources
- They want to be recognised in the church
There could be many other reasons and the above are all negative. I believe the most authentic one is out of a ‘heart’s desire’.
What do I mean by having a heart’s desire to serve? As we have already seen God has given each of us different qualities, skills and attributes. These are all to be used for his glory, maybe for a specific purpose or manner of serving. In Exodus we find a focus on people whose hearts are in tune with God’s.
Let’s look at the context. Having left Egypt the congregation were wandering in the wilderness. Daily the Lord provided food and water. Moses was burning himself out both leading and being judge for all the people to the extent that Jethro, his wise father in law, urged him to delegate the minor disputes to others to solve and to keep his own counsel for the more difficult cases.
Following this the Lord sent Moses up the mountain to receive the ten commandments. This resulted in a lot of detailed laws being established. But there was no focal point for worship. It was at that point that God instructed Moses to make a sanctuary for him (Ex 25:8). He introduces his commission to Moses by instructing him to raise a contribution for this from ‘every man whose heart moves him’ (Ex 25:2). In the next 6 chapters he instructs Moses in minute detail about the building, the fabric, the garments, the ritual practices etc.
In chapter 31 God starts to talk about the workers, the ‘people resource’ that he has given to erect the building and carry out the activity of the tabernacle. It is interesting to note that he again focuses on the hearts of the people as he gave spiritual gifts of craftsmanship e.g. in Ex 31:6 (NASB) ‘in the hearts of all who are skilful I have put skill’. Then we find in Ex 35 and 36 that it is out of the heart’s desire that people came to serve and give e.g. ‘everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the LORD’s contribution’ (Ex 35:21), ‘…everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to do the work.’ (Ex 36:2).
What goes on in our hearts is important to God. They are the centre of our emotions and motivation. The Lord puts into each of us a desire to serve in some particular area. He wants a willing people, whether for giving or for action. The Bible makes clear that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7). Also that he is not a slave driver but one who is able to say that we are his friends if we do what he commands us. (Jn 15:14).
So, it is the heart response that any leader should be looking for when he is providing opportunity for people to serve. Next time I will give you some specific examples.
The New Life Church in Milton Keynes is holding an Administration Conference once again this year on March 22nd at the Ridgeway Centre. They have graciously invited me to speak once again. They are wanting to serve the church widely and this is open to churches from any stream or denomination.
Last year’s conference was very popular and so they want to encourage you to book quickly and have introduced an ‘early bird’ booking fee with a 40% reduction.
A full description and online registration are here.