By Lucas Kauffman
When the Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren released the Vital Ministry Journey, staff also began work on a Spiritual Gifts Resource to help congregations and their members explore their gifts and passions for participating in the church. This resource may be used as part of Phase 2 of the Vital Ministry Journey or on its own.
“The Vital Ministry Journey is a resource that helps encourage the vitality of a congregation by discerning what God’s desire is for the congregation,” said Josh Brockway, director of Spiritual Life. Vital Ministry Journey begins with a small group Bible study focused on the question, What is God’s dream for the congregation? “After the first phase of Bible study and sharing congregations can move into another set of specific studies. Phase 2 looks at topics to explore more in-depth,” Brockway said.
The gifts resource helps members and the congregation know what spiritual gifts are available within the congregation. By understanding better what gifts are present in the congregation, the community can begin to explore the specific mission God has in mind.
“The first session of the Spiritual Gifts Resource is based on Acts 6, and the selection and calling of deacons. From there, it takes a look at three other main texts in the New Testament about gifts and callings; 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4. The last sessions of small group conversations focus on taking an inventory of the group members’ gifts and passions through two assessment tools provided in the workbook.
“There are a number of different studies and similar resources out there,” said Brockway. “We wanted to develop something to work with spiritual gifts in a Brethren way, with the fellowship of other Brethren believers.”
What are spiritual gifts?
“Spiritual gifts are a reflection of God’s nature that we carry within us,” note the Vital Ministry Journal materials. “By discovering and utilizing your gifts, you will find great passion, joy, and satisfaction.... They are gifts that are given to each believer as their unique contribution within and through the church.” People will more fully understand the gifts that they receive at baptism, as they continue to connect to God and others.
“Spiritual gifts are pure grace,” according to Brockway.
Spiritual gifts should not be confused with skills, Brockway warned. “Skills are developed over time, and people with skills are noted and recognized for them,” he said. “For example, there could be two different people with the gift of leadership, and one may have gained skills through their studies and workplace, while the other might be gifted as a musician. Both are gifted leaders, and the way they use their grace-given gifts is different.
“The Spiritual Gifts Resource reflects the Church of the Brethren’s Anabaptist and Pietist roots, which makes it unique,” said Brockway. By discerning what God has given with others, the study takes community seriously. It will help individuals feel that it is good to be part of the church, and will aid in the way people are shaped through the church, he said.
For more information about the Spiritual Gifts Resource and other resources that may be used with the Vital Ministry Journey, go to www.brethren.org/congregationallife/vmj/resources.html . Order copies of “Vital Passions, Holy Practices: Exploring Spiritual Gifts” from Brethren Press for $7 per copy plus shipping and handling, at www.brethrenpress.com/SearchResults.asp?Cat=219 or by calling 800-441-3712.
-- Lucas Kauffman is a student at Manchester University. He recently completed a January term internship with the Church of the Brethren News Services.