I’ve attended several workshops on identifying and naming the many and varied gifts that we see in others, especially volunteers or when think of making an ask of someone. The presenters always seem to make it look so easy! For example…
Step 1: Need someone to help with youth? Find someone who loves caring for kids. Etc.
Step 2: When that magical person shows up, we’re supposed to be able to say “Buddy, you’re so great with kids, could you consider sharing that gift in this way?”
Step 3: They’re supposed to say, “Oh yes! That fits perfectly!”
While this scenario does play out in various times and places, even some that I have witnessed, it isn’t always so easy to be a part of it. I’ve missed out on empowering others because of three particular reasons: 1. I have misread gifts 2. I never knew about those gifts, or 3. I assumed I should just go ahead and take care of whatever needs attention.
Looking back on all the ways I have struggled to name gifts in others, I am realizing that naming gifts takes a whole lot of trust. There needs to be trust in my broader community so that I won’t just go ahead and take care of an issue. There needs to be trust between me and the other person to make an ask in the first place. There needs to be trust on the part of the other person involved that the gifts I am naming are not just wishful thinking. There needs to be a trust that there will be further attention and follow through even after the ask. Finally, there needs to be a trust that we can survive the word “no” if it comes up.
I am always taken by Jesus’ ask of Simon and Andrew in Mark 1:15-17. Jesus is walking beside the sea of Galilee (a little larger than Lake Cascade) when he encounters these fishers and he names their gifts and calls them to action in one breath. “Follow me, I will make you fishers of people,” Jesus says. They drop their nets and follow. It sounds like Jesus could lead a workshop on volunteer recruitment.
I remember when I was on internship, one of my supervisors named a gift in me that I hadn’t felt for myself before: I apparently demonstrated a passion for teaching. Truth be told, I was surprised. I had focused so much on developing worship leadership and pastoral care that I really didn’t make a lot of space to think about how I taught. I didn’t think about it much as a skill of mine until my supervisor said something.
After my supervisor made me aware of that gift he saw in me, I used his observation in my applications and call paperwork. I built on teaching from a position of strength rather than deficiency. I had more confidence in a class situation and it showed. All from one instance of naming a gift.
It is a God-given enterprise to name gifts in others as we follow Jesus. If you get the gifts named correctly, the other person is encouraged for the notice that was taken. If you get the gifts wrong, it’s an opportunity to learn something new about one another. Attempting to name a gift that you see in someone else is usually a sign that you are paying attention to the other person and want to connect- which is a HUGE need right now! We won’t always have the classic script happen, but there won’t even be a script in the first place unless we try to name gifts we witness.
Let’s start now. I will name a gift of you. You taking the time to read devotions here at TVprays is a gift. You have a gift for reading and engaging with written material. You have a focus and a patience to journey this far in a 700-word devotional. Thank you for sharing your gift. It inspires me as a contributor to this collaborative site.
Has someone ever named a gift within you? How did it make you feel? How did you respond?
Is there a gift you haven’t shared yet but you wish to? What might it take to share it?
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I find it truly amazing to notice the many beautiful gifts of dedicated lay people who merge all their gifts to make “the church” a living, breathing entity. Thank you, Justin, for your gift of writing – and teaching.