Gifts from the Heart - UU District of Metropolitan New York

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Gifts from the Heart - UU District of Metropolitan New York
“Gifts from the Heart”
A Workshop on Gift Identification
“The only gift is a portion of thyself.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Presented by Patricia Infante
Director of Growth & Extension
Joseph Priestley District of the UUA
Metro NY Annual Meeting, May 3, 2008
“All people are lovable beings of infinite
worth, imbued with powers of the
soul. We are obligated to use our
gifts, talents, and potentials in the
service of life.”
- From the vision statement of the UUA’s new
Tapestry of Faith curriculum.
What Can We Do for You?
• People looking for a church are usually “in
transition” or “in tension.”
• They come with spiritual, physical,
emotional, intellectual and social needs.
• Ministry is how we respond to those needs
with service, care or aid.
A Newcomer’s Questions
• Newcomers want to know:
– Do I fit here?
– Does anybody want to know me?
– Am I needed?
What are Spiritual Gifts?
• In the Christian tradition, they are a prescribed
set of attributes that are biblically derived.
• For our purposes, spiritual gifts are the powerful
attributes of our own being, the unique and
special talents that we all possess, that we use
to do good for ourselves, our neighbors and in
the world.
Another definition…
Our gifts are what make us unique. They are key
to our very identity as people. (And the gifts of a
faith community are essential to understanding
that faith community’s identity and calling, too.)
They include so much more than our talents. As
important as our talents are, when was the last
time you valued your spouse, child or closest
friend for only his or her most visible skills?
- From “Created and Called: Discovering Our Gifts for
Abundant Living” by Jean Morris Trumbauer
Assessing Your Spiritual Gifts
The one Spiritual Gift that we all share
is our presence.
Gifts can come from nature: who we are
Gifts can be nurtured: what we value
Gifts are revealed through life experience
Take A Quick Inventory…
• What are you good at?
• What do you know something about?
• Who are the people you know or care
• What kind of work do you do?
• What groups of people do you belong to?
• What are some physical things that you
Go A Little Deeper…
• Can you think of an event that brought you great joy?
How were you changed by it? Were any gifts revealed
to you that you didn’t know you had?
• Can you think of a time in your life when you or
someone close to you went through a difficult time? How
were you changed by it? Were any gifts revealed to you
that you didn’t know you had?
• Are there other gifts you wish you possessed?
Assumptions That We Make…
• We tend to make assumptions about a newcomers
perceived gifts and how they might best be used in our
• Even longtime members may not be using their gifts in a
way that leads them to spiritual growth.
• Sometimes we pigeon-hole people into a role we think
they are right for.
• We may be successful in recruiting people and then
wonder what happened when they fall away or burnout.
Let’s Welcome Visitor “Susan”
What we know:
• She is a young mother with three kids
who are 5, 8 and 11.
• She has a partner who doesn’t attend with
the family.
• She has told us she is a teacher.
• The Primary Class is one teacher short.
• She seems harried on Sunday and is often
What we assume about Susan…
What We Don’t Know…
• She works full-time as a teacher of severely
disabled young adults in an institutional setting.
She often feels overwhelmed by her own kids.
Her partner does not come because he is home
taking care of her Alzheimer’s afflicted father-inlaw who lives with them.
She plays the guitar and loves to sing. She has
warm memories of singing in a youth choir at
the church she attended briefly in her teens.
The choir warms up one hour before the service.
What are the needs, the gifts,
and the opportunities in this story?
Let’s Welcome New Member “Louise”
What we know:
• She has recently retired.
• She has attended several other UU churches over the
past 20 years and just moved to this area to live closer
to her daughter and her family.
She has been a board president, chaired a capital
campaign and been active in adult programs.
The nominating committee is looking for folks interested
in being on the Aesthetics Committee and the Hospitality
The Social Action Committee needs a liaison to the local
interfaith council.
What we assume about Louise…
What we don’t know:
• Her last congregation negotiated a resignation
with their minister. This same minister married
her daughter and led the memorial service for
her late mother.
She left the congregation in anger and has
vowed never to accept a position of leadership
in a UU church.
Her son is on his second tour of duty in Iraq.
She was a professor of Asian Studies and has
traveled extensively in the world.
What are the needs, the gifts,
and the opportunities in this story?
Let’s welcome longtime friend “Paul”
What we know:
• He is an “IT” guy who works for a small start up.
• He is quiet and doesn’t talk to a lot of folks
during coffee hour.
He has been coming for several years and hardly
ever misses a Sunday.
We have never seen him with a partner.
The website needs updating and the board has
been pressuring the Communications Committee
to find a volunteer.
What we assume about Paul…
What we don’t know:
• Paul’s wife died an untimely death five years
ago. That is what brought him back to church.
He got into trouble as a teenager and was
mentored by an older adult from his church of
origin. It was a transformative experience which
he looks back on with deep gratitude.
He doesn’t have kids of his own and doesn’t
think he has the skills to connect with today’s
What are the needs, the gifts,
and the opportunities in this story?
Why do we fall into the
“assumptions” trap?
• A desire to get someone involved.
• A need for a particular gift or skill within the
A governance structure with more slots than
We have a tendency to focus on our internal
needs over the needs of our neighbors.
We are experiencing burnout ourselves and just
want relief.
How Would Having a Gifts Based
Perspective Change Things?
• Create opportunities to explore how a need for spiritual
growth might be met by working in community.
Gifts present themselves as the opportunities intersect
with individual passions.
Just because I am good at something doesn’t mean that
I can grow spiritually by doing it at church.
Just because I don’t have the skills I need right now,
doesn’t mean I can’t grow into an area of ministry that is
meaningful or exciting to me.
Whose needs are we here to serve?
Building a Gifts Based Ministry
• Getting Started
• Interviewing
• Gift Identification/Discovery
• Connecting
• Equipping
• Recognize and appreciate
Getting Started
• Thinking about accomplishing “the work of the
church” by harnessing gifts and talents is a new
way of doing business for most of us.
Leaders need to prepare the congregation and
manage the change that is inevitable.
Select a team with the right gifts!
Map the existing assets of your congregation.
Give it time: 1 – 2 years is reasonable.
• What is your story? What does it say about you,
your values and your passions.
Good active listening skills are critical here.
Can be conducted by Minister, Lifespan Faith
Development Professional or trained lay team.
Face-to-face interview is best.
Use surveys ONLY if you are going to use them.
Gift Identification
• One time workshop
• Spiritual practice plan
• Small Group Ministry
• Ongoing adult program
• Obtain resources and use them
People are gifted with distinctive
competencies, not greater or lesser. The
art is to help people discover and
maximize what they do best.
-From “Effective Church Leadership” by
Kennon J. Callahan
Discovery: A Definition
• Discovery is far more than a written
inventory. It must be personal and
include a face-to-face interview, as well as
utilizing other methods and instruments.
At the heart of discovery is an intentional
conversation of the head and the heart
that emphasizes listening.
-from “The Equipping Church” by Sue Mallory
This is the most important part of the process.
What opportunities are the best fit for my gifts?
Is it the right place and the right time?
It should be a structured process and not left to
individual committees.
Each group needs a current job description.
Someone needs to be looking at the big picture.
Feedback necessary to prevent “the long
• Everyone needs to be given the proper tools for
the job.
Training is essential for the people doing the
interviewing and the connecting.
Training can be formal or informal as long as it is
Mentoring is a powerful way of developing one
person’s gift by tapping into someone else’s.
Random Thoughts…
• Pay attention to language: “invite” rather
than recruit; “serve” rather than
volunteer; “ministries” rather than
• This kind of change takes time and
• I cannot over-emphasize the notion of
taking time to let this concept take hold.
If there is no bliss in our work, no
passion or ecstasy, we have not yet
found our work.
-from “The Reinvention of Work” by Matthew Fox
Resources For Learning More:
• “Created and Called: Discovering Our Gifts for
Abundant Living” by Jean Morris Trumbauer
“The Equipping Church” by Sue Mallory
“The Power of Asset Mapping” by Luther Snow
“The Sacred Art of Listening” by Kay Lindahl
“Leading Change in the Congregation: Spiritual
and Organizational Tools for Leaders” by Gil
“Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times”
by Peter L. Steinke
www.alban.org “Congregational Resource Guide”
In closing…
Each of us is a precious gift. Some
come with fancy bows and some are
in plain brown wrappers.
Every time we give of ourselves, we
show the world again that we matter
to one another.
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