Guidelines for implementing gift-based ministry in your local church

In order to see sustainable fruit emerge from spiritual gifts, it is crucial to incorporate gift-based ministry into the routines of your church. The right utilization of online tools like the Gift Test and the Gift Group Profile are key ingredients in this process. The following 10 steps are meant as a checklist for churches committed to move beyond mere gift-discovery. Every church has to work out different solutions for the challenges addressed in each of the 10 points; but no church can ignore any single one of them.

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1. Inform the core leaders and get their support.

Giving information about implementing gift-based ministry to the core leaders as early as possible is crucial for the sustainability of the process. Since the gift-oriented approach affects all ministries within the church, you should carefully consider which leaders should be involved in the decision-making process. It is essential to provide all information that the respective persons need or would like to have, and to ensure the proactive support of the church’s key leaders.

Your decisions

  • Which leaders should be involved? Consider not only people who hold official leadership positions (elders, small group leaders, etc.), but also those who have a strong influence on others independent of the position they have within your church.
  • What kind of resistance can be expected? Gift-based ministry may be unfamiliar to many people, both in terms of intellectual knowledge and personal experience. Think through how to best encounter the obstacles that can be expected.
  • How will you inform your leaders? Consider the following options: Exposure to some of the NCD tools (The 3 Colors of Ministry book, Gift Test introductory page, sample Gift Profile, sections on gift-based ministry in books like Natural Church Development, Color Your World with NCD, or The All By Itself Pathway); information evening on gift-based ministry (see the free downloadable PowerPoint presentation); testimonies of people who have experienced the results in their own life; testimonies from other churches.

2. Appoint a spiritual gifts facilitator.

The task of the spiritual gifts facilitator is to ensure the activities in the area of gift-based ministry become part of the permanent routine within the church (such as, gift-discovery workshops once a year, permanent recruitment and support of gift counselors, regular reassessment of the church’s ministries and activities, momentum-building events, training opportunities according to arising needs, etc.). Ideal gifts for this kind of ministry are organization, teaching, leadership, and wisdom. It is not necessary for the spiritual gifts facilitator to display all of those gifts. However, some of those gifts should be found in the team that the facilitator recruits.

Your decisions

  • Which people would qualify as gift facilitators? Apart from the spiritual gifts mentioned above, consider criteria such as familiarity with the resources, ability to speak about personal experiences with spiritual gifts, connection to the church leadership team, long-term commitment, etc.
  • What kind of training and support can be offered to the gifts facilitator? Think about training that you may offer within your church and programs available outside of your church. Consider the book, How to Implement The 3 Colors of Ministry in Your Church.

3. Invite the participants to take the Gift Test.

Using the 3 Color World website, this process is relatively easy, both on the side of the gifts facilitator and those invited. Carefully study the detailed instructions summarizing the technical steps that have to be considered. Take care that you invite all members that you would like to support in identifying and utilizing their gifts to their full potential. Consider both people who presently have a task in the church and those who don’t. In order to get a representative Group Profile (step 6), those members that already have a ministry in line with their gifts should be included.

Your decisions

  • How many people should be invited? Remember that every Christian is a member of the body of Christ, and can only live out God’s calling if he or she has a task that is in line with his or her spiritual gifts.
  • Which kind of information or teaching could be helpful before passing out the invitations? Consider an introductory seminar, personal phone calls, a sermon series, etc.
  • When will the invitation be send out? Especially if you would like to take a Gift Group Profile (point 6) that you need by a given date, you should allow sufficient time.

4. Establish a system of gift counseling.

You should recruit a sufficient number of gift counselors, whose major task is (a) to help every participant who takes the Gift Test to get a personal debriefing of their results, (b) practical help in relating the discovered gifts to fitting tasks within or outside of the church, and (c) exploring training both in the areas of manifest and latent gifts. Helpful gifts for a gift conselor are wisdom, counseling, and discernment. Consider the use of the book, How to Use The 3 Colors of Ministry in a Mentoring Relationship, for that purpose.

Your decisions

  • How many gift conselors are probably needed within your church, and who could potentially qualify for that kind of ministry? If you don’t get a sufficient number of potential candidates in the beginning, you may start with a few whose task will be to train additional candidates.
  • How will the potential gift counselors be trained and supported? Consider both training inside of your church and programs you may use from other agencies.

5. Offer continual training.

In order to keep up the momentum, there should be regular training events on the discovery of spiritual gifts and their use within the body of Christ. Some of these events should be offered at least once a year.

Your decisions

  • What kind of training events are most applicable in the context of your church? Consider church-wide workshops, sermon series, 1:1 training, etc. Apart from the topic of spiritual gifts in general, consider in-depth training on each of the gifts identified within your church.
  • How can you best use your small groups for gift discovery and implementation? In most cases, the existing small groups are the ideal place for learning to live in line with one’s spiritual gifts. Consider using the existing groups and starting new groups especially targeted on that topic. You may wish to use the book, How To Study The 3 Colors of Ministry in Your Small Group, in that context.
  • How can you utilize your church’s latent gifts (see point 6) for providing training events that include the possibility of gaining experiences in the respective areas?
  • Decide on the frequency of training offers. Every new member should be helped to discover and utilize their spiritual gifts, and all existing member should get the chance to regularly re-assess their ministry involvement.

6. Get strategic insights from the Gift Group Profile.

Once a sufficient number of people have taken the online Gift Test, you can easily produce a Group Gift Profile. This profile will not only inform you about the overall distribution of spiritual gifts in your church, but also provide invaluable insights in the balance of your ministry. What is the reason that some gift realms may be much stronger represented than others, and which consequences do you draw out of those insights?

Your decisions

  • How balanced/imbalanced is your church in the area of the three gift realms (developing, renewing, and sharing gifts; page 1 of the Group Profile)? What may explain these imbalances? Does that imbalance reflect your goals, or would you wish to have a different distribution? If you would like to see changes, what could bring about those changes?
  • What is the highest, and what the lowest bar in each of the three gift realms (page 2 of the Group Profile)? Which of this information is surprising to you, and which one confirms what you knew beforehand? What is your overall greatest strength? What are your strengths in the area of your least developed color?
  • Which gifts are most strongly developed in your church (page 3 of the Group Profile)? To what degree is this reality reflected in your church life? Do members with these gifts have sufficient opportunities to practice them? What may explain that some gifts are only weakly represented?
  • What are the names of the members who display gifts in each of the three color segments (pages 4-6 of the profile)? Does every single one of them have a ministry according to their gifting? Who will help them relate their respective gifts better than presently to your church’s ministry?
  • What are your church’s latent gifts, i.e. areas of high interest for your members? In what way can you use this knowledge for designing your church’s programs (e.g. sermon topics, workshops, counseling, publications, etc.)?

7. (Re)define your group’s philosophy concerning spiritual gifts.

Every church has a specific "philosophy" concerning spiritual gifts. In some cases, this philosophy may be explicitly stated; in others, it manifests itself more in terms of unexpressed rules. This philosophy has a strong influence on which gifts are strongly appreciated and thus supported by the church, and which ones, not. Other parts of the philosophy are lists of preconditions (apart from giftedness) that a candidate needs to fulfil fulfil in order to get active in the corresponding ministry.

Your decisions

  • Do you equally encourage all of the gifts mentioned in the Gift Test, or are there some gifts that you don’t want to see practiced in your church? What is your policy toward members who display the respective gifts?
  • Do you primarily focus on existing tasks, and look for members with the respective gifts ("from tasks to gifts"), or do you focus on the existing gifts, and design the ministries on that foundation ("from gifts to tasks")? Could there be good reasons to reconsider your present approach?
  • Is the practice of some of the gifts bound to additional criteria (age, gender, ordination, character traits, training, etc.)? What are these criteria exactly?

8. Get rid of unfruitful ministries.

The consistent implementing of a gift-based approach to ministry does not result in doing more and more, but in expanding gift-based ministries while non-gift-based activities may either be re-designed or eliminated. For many churches, getting rid of unfruitful ministries has proven to be the most important immediate effect of the gift-discovery process. This step can release enormous energies that can be utilized for more fruitful activities.

Your decisions

  • What are the tasks/ministries your church presently performs for which there seem to be not enough people with the corresponding gifts? How would you rate the fruitfulness of ministry in those areas?
  • Which of these tasks should be eliminated? Which ones should be performed by different people, i.e. those with the corresponding gifts?
  • How could the energy of those members who are presently involved in non-gift-based ministries be better harnessed in the future?

9. Create new ministry possibilities for people with the corresponding gifts.

In particular when following the "from gifts to task" approach mentioned in point 7, you may wish to create brand-new ministry possibilities for people who have just discovered their spiritual gifts. The guiding question behind this principle is not: Where are the volunteers who could help in some ministries we have established?, but: What ministry opportunities arise from the unique gift mix that God has given to our church?

Your decisions

  • What would be fitting ministries for those members who are not involved in any regular ministry yet? How do you plan to help them find a task that matches their gifts? Which new ministries should be created from that starting point?
  • What could be a more adequate ministry for those who presently minister in areas that don’t match their gifts? Which new ministries should be created from that starting point?
  • In what practical way could that kind of re-arrangement expand the fruitfulness of your church? Which new target groups could potentially be reached by the ministry of your church?

10. Encourage people to use their gifts outside of the local church.

Some churches restrict the application of spiritual gifts exclusively to tasks defined and performed within the official programs of their churches. By following that approach, they restrict both their reach and their fruitfulness dramatically. Church members spend the bulk of their overall time outside of formal church activities. The use of their spiritual gifts in their everyday life is key to expanding the kingdom of God.

Your decisions

  • What are potential applications of each gift outside of your church’s programs? What kind of people (apart from existing church members) could benefit from that?
  • In which practical ways are your people encouraged to use their gifts outside of the church context? How can this be expanded?