Several days ago, I promised to include a discussion on Identifying the Gifts of our members that had taken place on LINKEDIN.  I got side-tracked by some guests in our home.  However, here is the information sent by David Hayward of Joy Ministries in Vancouver.

I believe the question was about identifying ministry skills that our folks have, so they can be better used to the glory of God. It’s an important question, and one which I’d like some more ideas about.

In the early days of Joy Fellowship we observed that those who really grew as disciples were those who became involved in serving (ie – ministry). This should come as no surprise, since Jesus identified that as the key to being his disciples. We are studying Mark this year, and in Mark 1:30-31, Jesus goes to Simon’s house after synagogue, and He is told that Simon’s mother-in-law was sick. He goes to her, takes her by the hand.  The fever leaves her and SHE BEGAN TO WAIT ON THEM.

A very wonderful story, right at the beginning of the gospel. How pleased I think Jesus must have been, to see her thankful response to his blessing and healing, empowering touch. Jesus blessed her, and she immediately wants to bless in return. How disappointed Jesus was as the years passed to see how little his male disciples understood how essential this posture of service is for anyone who wants to really follow Jesus. Instead, they too often became wrapped up in jockeying for status and power in the group.

I imagine that you have seen both of these things happening in your groups too, and I think we can agree that the posture of servant is the one we really long to see becoming part of our lives as well as the lives of our friends.  Jean Vanier observed that people with disabilities have often been looked after all their lives. All their lives others have been serving them, and in the church this often continues.  Of course it should and often needs to be that way.

But if being a disciple of Jesus involved serving others, we have to help our folks find ways in which they too can SERVE. It is my observation that serving others often brings our folks great joy – so it should! We follow there in the footsteps of our Lord!

So in early days my father, who founded Joy Ministries, began to look for ways in which our people could be involved in serving others. There were those who had roles at church. Usually, as Richard Stimson noted, we’d see something that someone really LIKED to do, and WAS ABLE to do (often the things that give us joy, can be a clue to an area of gifting).  We’d let them know we’d be happy for them to do that job.  As an example, one person loved taking cushions off the pews before the service and putting them back on later – so we don’t stain them.  Because we have damaged some of the Chinese songbooks pretty badly from over-enthusiastic use in the past, others people enjoyed removing these books from the pews and returning them after the service.  A few were gifted at welcoming people, serving as ushers, serving in our sign-language choir, reading the Scripture.  One note:  Joy Ministries used only use those who could read, but we soon found that EVERYONE wants a chance to read, and so we open this now to anyone who brings their Bible to church that Sunday.  Then we help those who are non-readers.  Everyone takes great joy in this and our members are especially are respectful of the honor of it.  Some folks help run the computer with the Powerpoint, some help with worship, everyone can contribute a prayer if they wish, etc. Some help serve tea coffee, pancakes etc., when we have refreshments.

But one of the most fruitful areas has turned out to be visitation. Years ago, Dad began taking teams of 6-8 people, some with disabilities, and some volunteers with musical ability, to visit the big institution where many people with more severe disabilities were housed. We would go and hold weekly worship services on several of the wards – twice a week, two different teams would go. When there, we would gather the people who wanted to come in a room, and then sing favorite choruses and hymns, read the Scriptures and pray.  Then we’d move to another ward and repeat.

Our disabled folks began to be our best ministers there, boldly loving and encouraging and blessing these sheep that were even more needy than they. Lovely, wonderful, heavenly things happened in those meetings, and those who took part began to grow in spiritual things – they were our most fruitful disciples and that has continued. It is in serving that we grow.