Excuse me, Pastor…

Excuse me, Pastor…

I make mistakes… Often.

The latest incarnation of mistakes came this past Sunday.

I have a lot of big ideas, but I am not always good at figuring out the details… how things will ebb and flow.  And so, I set in motion a plan to help my congregation discern their spiritual gifts during worship.

We are embarking upon a study of Romans 12 – our theme scripture for the new vision for our church.  It will be a Lenten study and will encompass worship, daily devotions, sunday school lessons, etc.  But a big part of the journey will be to claim and to give over to God the gifts we have been blessed with.

So I found these awesome resources by Dan and Barbara Dick called “Equipped for Every Good Work.” We wanted as many congregants as possible to have the opportunity to discover their spiritual gifts before embarking on this journey.

Realistically, I knew that if I simply directed folks to an online resource, most wouldn’t do it.  If I only offered it during Sunday School, I would miss a lot of people.  If I sent it home, most wouldn’t bring it back.

The only way to let people know, “Hey, this is important” was to set aside time in worship to go through it together.  I handed out scoring sheets and gave a brief introductory sermon and set out reading out the first of 200 statements.

Yes, two hundred.

In my head, it didn’t seem like a lot.  I thought about how many words a typical sermon was and how short the statements were and thought it was doable. THOUGHT.

We got through 40 and I felt like people’s heads were spinning.  We passed 60 and I could sense the tension in the room.  We hit 80 and I looked back and saw a lovely woman near the back shaking her head back and forth.

“How are we doing,” I asked… and the woman kept shaking her head.

“We need to be done,” she replied.

I looked at the clock, and knew she was right.  Between the pauses for answers and the repeating of some statements, there simply was not time.  It was exhausting to think like this.  And it was extremely foolish of me to think that we could get through the entire list in the time we had for worship.

“Good idea,” I said. We made peace with letting it go for now.  We decided that we could either a) finish it the next week or b) let half way done be good enough and still use the tool next week to talk about where we are.

The way the inventory is set up, we were scoring for each category as we went along, and so getting half way through, I think we were able to still get a pretty good indication of where people’s spiritual gifts lie. It was a difficult process, and we didn’t do it perfectly, but I figure that getting through 5 questions for each spiritual gift is just as good as the much shorter 40 question inventory based on the same materials online. So we are going with it.

I’m extraordinarily grateful that someone was willing to step up and call me out.  Just because I’m the pastor does not mean that I have everything figured out all the time.  In fact, as my spiritual gifts demonstrate, I’m not good at organizing. I’m not good with the details.  And I do need to be surrounded by people who are willing to look out for the good of everyone around us when I’m leading us down long and tedious paths.

I have to say, regardless of the length, the very idea of doing this type of spiritual gifts inventory had mixed reactions.  Some people were really enthused by the idea and were looking forward to claiming what they had been called to.  They were intrigued by the ways specific characteristics were lifted up.  They wanted to know more.  Others felt like failures.  They didn’t like the idea of a “test.”  I had tried to carefully explain that this is a way of discovering what we are good at and what we have been gifted at… that there were no wrong answers, but I’m not sure the message sunk in for everyone.

It is difficult to take a deep look at where we are spiritually.  It is hard to be honest with ourselves about what we are not good at.  We can tend to focus on our weaknesses and lament them, rather than celebrate our strengths.

This next Sunday, we had planned on talking about ways that our spiritual gifts can be used in the life of the church, but based on our responses, I want to dive deeper into what it means to be gifted… I want to help people to cherish the ways God has blessed them.  I want to help them let go of the false notion that we have to be perfect at everything and help them to realize that is precisely why we have community – in order to fit our differently shaped puzzle pieces together and make the body of Christ.

I make mistakes.  I make them often.

But thank God I am surrounded by people full of forgiveness.

And thank God that they call me out and give me a chance to rethink my plans and start again in a new and better place.


  • brentwhite

    February 15, 2012 at 9:36 am Reply


    Like most pastors, I am desperately afraid of failure. I don’t like the _appearance_ of failure. That shouldn’t prevent me from trying something new and different, but I’m sure it does. You gave it a shot; it didn’t work. No shame in that! Hang in there.


  • John Meunier

    February 15, 2012 at 11:45 am Reply

    Katie, good for you. You took a risk for the good of your people. You also were wise to pay attention to how it was going.

    I’ve done it twice. The first time, I actually did it in worship. We did 100 questions each Sunday.

    The next time (different church) I did it with a small group Bible study that included basically all the leaders of the church (small congregation.) The second way worked better.

    If I were to do it again, I’d start with a small group and let the experience trickle outward. Taking a test is not much of a worship experience I’ve decided in retrospect. But like you, I thought it was important and worth a try.

    Get messy. Take chances. Make mistakes.

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