Lloyd Sather still remembers the feeling he had when he was asked to participate in a Spiritual Gifts class.
“I didn’t want to go,” he admitted. “I knew teaching would come up as one of my gifts, so I sort of felt obligated to go. But I went, and it opened up my eyes to some other things.”
Faith Lutheran Church in Forest Lake has offered several classes based on the book, “Discovering God’s Vision For Your Life: You and Your Spiritual Gifts” written by Kenneth G. Haugk. The course helps participants investigate their ministry gifts as well as formulate plans to use their gifts in ministry.
“The purpose of Spiritual Gifts at Faith is to help those in our community discover, develop and deploy their spiritual gifts in ministry,” said Deacon Nina Joygaard, the Adult Ministry Deacon at Faith. “We hope that participants gain a sense of who God has uniquely created them to be and how they can best share that in the world.”
“This transformation was brought to our congregation as a suggestion from Pastor Justin Grimm from the Saint Paul Area Synod. We are truly blessed by what it has done and what it is doing in our congregation and community.”
Faith has had more than 50 members take part in the class. Council leaders are asked to participate in the class, while other members were involved in either a weekend retreat in January or a four-week session in June.
One of those participants was Nicole Lindberg, who professionally has served as a social worker. She also has been engaged in a number of socially conscious ministries at Faith.
Like Sather, Lindberg admitted she had questions as she took part in the class.
“I told Deacon Nina, ‘I will go, as long as you know I have doubts,’” Lindberg said. “She said that was fine, as long as I came into the class with an open mind.”
So Lindberg brought that open mind to the class – and quickly found herself viewing her roles in the church in a unique light.
“Hearing what people were telling me about what they were hearing me say was a way that I had never looked at things,” she said. “One person said I was courageous, and I thought, ‘Really?’ I never considered myself a courageous person. But when we talked through things, it made sense.”
While the reactions to the class vary from person to person, Joygaard said there has been one constant.
“I have witnessed that those who have gone through the Spiritual Gifts Discovery have been energized, challenged, and affirmed in who God has created them to be,” she said.
Lindberg said she was shocked when she learned her spiritual gifts. She found out she had a number of leadership gifts that did not surprise her, as well as gifts for servanthood and generosity. For Lindberg, it was as if the pieces of a puzzle fit together to give her a clearer picture of herself.
“It made me feel good about myself,” she said. “It also helped me understand myself better.”
Sather said he was not surprised that teaching indeed topped his list of Spiritual Gifts. “Teaching has always been a part of who I am,” said Sather, who has led adult Bible classes at Faith for more than 20 years.
But he was surprised that shepherding was second on the list.
“But as I looked at the definitions of the gifts, I realized they all meshed and supported one another,” he said. “I’ll continue to be who I am. While it may not have stirred something different or unique in me, it helped give me confidence that I was on the right path.”
Meanwhile Lindberg is taking a new path in her career.
“The class really stressed, ‘Now that you know these things, how are you going to live your life?’” she said. “So I applied for a new job. I also decided that I need to continue to volunteer at Faith Lutheran with food drives, tiny home projects, and hopefully start a project on mental health first aid education.
“For me, the Spiritual Gifts class helped me understand the things that I need in my life to feel fulfilled. These volunteer opportunities are just what I need to be doing.”
That is the unexpected blessing of the Spiritual Gifts class: While it is clear that one purpose of the class is to give participants a clearer vision of their gifts, the second – and perhaps more important – purpose is to give them direction to put those gifts into action.
“After the class is over, the hard work really starts,” Joygaard said. “It is here that participants have to take time for intentional reflection, conversation to ask themselves where God truly is calling them. Some people are affirmed that they are right where God wants them and are doing ministry God has called them to.
“Others feel challenged to stretch themselves into serving in a new way, letting go of something they have done a long time, or focusing on a particular gift in their work and service in the world.”
John Wagner is a new member of Faith Lutheran -- and a new Minnesotan, having moved here from Ohio roughly a year ago. A newspaper reporter by trade, John took part in the Spiritual Gifts course in June and will be contributing posts to the Faith web site as a way to use those gifts.