The place where potential pastors, youth and children’s leaders and women’s workers are likely to be identified is in the local church and that’s exactly where it should be.
A healthy church wants to encourage members of the church family to use their gifts to serve the Gospel. In some cases, this will mean considering leaving existing paid employment to engage in full time financially supported ministry. Some people will have a primary focus on pastoral/teaching/cross cultural missions work but will need to continue to need to raise their own financial support (e.g. tent making ministries). All believers have a call to serve God, share the Gospel and to use their gifts for his glory wherever they are.
One of my concerns as part of Faithroots is to help churches identify potential Gospel workers. My own concern is to help identify and equip people for Gospel work here in the urban West Midlands. The suggested process below is particularly focused on those considering some form of full time supported work. It is not intended to be prescriptive but rather to help churches think through important discernment questions together.
- The first stage is that the person should already be engaged in the life of the church and using particular gifts. For these types of roles, we would be looking for evidence of engagement in teaching, evangelism and pastoral care. Ideally the suggestion of taking things further should come not just from the individual but should be recognised independently by other believers.
- An initial conversation with a couple of elders will enable the person to open up a conversation. The aim is that this should be an ongoing dialogue. If they are married, then the conversation should include their wife or husband.
- The person should then take some time (with their spouse) to think and pray through the matter in detail. They will be given a set of challenging questions to prayerfully consider that will help them to think through things including
- The specific need they are seeing
- The particular gifts they have
- Their own spiritual health
- Pre-existing obligation
- When the individual is ready -and has had time to consider the questions put to them, they should take the initiative in coming back to the elders to feedback.
- The elders should arrange for a few people to meet with the person over a period of time so that they can hear from them, ask further questions and pray with them. It may be best for 2 or 3 people to meet with the person on one occasion and then 2 or 3 again on a separate occasion. This should include other members of CLT, male and female.
- It may be helpful then for the individual to come and talk with the whole eldership and/or CLT
- The elders should take the opportunity to discreetly get feedback from others in the church about how the person engages with aspects of gospel ministry, relationships with others etc.
- It may well be helpful for the individual to talk through things with someone from outside of the local church, That person will then feedback both to the individual and to the church leaders.
- After prayerful consideration the elders + other leaders together should advise the person on where things are. Responses might include
- Yes, we would encourage you to pursue this further
- There is a potential gift/vocational calling that is merging but needs more time to nurture
- At this time we don’t believe this is the right direction for you
- We should then seek out opportunities to further test the calling this might include
- A short term mission trip
- Enrolment on some form of training such as a ministry training scheme or theological college
- Other opportunities to be involved in relevant ministries
- At this stage, we should be helping the individual to consider the next steps. The focus then is more on the “how” question. This might include applying for a position working for their current church or it might involve:
- Joining a missions agency
- Seeking work with another Gospel church
- A re-organisation of life priorities whilst continuing to raise own support personally.
It may well be (and I’m hopeful of this) that the specific calling discerned is towards urban church planting here in the West Midlands. If that’s the case I’d particularly love to hear from you.