The Parish Council and Enabling Gifts

candleThere are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. (I Cor. 12: 4-7)

Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them. (Rom. 12: 6a)

The New Testament writers assure us that everyone has been gifted. Even people who think they don’t have any, have gifts. God is lavish with His gifts and He wants us to use them and enjoy them, but not for ourselves alone. “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (I Peter 4: 10)

Some people who are very talented believe they have nothing to offer the parish community. That is not surprising. We are frequently blinded to our gifts just as we are so often blinded to our faults. We are too close to both to see them. We need to point out and affirm gifts that we observe in each other. That is probably the easiest and surest way to discover them.

It is one of the responsibilities of the parish pastoral council to discover the gifts of the people in the parish and to invite them to use these gifts in some way to enhance their own growth in faith and to help others to grow in faith. Service on parish pastoral or finance councils, on commissions or parish committees of shorter or longer duration may be the best use of the gifts of some. Others may find working with youth or teaching religious education to adults or to children would best express their gifts. Singing in the choir, instrumental music, lectoring, becoming a Eucharistic Minister and carrying the Eucharist to the sick, joining or initiating prayer groups or bible study groups, helping with bake sales, clean-up days, suppers and festivals, volunteering for occasional maintenance jobs, and myriads of other works of love are wonderful opportunities for sharing the gifts received and thus participating in the ministry of Jesus.

For many people, their gifts are best utilized in the broader civic community beyond the parish or in an ecumenical endeavor. Wherever there is a positive response to a human need, Christ’s Presence is assured and the mission of Jesus is spread.

For those parishes involved in the Stewardship Program, the sharing of time, talent, and treasure is given a definite focus and a stewardship committee has this thrust as its main concern.

For those parishes not involved in the Stewardship Program, efforts must be made to tap the talents and giftedness of the parish. For many parishes, this will consist mostly in finding out what people are already involved in whether in the parish or beyond. Many parishes will discover that the vast majority of parishioners are already giving of their gifts and not more can be asked. For others, it will be a marvelous experience discovering the latent talents waiting to be awakened.

One of the most important tasks of the parish pastoral council in regard to its role of gift enablement is to make sure that the people who offer their gifts have a place to use them. Some councils or pastors put out a questionnaire periodically asking people their interests and when a newcomer to the parish registers this same paper is presented to that person. How often there is no follow-up on the part of pastor or council and the people lose interest!

A large number of people from around the diocese have taken the lay ministry program and eagerly await an opportunity to make their contribution to ministry in the parish. Have the pastoral councils done their work of planning well so that the ministerial needs of the parish can be matched with the appropriate ministers?

To enable the gifts of the people is to release the power of the Spirit in the parish!

Sr. Jeanne Linda
revised: George K. Cobb, OlbSB