My generation (Millennials or Generation Y; basically anyone who could be considered a “young adult” right now) is known for being interested in volunteering and wanting to make a difference in the world. That’s a good thing; it’s one of the best things that can be said about our generation.
But how do you accomplish that? How do you really make a difference with your life? Can you make a difference with your life?
Everyone Has a Gift
If you’re a Christ-follower, the Bible says that you have been given gifts to use (at least one; likely more), and that different people have different gifts (1 Corinthians 7:7). And God designed you and your gifts specifically so that you can make a difference (Ephesians 2:10).
Discovering Your Gifts
Figuring out what gifts you have is not as difficult as many think. You likely already know what they are, if you just think about it and look at your life so far. What are you naturally good at? What do you like doing? What are you passionate about?
At Watermark, we’ll occasionally talk about a person’s SHAPE. SHAPE is just an acronym; it represents five different things about you that you should consider when figuring out where to serve. SHAPE stands for:
Spiritual gifts – The gifts God has given you. Potential spiritual gifts are listed in places like Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; a full list with explanations can be found here. They include teaching, giving, leadership, serving, and encouragement. If one of them describes you particularly well, it is probably one of your stronger gifts.
Heart – What do you have a heart for? What are you passionate about? What problems in the world break your heart?
Abilities – These are things you are good at that aren’t necessarily spiritual gifts. For example, photography is not a spiritual gift, but I know some people have are very gifted at photography. One of the abilities I first used when serving at the church was phone calling, because my job at the time involved calling people all day, and I’d become good at it.
Personality – Are you extroverted, introverted, goofy, serious—standard personality test kind of stuff.
Experiences – What life experiences have you gone through? This is where I’ve seen God really redeem some people’s pasts. Your biggest mistakes, or the worst things that have happened to you, can make you uniquely qualified to help other people who are facing similar circumstances.
Using Your Gifts
By considering your spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, and experiences, you can figure out what God’s been preparing you to do. Look for a service area that you have a heart for—something that you really want to make a difference in—and find out what their needs are. Likely, your gifts, abilities, personality, and experiences will make you a good fit to fill at least one of those needs. It’s a perfect recipe: you’ll be doing something you want to do, and you’ll be naturally good at it.
It’s true that some people may seem more gifted than others. And if you play the comparison game, this might make you feel less important, or that you have less to offer. However, God is the one who gives gifts, and He only expects you to use what you have.
In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), some people were given more talents than others. (A “talent” in the parable was a quantity of gold, but it’s not a coincidence that we now call natural abilities or gifts “talents.”) One person had five talents, and was congratulated when he invested those talents to earn five talents more. Another person had only two talents, and used those to earn two talents more. Was he seen as less important because he produced less than half as much as the first person? No, they both received the same reward, because they both used what they’d been given. The only person who was criticized was the one who didn’t use the talent he had been given at all.
So, yes, some people may be more naturally gifted. But all that means is that they have a bigger responsibility to use those gifts (Luke 12:48). Regardless, the Bible says that we’re in this together; we’re all part of one body, and sometimes those gifts that might seem like lesser parts are actually more important (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
And that brings up a very important point: we’re not meant to use our gifts in isolation. You were made to belong to a church. Believe it or not, your gifts actually belong to the church; that is why God gave them to you. The people most fulfilling their purpose in life are Christians who are deploying their gifts inside the church to change the world. If you’re at Watermark, and you’re not already serving, get connected to the body. If you’re somewhere else, find a local church body to connect to.
How can we help you use your gifts?
(With help from Kevin McConaghy)