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Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

Director's Word

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work (I Corinthians 12: 4-6).

Bruce joined our family nearly two years ago. He was given to the Humane Society by a family that had experienced job loss and couldn’t feed and care for two dogs any longer. So, while his litter mate stayed with the family, Bruce’s medical conditions meant that he was given up for adoption.

I think that Bruce and his gifts can serve as a metaphor for our own gifts and our call to ministry. Some are so clear that others can observe and name them – singer, teacher, storyteller, or leader – yet, they can also be so much of who we are that we ourselves don’t see them as gifts; it’s simply who we are and how we function. Still they are unique.I’ve learned a lot about Bassett Hounds in the last couple of years, but the most obvious is that they’re built to sniff. My son, Dane, (who loves dogs and dog trivia almost equally) told me that they have the second-best sense of smell in the animal kingdom; only the Blood Hound has a better nose. I’m reminded daily of this.

When Bruce and I go walking, it can be both funny and maddening to experience his gift of smell at work. We’ll be moving along at a decent clip when something catches his nose and suddenly he’s at a standstill; if I’m not paying attention my arm, shoulder, and back will feel the force of his fascination. If Bruce doesn’t want to move, his big paws, barrel chest, and low stature mean we don’t move. So I wait for a bit while he noses the grass, a tree, a fire hydrant, whatever has caught his doggy interest. When we take off again, his long snout and large jowls skim the ground while he breathes heavily out of his nostrils causing the ground smells to waft. His long, velvety ears waggle about and the smells whirl around his head. It’s a beautiful thing to behold. People who drive and walk by greet us with smiles or talk about a Bassett Hound that they once knew.

That’s the other gift that Bruce has, he connects with people. He loves to be around people, most especially “his” people. From the beginning, Bruce has needed to be in close contact with us. I imagine some of that is from being left at the Humane Society when he wasn’t yet two years old. I’m sure he doesn’t want to be left again, but I also believe it’s one of his gifts. Bruce has a big heart. He sniffs out the emotional energy in a room (whether joy or grief) and moves toward it. It means that he’s lain quietly on the floor while someone sheds tears into his glossy coat. He’s been in the mix as we’ve danced in the dining room. His low slung body, soft ears, and soulful eyes invite us to be present to the emotion we’re feeling and it’s a gift that he gives us.

Perhaps it’s a stretch, but I think that Bruce and his gifts can serve as a metaphor for our own gifts and our call to ministry. Some are so clear that others can observe and name them – singer, teacher, storyteller, or leader – yet, they can also be so much of who we are that we ourselves don’t see them as gifts; it’s simply who we are and how we function. Still they are unique.

Other gifts are less apparent - the tender heart, the listening ear, the ability to offer a prayer that gathers and expresses the other person’s deepest needs and fears to God in a moment of quiet. They all make up the giftedness that you bring to this call to ministry.

Contextual experiences like Internship, CPE, and CPL can help us name and notice the giftedness of ourselves and others. We can claim and hone the gifts of who we are and what we’re called to be in this ministry in Christ’s church. Whatever your gifts, know that they come from God and they uniquely equip you to serve God’s people in ministry.

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