When we speak of over generalizations, we are usually referring to things related to bigotry and racism (e.g. all of a certain race, nation, people are such and such). This is NOT what I wish to discuss here. Then what am I addressing?
Sometimes when attempting to get people into ministry, we categorize them as young/old, male/female, gifted/not gifted, passionate/impassionate, or interested/not interested. But there is a greater danger: overgeneralizing their gifts, passions, personality types, life skills and life experiences. In other words, we prejudge what we think they are and what they can or cannot do based upon our overgeneralizations. We leave out the most important ingredient: listening to them and understanding their individuality. I will make 4 suggestions below to prevent overgeneralization in the church.
Be Conscious of It
Take nothing for granted—even YOU can over generalize. From time to time, you may want to ask yourself, “am I pigeon-holing this person?” or “am I looking for the uniqueness of this person?” For example, a person who has the gift of teaching may not want to teach children. Yes, this person has the gift, but if he/she doesn’t want to teach children, we’d better know that. Don’t jump to any conclusions based upon general definitions of gifts, passions, life skills, or our preconceived ideas.
God Treats Us as Individuals and We Should Treat Each Other This Way
We are members of one another and individual members (Romans 12:5 NASB). The church is a group of born again believers; we usually emphasize the unity of the church and the oneness of the church. However, God also recognizes individual church members and He has gifted each one differently. No two of us are the same. Each is vital to the well-being of the church. One day we will each stand before God as individuals (Rom.14:12) for how we lived and served as individuals. Our individuality should contribute to the welfare of the body.
While we ought to have a deep appreciation of the wholeness of the body of Christ, we mustn’t forget the importance of the individual in the church and his/her unique contribution to the church. While we ought to be concerned about the welfare of the whole body, we must not overlook how individuals uniquely contribute to the welfare of the whole.
Inventories, When Used Properly, Prevent It
Inventories and assessments are very helpful. Used improperly you will miss out on the uniqueness of individual church members and you may appoint them to ministries for which they are not gifted or impassioned. Properly used, inventories/assessments can be a blessing to individual Christians and to the entire church. People will learn some wonderful things about themselves and church ministries will benefit greatly. Inventories, used properly, emphasize a person’s uniqueness. Remember, this is all by God’s design and it is for His glory.
Coaching Enhances the Individual
What is coaching? It’s kind of like mentoring and counseling. A good coach will interview a person and look through his/her inventories and make suggestions, ask questions, answer questions and explain items. The overall purpose of coaching is to show an individual just how unique he/she is and how God has designed him/her for ministry. The ultimate goal is to help someone see how he/she can best serve (based upon how he/she is designed by God). A good coach may be able to show an individual what God’s specific purpose is for his/her life or at least guide him/her through the process. Good coaches also know that not all church ministries fit the people he coaches. Sometimes, a special or new ministry is born because a good coach recognizes the uniqueness of an individual that he is coaching.
Use any diagnostic tool carefully and with the individual person in mind. You will be pleased to see the result, the person involved will get excited and the church will benefit greatly for years and into eternity.