Time & Talent & Spiritual Gift Surveys

Time and talent surveys and spiritual gift inventories are two common data-gathering tools in churches. Information about a volunteer’s skills, spiritual gifts, and preferences is always helpful. It allows us to direct our recruitment effort to those most likely to be interested. But to do it right, consider these questions.

  1. Have we done this before?

Past experiences color attitudes and expectations. Unless earlier efforts were an overwhelming success, do things differently this time.

  1. What information are we looking for?

You have options. Stick to one type of data and prepare accordingly.

  • Spiritual Gifts. A spiritual gifts inventory is best preceded by instruction and followed by a one-on-one conversation about ‘next steps.’ After helping people discover their gifts, help them put those gifts to work.
  • Talents and interests, such as cooking, painting, data entry and singing. People usually have a good idea of their talents and interests and they appreciate invitations to do things they enjoy.
  • Ministry interest/commitment. Give people a list of all your volunteer opportunities (coffee hour hosting, choir, board of trustees, attendance entry, etc.) and direct them to job descriptions for each. Invite them to tell you where they’re currently volunteering (inside and beyond the church) and also what they might like to start doing. You’ll also learn a lot about them along with giving them an opportunity to consider new ways to serve.
  1. What do we do with the information?

In her classic How to Mobilize Church Volunteers, author Marlene Wilson refers to time and talent surveys as a “systematic rejection of people’s time and talents” because so often the information is simply filed away. Yes, when Edgar, an active volunteer, indicates he’s willing to paint if and when needed, it’s appropriate to file that info. But when Joe, who’s never volunteered at church, indicates he’d help with handyman tasks, find something that needs fixing. Break something if you have to! When someone offers their time and talent, we dare not offer a “Don’t call us; we’ll call you” response. We sure wouldn’t do that if they offered their money.

Every completed survey should be carefully read. Every new commitment and every new volunteer should receive a warm and friendly personal response quickly, not months later. If their choice doesn’t work out, will someone help them find something that does work out for them?

  1. Here’s the bottom line: What is your purpose for the survey?

If the focus is primarily on persuading people to fill your desperate needs, people will catch on and most will not participate. But if you wish to help people use their God-given gifts in his service, you’ll carefully design a useful tool and carefully follow-up afterwards. Your survey will help you build relationships and connect people to ministry opportunities where they will be effective and blessed in God’s kingdom.


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