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Spiritual gifts in action: Part 1

United Methodists are following God’s call and using their spiritual gifts to serve others, reflect God’s love and transform their communities.
United Methodists are following God’s call and using their spiritual gifts to serve others, reflect God’s love and transform their communities.

Each of us is uniquely gifted to serve others, worship God and reflect God’s love in the world. When we offer ourselves and follow God’s call, big things can happen. People will experience God’s presence through us and communities can be transformed.

Here are a few ways United Methodists are using their gifts for the glory of God:

The gift of compassion

"Church is usually where you are expected to sit still and be quiet. That isn't always comfortable for those people whose brains may work differently. We want everyone to connect with God," said Elizabeth Ewing Lee, education chair at Flame of Faith United Methodist Church in West Fargo, North Dakota.

Leaders at Flame of Faith realized that several kids, and some adults, had a hard time sitting through a worship service. They began researching and gathering resources to learn how they might help.

"The idea that ‘because I think differently doesn't make me less’ really struck a chord with the rest of the team and me," said Pastor Sara McManus.

The team set up a quiet room with soft lighting and provided tools that kids and adults could utilize during worship, such as weighted lap pads, cozy blankets, noise-canceling headphones, adult coloring books and wiggle seats.

The congregation didn’t stop there. They also held an awareness event, Neurodiversity and Faith, and they have been certified as an Autism Friendly Community Partner.

Flame of Faith UMC hopes to continue the momentum. Ewing Lee would like to add a neurodiversity support group for parents. "I dream we can be that church, especially for children and adults, where they can worship God, however their bodies connect."

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Learn more about spiritual gifts

“There are different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; and there are different ministries and the same Lord; and there are different activities but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good.” – 1 Corinthians 12:4-7

The gift of teaching

Eva Carnes, member at First United Methodist Church in Grand Saline, Texas, was part of a group discussing the future of the church’s day school, which closed during the pandemic.

 “We could not find a director. Out of my mouth tumbled, ‘I’ll do it,’” she recalled. The words surprised her. Carnes went home and prayed, “Okay Lord, what are we going to do with this?”

Repairs to the building were needed. “We had no money,” she said, but donations were plentiful and sometimes volunteers would arrive to find a needed item waiting outside.

The church opened a twice-a-week Mother’s Day Out program. Carnes quit her job and committed to making the program a ministry of the church. The children start each morning with the affirmation: “I am a child of God.”

Pastor Susan Smith had years of childhood education experience. She said, “God equipped me for this.” Chapel became part of the daily schedule, as well as art and music. Smith said, “There is discipleship going on; there is love and care.”

Carnes then heard a new calling to make the program free and approached the church’s committee with the idea. She said, “[God has] provided and provided to us. It’s time to step out in faith even further.”

Soon enough, funds were raised to provide Mother’s Day Out for free for one year. Parents rejoiced to hear the news. Carnes said, “Some of the moms just started crying. It really meant a lot.”

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The gift of servanthood

In 2011, Lyn Evans and a group of parents began serving a meal to the kids at church each Wednesday night at First United Methodist Church in Iowa Falls, Iowa. Evans, who has a master’s degree in Hotel Restaurant Management, didn’t realize that she was fulfilling a need for many in the community.

“We discovered that our church sits in what’s called a ‘pocket of poverty,’” said Evans. “We began by working with the schools to start a free lunch program … knowing that there were people in this area that were having trouble making ends meet, we decided to open up a meal at the church.”

On the evening of October 15, 2022, the program celebrated serving 100,000 meals to the community.

“This meal is sometimes the only hot meal that some of these people get and the only interaction where they come in and sit at a table with a group of people and have a meal. I feel there is a church thing going on in that dining room … we’re making that connection, and they know that we’re here for them. We’re a safe place and will listen.” 

Evans thinks the community meal is one of those “God things” that goes on every week.

“It just happens. People show up. We always have money. We always have food,” said Evans. “The neatest part of this is the ecumenical group of people who want to help. This is church for me, almost more than worship on Sunday morning. This is where I get my recharge … you get that fulfillment when you’re here.”

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One step makes a difference

When God calls us and we respond, we not only bless those in need, we also provide opportunities for others to join us in the work, allowing them to use their spiritual gifts as well. As we’ve seen in these stories, an idea and a faithful step forward can be an answer to someone’s prayer.

Read about other United Methodists who share their spiritual gifts throughout their communities in part 2 of this series.

Laura Buchanan works for at United Methodist Communications. Contact her by email.

This story was published on April 27, 2023.

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