Unsung Heroes - Word&Way

Unsung Heroes

Tapping passion and giftedness—and an understanding of every job as ministry— may be the best way to find willing workers to fill those unglamorous and least-recognized posts in church life.

A passionate beginning

Passion springs from a person’s gifts, according to Nelson Granade. “The key to any job is getting the person with the right gifts,” said Granade, a consultant for the Center for Congregational Health in Winston-Salem, N.C., who also serves as pastor of First Baptist Church of North Wilkesboro, N.C.

Once gifts are discovered, the individual will be motivated to use them. Discovery of giftedness will lead to passion, he believes. For that reason, he encourages churches to develop a gifts-based approach to ministry.

Bob Perry of Springfield, Mo.-based Congregational Health Associates also sees passion as the root of ministry.

But he believes passion is personal first and then is expressed outwardly. Passion may or may not spring from a member’s gifts as much as it comes from awareness of the needs of others.

“It is … a matter of personal passion,” he said. “That is, people will work most joyfully when they are doing something that addresses a deep inner passion they feel—helping the poor, relating to internationals” and so forth.

Gifts and talents play into a decision to accept a post when members feel the unique skills they offer or interests they can pursue are a good fit for the position, noted Perry, who also serves as congregational health team leader for Churchnet, the ministry arm of the Baptist General Convention of Missouri.

Appreciating others

As people discover their own gifts, they might appreciate the gifts others have, Granade believes. “This is true because our weaknesses are often just the shadowy side of our strengths,” he said.

“For instance, if you are a big-picture visionary person, you will often need help implementing your vision.”

As a “big-picture visionary” himself, Granade is grateful for a volunteer who more clearly sees the nitty-gritty steps that must be done to fulfill the vision. If he comes up with an idea for a big event, she outlines who would be responsible for each aspect.

“She would never have planned the event without my idea, but it would have flopped without her eye for detail,” he said.

“When we each recognize our mutual dependency and the value of the gifts of others, things work well. When we are frustrated because others don’t see things the way we do, we short-change ourselves and the church,” he added.

Job as ministry

Each position in the church—paid or voluntary, visible or behind the scenes—must be seen as vital, Granade said. Leaders must help others who fill those roles understand how they affect the success of the task itself and the church.

“Leaders must understand both mission and morale are vital to success,” he explained. “Fortunately, these two aspects build on one another. The more information workers have on how they are making a difference, the better they work. The better folks work, the more likely an organization is to accomplish its goals.”

He pointed out that people who assembled airplanes during World War II focused on winning the war. “Likewise, when a worker passed out ice-cream sandwiches during VBS (Vacation Bible School), she didn’t think she was just feeding kids. She was showing God’s love.”


People thrive on appreciation, even those who don’t seek the limelight, both consultants said.

One way to honor those who do the hidden tasks is simply to make sure leaders from time to time tell the congregation what goes on behind the scenes and that members have stepped up to fill those jobs, Perry said.

Expressing appreciation publicly also is appropriate, he added.

A word said or a letter or other commendation given privately to those who don’t want a fuss made still lets workers know their effort is recognized and appreciated.

Be proactive

Church leaders must be on the lookout for people who are willing to take the hidden posts.

For Perry, finding servants is “mostly a matter of seeing people and knowing their situations.”

 In other words, it’s being personally aware of members’ gifts and passions.

Granade advocates using gift inventories. First find members who have the gifts of encouragement, discernment and leadership, and then put them in charge of helping other members find their place of service.

“Also, start with the people and their gifts and then look at the tasks. Starting with the task and finding the person will tempt leaders to fill positions for the sake of getting it done,” he said.

“Letting people work out their callings, gifts and passions, however, will reap benefits far beyond a simple task.”