"My Faith Has Called Me to Develop My Given Strengths."

by Albert L. Winseman, D. Min.
Religion and Social Trends Editor

This is the eighth in a series of articles examining Gallup's nine items of spiritual commitment.

The nine items that Gallup has discovered best measure the spiritual commitment of individuals in congregations (see "How to Measure Spiritual Commitment" in Related Items) can be divided into those describing attitudes (four items) and those describing behaviors (five items). Last week, I explored the second behavioral item: "Because of my faith, I have forgiven people who have hurt me deeply." This week, I'll explore the third behavioral item: "My faith has called me to develop my given strengths."

The graph below shows responses to this question on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being "strongly disagree" and 5 being "strongly agree."*

Individuals who are highly spiritually committed recognize that there is something unique about the way they were created -- they understand that each person possesses special gifts, or talents. They also believe that they are obligated to do something with their gifts -- and that letting them go unused or undeveloped would somehow dishonor the gift. Spiritually committed people take seriously the old adage, "Your life is a gift from God; what you do with your life is your gift to God."

However, according to Gallup's latest research* these talents are not being fully used in congregations. When asked to respond to the statement, "In my congregation, I regularly have the opportunity to do what I do best," only 44% strongly agreed. Many congregation members say that developing their talents into strengths is important for their spiritual growth -- yet, in their congregations those opportunities for development are rare.

Key Points

Congregation leaders: Help your members discover their talents -- their gifts -- and then help them find ways to develop and use those gifts in and through their faith community. Get to know the members of your congregation by asking what they do really well or what their passions are in their personal, work and spiritual lives. For many there are connections among these. For instance, someone who is passionate about helping others to learn could provide tremendous service to a religious congregation, by teaching classes and study groups, working with children, etc.

If congregation members' talents and strengths are tapped creatively, those individual members will certainly benefit -- but so will the congregation as a whole.

*Results are based on telephone interviews with 729 adult members of a church, synagogue, or other religious faith community, aged 18 and older, conducted October through November 2001. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3.6%.

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