Since coming to the Iowa Conference UCC a little more than a year ago, there’s something I noticed that makes me furrow my brow in confusion. When I ask people to serve on a committee, lead a program or otherwise serve in leadership , people almost always say, “No.” The response isn’t usually, “No, I have something on my calendar that day,” or “I just don’t have room for another commitment.” Those things may be true, but more often I think the default response is just to say, “No,” to these things.
A colleague of mine, who has lived in Iowa nearly her entire life, confirmed that my observation is accurate. She explained that this practice is a culture norm for Scandinavian people, many of whom settled the plains of Iowa so many years ago. In that culture, you always say no at least once, possibly even twice, to such a query because you would appear too full of pride if you simply accepted the offer.
So, I have become accustomed to asking people at least three times to serve in a leadership position. I now find it pleasantly surprising if people say yes after I ask the question once.
I’m not trying to negate the importance of humility — sinful pride causes us to put our own agenda in front of God’s. But, I think that whether or not to accept a leadership position is not really a question of pride; it’s a question of how we share the God-given talents we have been granted by our Creator.
In 1 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul writes, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.”
This scripture reminds us that we have been granted a variety of gifts from God. Implicit in this statement, I think, is that we are obligated to use those gifts in the service of God. Often, God calls us to use gifts that we don’t even realize that we have.
I wouldn’t have expected to be doing youth and young adult ministries in the Iowa Conference, or anywhere for that matter. It took a few people inviting me to apply for youth ministry positions in local churches for me to discover my gifts for working with young people. It took an assignment for a seminary class to help me realize I had gifts for writing curriculum. It took an entire community of people to help me believe in those gifts God had given me.
So, the next time someone asks you to do some new ministry in your church, don’t go to your default setting of saying, “No.” Actually spend some time in prayer and discern what God’s will is for your life and ministry. You just may be surprised by what gifts and resources God gives you along the way.