In the same way that God calls each person to a particular task, He often calls us to work with other believers in a community for Christ.
One way we work with and for others is through small groups. Each small group has a ministry in the same way that each individual has a ministry. Some small groups, like some people, have more than one ministry. If this is what God is calling you to do, then do so. Be careful, however, not to overextend your resources. God never calls us to do more than we can handle. So we must look closely and prayerfully at each new challenge and determine carefully whether God is calling us to do it.
Discerning the calling of a small group is in some ways similar to discerning the calling of an individual. Some of the things we’re saying here apply more to finding individual callings, and some apply more to finding group callings, but both are important elements. Sometimes an individual will discover over the course of events that another small group might be better suited to his or her needs or talents. This is natural, and even to be expected. Small groups, like any other group, are constantly rearranging themselves.
This is nothing to worry about. The process of discovering one’s calling may bring many changes into a person’s life, and into the life of a small group. These changes might call for the restructuring or reorganization of a group, or they might lead individuals into other groups where their talents and gifts are more needed. Don’t worry about this. God knows where we need to be at any given time, and if we rely on Him, He won’t let us down.
Perhaps the most important element of finding one’s purpose is to spend a lot of time with God talking, listening, and contemplating. Always pray before, during, and after any kind of decision-making process—or any process at all. Group prayer is an important part of promoting group unity. Private prayer, however, is a very important aspect of any individual’s personal spiritual life. First Thessalonians 5:17 reminds us to “pray without ceasing.”1 This should never be underrated, especially when trying to make an important personal decision. It’s important to remember that while talking to God is an important part of prayer, listening to God is equally important. Jesus says that we “will hear [His] voice . . . and follow [Him]” (John 10:27, 28). We should always be listening to God first.
Though listening to God always comes first, we must also cultivate the skill of listening to others and learning from them. In the same way that we are sometimes surprised that a recorded voice does not sound like what we hear in our head, we never hear our own voices as others do. Sometimes our self-image works the same way. We don’t see ourselves from the outside, and sometimes the pictures that other people have of us are different from our own pictures of ourselves. This gives us a powerful tool to help others and to be helped by others. Others can sometimes see skills, talents, and personality traits that we ourselves miss. Never accept other peoples’ opinions of you as being arbitrarily true or objective, but do listen to what others have to say.
On the same note, always be willing to help others on their spiritual journey. Talk to those in your small group about what you’d like to do and about what you think you can do. Also, answer their questions thoughtfully and fully. In the same ways that others can sometimes help us realize our own gifts and talents, God can use us as important agents to help others discover their God-given gifts. Be careful with this; keep in mind that it is not our job to determine the paths of other people’s lives or ministries. Our job is to help others along in whatever ways are possible. We can encourage and suggest, but we cannot make decisions for others. Be careful to show respect for the opinions, thoughts, and feelings of others.
Realizing and appreciating the gifts of others is not a bad habit to cultivate. Take note of what people do well, and let them know that their talents are appreciated. Sometimes we don’t recognize the things we do as talents. Notice what other people are passionate about, and encourage them to pursue that passion.2