The classic way to determine spiritual gifts is to take a spiritual gifts inventory. Now, a few posts back I hammered spiritual gifts inventories pretty hard. It is not that I don’t like them, would never use them, or think they are pointless. I think they have a place, which I will get to in the next post. I also think many of them have issues. Here are the five basic problems I have with the use of spiritual gifts inventories:
- I am not really certain they measure spiritual gifts given to you any more than they just confirm the things you enjoy doing. I have taken more stats and testing classes than I care to add up right now and one of the most important things to consider when developing any inventory is making sure what you are intending to measure is what you are actually measuring. There are many ways of doing these (internal and external reliability to name a few ways). The point is, these measures are useless unless they actually tell you something about how God has gifted you for the kingdom.
- There are some things that I just may have never been exposed to that I have no idea I am gifted at unless I try. My 11 month old would never eat a vegetable unless we give him opportunity and are persistent. Our three year old loves vegetables but only because we kept trying. Paper and pencil inventories asking you what you are better at or enjoy more may only get skin deep.
- There may be things I am gifted at doing that don’t bring me enjoyment. I may be gifted at conflict resolution but that doesn’t mean it is an enjoyable process. Someone else may be gifted at comforting the grieving and hurting…but that isn’t necessarily a happy experience either.
- An inventory is only as good at determining something as you are at accurately reporting it. If you are clueless or misguided about your gifts then a paper and pencil inventory won’t do you much good.
- They are impersonal. They don’t know you. The person who wrote the items and responses doesn’t know you. So how well do you think it can tell you deeper things about yourself more reliably than just going to three friends and asking them what they think your gifts are and listening for commonality?
To be fair, not all inventories have all of these problems. Some are exceptionally good. These are just my observations and I think it is important that people who use and administer these are familiar with the potential shortcomings of a given inventory so that they can avoid the problem of utilizing a single reference point in determining gifts.