Spiritual Gift Questionnaires And Courses: Can We Do Better?

Gifts_from_GodEach one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. (1 Peter 4:10-11)

I was baptized in the Holy Spirit in the 1970s and immediately became familiar with the gifts of the Spirit, including healing and prophecy.

As time went on, gift questionnaires began to emerge as a fresh emphasis on spiritual gifts swept through the church. [1] From the start, I loved this aspect of identifying the unique God-given treasure in each individual.

However, the outcomes were not always comfortable. When my husband Malcolm and I took a spiritual gift assessment, my husband came up with a top result of Apostle-Missionary.

That gave me a big fright—I thought, ‘who—and what—have I married?’ Not surprisingly, during the next two decades, my husband’s ministry included itinerant ministry, sending missionaries, and raising resources for missions and humanitarian aid projects in Asia.

I have learned that when it comes to spiritual gifts, the Holy Spirit knows what He is doing.

Benefits and Limitations of Spiritual Gift Questionnaires

Since the 1990s, many spiritual gift courses have emphasized ministry placement in church life; teaming up the ‘what’ of spiritual gifts with the ‘where’ of service. As a result, churches have benefited from the increase in members engaging and serving in the life of the church. [2]

However, I now ask, ‘Have we reached the optimum in our stewardship of spiritual gifts, or is there more?’

Over the past few decades, I have observed some positives and negatives resulting from running spiritual gift courses in church life.

Benefits of Spiritual Gift Assessments and Courses

1. Teaching the church concerning spiritual gifts is Biblical—the Apostle Paul gave instruction about the spiritual gifts, their purpose, practice, and benefits (1 Cor 12-14, Rom 12)

2. It enables Christians to become aware of and learn about gifts of the Spirit

3. It encourages believers to identify and use the particular gifts God has invested in us

4. A spiritual gifts course assists church leaders in releasing people into service in the church, i.e. ministry placement (especially helpful in larger churches)

5. A spiritual gifts course can help bring direction to Christians who do not have clear guidance about a suitable next step in where to serve in their church or in ministry

6. Spiritual gifts assessments can foster an appreciation for others’ gifts, as well as how we function together as a church body

7. When church members serve in the area of their God-given gifts, the church can flourish and grow (Eph 4:7-16)

Limitations of Spiritual Gifts Courses

1. Spiritual gifts courses are a great introduction to gifts—however, they tend to lack specific teaching on how to nurture and grow individual gifts over a period of time

2. Many courses are outcome-focused on ministry placement in the church—however, our Spirit-empowered gifts can also be utilized in our everyday lives and in evangelism

3. A spiritual gift is a turbo-charged version of a basic attribute that should be operating in the life of every believer (hospitality, evangelism, hearing God’s voice, prayer, praying for the sick, and so on)

A danger of focusing on spiritual gifts and ministry placement is that Christians who believe they are not ‘gifted’ in an area (such as prayer or evangelism) opt out and leave that aspect of the Christian life to those who have a spiritual gift.

This may result in weak or immature development in some believers.

4. No questionnaire could cover every possible spiritual gift—and could potentially stifle the unique giftedness in some individuals, and the creativity of the Holy Spirit [4]

5. Many spiritual gift analyses do not make an allowance for gifts that are present but are not currently being used in a ministry environment, or are yet to emerge. Therefore the outcome of a questionnaire produces an incomplete picture.

Adapting our Approach to Spiritual Gift Assessments

What could happen if we took note of potential weaknesses resulting from running spiritual gift courses and assessments in church life into account—and adjusted for them?

Here are some things to take into consideration:

For Churches and Leaders

  • Encourage ministry leaders to identify, release and develop spiritual gifts in the people within their areas of responsibility
  • Teach on the role and ministry of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts in the context of our everyday lives and evangelism as well as in church life
  • Learn about spiritual gift development. Provide opportunities for individuals to take specific steps forward in the growth of their spiritual gifts [5]
  • Identify possible areas of weakness where ‘departmentalization’ in an area (e.g. prayer, evangelism) has resulted in church members opting out of an important aspect of Christian living. Provide encouragement, resources, and training on these key areas to the whole church, e.g. through Cell Groups
  • Realize that a spiritual gift questionnaire will not give you the complete picture of an individual’s gifts or calling. Consider providing opportunities for gift assessment and personal review at regular intervals.

For Individuals

  • Take assessments regularly. This will help identify newly emerging gifts, as well as changes in gift-mix (the unique combination of your spiritual gifts) and gift prominence
  • Realize that not having a spiritual gift doesn’t mean that you cannot function and grow in that area, e.g. every believer has a responsibility to pray for the sick, hear God’s voice, exercise hospitality, and so on
  • Consider how you can utilize your spiritual gifts in everyday life to be a witness of God’s love and power to those who do not yet know Him
  • Embrace the personal blessing that identifying and learning about spiritual gifts can bring. You have a unique and valuable contribution—and no one else can take your place.


[1] C Peter Wagner was a leading proponent of this, and his resources have been regularly updated. I recommend:
WAGNER, C.P. Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow 2005. Ventura: Regal Books.

[2] God gives us spiritual gifts—Holy Spirit-empowered abilities—that are uniquely suited to the life mission and ministry pathway that He has prepared for us. (Eph 2:10) I discuss briefly the commonly asked question, ‘which comes first: the call or the gifts?’ in this post:


[3] Here are two examples I have personally benefited from:

1. Willow Creek Network course – Bruce Bugbee, Don Cousins, Bill Hybels, Wendy Seidman

A great book related to this is:

BUGBEE, B. What You Do Best In The Body of Christ. 1995, 2005. Grand Rapids:  Zondervan.

2. STEPPS to Ministry by Michelle Sanders

This course, originating here in Australia, takes into account

  • Spiritual Gifts
  • Talents
  • Experience
  • Passion
  • Personality

STEPPS also provides for a ministry track and placement in church life. For further information contact Michelle Sanders at [email protected]

[4] Wayne Grudem defines a spiritual gift as ‘any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in any ministry of the church.’
GRUDEM, W.  Systematic Theology.  1994.  Nottingham: Inter-Varsity.

[5] For a clear outline of gift development in the area of prophetic and prayer-related gifts, see my e-book, ‘Grow Your Prophetic And Prayer Gifts’ or read a summary of the stages of growth in the following post: How To Develop Your Prophetic Gift Pt 2: Understand Your Season

Related posts:

You Don’t Need A Special Gift To Be A Supernatural Christian

Give Yourself (And Your Spiritual Gifts) Permission To Shine

A Checklist For Developing Your Spiritual Gifts

© Helen Calder Enliven Blog – Prophetic Teaching

Enliven Ministries: in the David McCracken Ministries family

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