INTRODUCTION…I have been involved in pastoral ministry with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal since 1970. In that period of time, I have had the opportunity to work with many groups and groupings of various types – pastoral teams, committees, sub-committees, task forces, prayer groups, advisory boards, etc., etc. I have made some observations regarding some of the types of gifts that tend to be present when persons join together, especially in a religious context. I hasten to add that these observations are thoroughly non-scientific and based solely on my own personal, subjective observation, analysis and interpretation. I would only make the modest claim that there is perhaps a grain or two of truth in here somewhere.
My basic observation is that the three types of gifts that are most often found in these groups could be identified as follows: Creative, Reflective and Executive. To put this another way, I would describe those individuals with the creative gifts as the “dreamers and drivers”; those with the reflective gifts as the “discerners”; and those with the executive gifts as the “doers”.
A further observation I have made over the years is that it is often difficult for people in groups to work together harmoniously and effectively. Often enough, groups fall apart before they have really accomplished what they set out to do or to be. I suspect that one reason for this might be the difficulty in understanding and accepting the different approaches of people having the various gifts mentioned above. Let us examine each type of gift more closely.
THE CREATIVE GIFT…the “dreamers and drivers”. These are the originators, the initiators, the visionaries. These are the people who “dream dreams and see visions”. These are the folks who “see the big picture” all at once and leave it to others to “sweat the details”. I hesitate to simply refer to them as “dreamers” because that term can somehow imply that they are not fully in touch with the real world. Indeed, that is a complaint that is sometimes lodged against this type of person. However, my experience has been that these individuals are most often very much in touch with reality. They just want to get beyond what is to discover what could be. That is why I added the term “drivers”…these individuals have an abundance of “drive” and sometimes are accused of driving others as well! (Someone has suggested that I substitute the word “motivators” for drivers, but I could not quite bring myself to do it.)
This is the type of gift that founders usually possess…founders of religious orders, movements, communities, institutions. These people have the extraordinary charism of not only seeing a vision but of leading others who want to follow and be part of that vision. Think, for example, of St. Benedict, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Dominic, St. Ignatius of Loyola, to name just a few. (I also think of Fr. Michael Scanlan of Franciscan University of Steubenville and Fr. Emile Lafranz of the Center of Jesus the Lord.)
I see this particular gift as associated with God the Father, the Creator, generator, originator, initiator.
THE REFLECTIVE GIFT…the “discerners”. The gifts involved here are those of reflecting, weighing, editing and refining. These gifts involve primarily thinking and judging. People with this type of gift tend to listen carefully, think about what they hear (or read), study and ponder it, and finally come to a carefully reasoned opinion. They usually have a sharp critical sense and are wary of accepting anything at first glance or face value. They tend to ask probing and sometimes challenging questions.
These people are also usually very good at order and organization. They tend to prioritize well, put first things first, concentrate on essentials and quickly dismiss ideas they deem unimportant, extraneous or unworkable.
People with this type of gift usually have keen minds and are known as serious thinkers. They are apt to do research and collect data before reaching a conclusion. I would put St. Thomas of Aquinas and most, if not all, the Doctors of the Church in this category. Theologians and teachers would probably fit here as well.
This gift corresponds to the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son. He is also referred to as the Logos, the Word. The word is an ordered, spoken thought – a fitting analogy for this type of reflective, discerning gift.
THE EXECUTIVE GIFT…the “doers”. These are the individuals who implement the vision, who carry out the plan, who make it all fit together and work together. They are the engineers, the workers who can translate the dream or vision from the realm of the purely abstract into the realm of the practical. Typically, these people are much more comfortable when they are serving, working and doing, rather than dreaming, brainstorming, thinking or talking about ideas.
I tend to think of missionaries as people with this type of gift. They are those who put the good news into action. Think, for example, of St. Francis Xavier, St. Isaac Jogues, Blessed Father Damian, the “leper priest” of Molokai, and Blessed Junipero Serra, the missionary of California.
This gift in some way can be connected with the Holy Spirit, the “executive agent” of the Holy Trinity.
QUESTIONS…At this point you may have a few questions. For example, you may be wondering which category you belong to. Perhaps you are not completely sure. I think it is worth saying here that there can probably be a blend or mixture of gifts in one person. Depending on various circumstances, one or the other gift may seem to predominate. Over time, however, I would expect that one gift would usually be more consistently pronounced in a particular individual. It may be helpful for you and the group you are part of to try to figure out your “predominant gift”. I would suggest that by understanding the various gifts, we can better integrate them into ourselves and know when each particular gift is called for.
Can a person exercise all three gifts equally well? This would have to be quite an extraordinary person! I would imagine that this would be very rare but it could happen. Two examples that come readily to my mind would be St. Paul and Pope John Paul II.
POTENTIAL CONFLICTS…The different gifts can sometimes be the cause of potential conflicts and discord within groups. It happens often enough that people with one gift find people with the other gifts to be annoying or irritating.
Creative people can get very impatient with discerners because the discerners can tend to slow down the dreamers/drivers. Likewise, the dreamers/drivers can get impatient with the doers because the doers often want to know too many details so they can “get the job done”.
The discerners can get annoyed with the creative people for always dreaming dreams, having grand ideas and tending to ignore all the potential obstacles and drawbacks. Discerners can likewise get annoyed with doers because they tend not to examine things carefully enough before launching out into action.
The doers, the executives, the practical people can get upset with the creative people because they come up with so many things to do…more than ten people could get done in ten years! “Don’t they understand that we can only do so much?…For heaven’s sake, one thing at a time!”
The doers can also get upset with the discerners because they say the discerners tend to discern things too much…they take too long to think things through.
COOPERATION…The bottom line to all this is that there is a need for all three different gifts and for people who exercise them to serve and actively contribute to the multitude of various groupings in the Church today. When each of the three gifts is being utilized with respect for the others, there emerges a harmony and a sense of effectiveness in the group. Each of the three gifts should complement and supplement the other.
My concluding suggestions are as follows:
1. Be aware of the different types of gifts at work in your particular group and of the people who exercise them.
2. Make a decision, a commitment to respect and value the contributions of each gift to the overall good of the whole group.
3. Help those with the various gifts to respect their proper “boundaries”, trying not to encroach on the legitimate space of another’s gift. In other words, let dreamers/drivers be creative, let discerners be reflective and let the doers roll up their sleeves and get to work.
May our groupings more and more imitate the Blessed Trinity – total unity of nature with a diversity of persons. © Al Mansfield, 2007, www.ccrno.org