What ministries and missions are you identified with? - This question is often asked in Christian circles; if not orally, then it is implied.
Christians can often tell a lot about another person when they learn what kind of things they do to show their love for Jesus. Doing good and kind things for others in Jesus' name, which means we are doing them by His power and authority, is suppose to be the natural Christian lifestyle.
Some people are so absorbed in their own problems and neediness that they don't get around to doing much for others. It is even less likely that they are deliberately sharing the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, so that others may believe and be made whole.
I have found that the more intimate I have become with Jesus, to the point of knowing He is my BEST Friend, the easier it is to see things I could do, even in little ways, to express His life and love that is in me. These lead to, and become my ministries and missions.
There are church-folks who think that to be in ministry means you have signed up with a non-profit mission organization, and have trained so many years, and gone to work abroad in another country. Or, at the very least, you have a full-time paid position in a church or some Christian organization. That is not the Bible's definition of ministry.
It is that lifestyle of behaving like your Lord and Master and Best Friend, Jesus. Furthermore, the Bible teaches that upon receiving Christ by faith, into our lives, we receive a gift of the Holy Spirit of God to dwell in us, and help us live out what we have learned from the Bible, and to comfort and guide us. That gift also brings us a special abilities to express God's will and to help in the spread of Christ's reign in many more hearts. These gifts are sometimes referred to as ministries too.
So then, if someone presses me and asks point-blank, "What is your ministry, Ruth?" I have to stop and think. I take most of what I do for granted because I've done them a long time. Some were a highlight when I began to do them, but now they are very ordinary parts of my daily and weekly schedule.
I recall a weekend workshop where this was taught and I discovered that God had given me several spiritual gifts. They have shifted somewhat depending on the stage and roles I have had in life, but I know these are special abilities the Holy Spirit gives me when I need them.
In my case, a creative imagination, discernment, faith, teaching, and wisdom, and behind-the-scenes helps, would be my main gifts, or ministries. At times I have experienced the gifts of administration, shepherding or disciple-making, (mentoring might be another word for this), and more often now, my content-writing for websites becomes a platform for speaking out, or preaching.
Your list of gifts for Christian ministries and missions may be longer, shorter, and of course different. God doesn't make clones. God works in a personal way with both you and me, according to His divine plans. The gospel message remains the same, but His methods and venues for each of us may vary tremendously. Therefore, instead of envying or copying one another, let's each of us draw near to God, and ask Him to show us His customized plan each for ourselves, and then work in harmony, encouraging one another.
Since I pondered and puzzled over this for years, I want to help you find out faster. This is a big topic, so I'll cover it in more detail in another article, however, here are a few quick tips.
Pray! Ask God to show you the gifts He has given you to use in ministry in your local church. Pray, not just once, but over a period of a few weeks or months. God's answer might be very short and to the point, but if you keep asking, His answers for you might grow more in depth and detail, and you'll find it is tied to how much you love the Lord. The more devote you become, the more answers God will give you.
Ask more mature, discerning Christians in your church what they observe in you. The clues may be obvious to them but may be just one of your favourite activities to you.
Start stepping in to help out wherever you see a need in your church and community. The spiritual gifts do not start to show up openly until You are using them. If you refuse to use them, God will remove those gifts. He sees no point in wasting them on you.
Your ministries and missions may be as simple as caring for helpless, needy individuals. Maybe in your own home. The handicapped or elderly. God values those individuals, and if you find compassion for them in your heart; that is, you really care about them, and want to defend and do good for them, you may well have a ministry of helps.
That can also show up if you like to work in the church kitchen whenever there's an event that calls for serving meals or refreshment. You are organized, and like to present the food attractively, and ease the workload of the leaders - this indicates a gift of helps.
What about helping in the office with the paper-work, planning, or preparing decorations? That's another way to use "helps."
There is not often recognition in such "helpful" roles, but if you feel fulfilled and good about doing them, there are plenty of opportunities to exercise such ministries (gifts) behind-the-scenes for God's glory. By shrugging off the recognition you are giving the glory or praise to Him.
In the early decades of my life, starting in my teens and on through my 20s and 30s, I seemed to be mostly involved in children's ministries in the church, through teaching Sunday School, Pioneer Girls Clubs, and later AWANA too. I used to think I was only cut out for working with children. That is where I felt most comfortable and fulfilled. Besides, it called for everything I knew from the Bible, and what I had applied in my own Christian walk with the Lord.
When I went home to care for my aged parents, my life seemed to revolve mostly around seniors, and gradually I learned to be more comfortable in understanding and talking and working with them. Although, the Lord graciously gave me AWANA and Sunday School work, and even three summers as our church's VBS director during that time. So the change came at a pace I could absorb.
I did a lot of praying and writing at that time, and often I felt that my only ministries were helps (for my parents, grandmother and other seniors), and intercessory prayer for lists of friends and missionaries. Sometimes it looked like I would never get to do anything else!
Things did change after Mom died. I began to work with a mission called, Western Tract Mission, Inc. Mostly I exercised the gift of "helps" by doing behind the scenes things from home. Ten years later, after Dad died, I moved to the city and became a missionary with the mission, and then moved on to more leadership roles.
Over-lapping back to the 1970s and 1980s, when I was so active in our church in London, Ontario, the more I took care of small helpful situations the more I found myself with leadership responsibilities. That is, in charge of various ministries in the church. I was doing administrative things, setting an example, and mentoring individuals one on one. Do you see how exercising the gift of "helps" grew into other gifts? This can happen to you too.
At present [2014, at re-writing] I see the following as my areas of ministry, some of which assist missions;
1. My years as unpaid caregiver (faith missionary) for my parents are behind me.
2. I consider my various volunteer roles at Western Tract Mission, Inc., as ministry for the Lord.
3. The website work I do gratis for several small ministries is also a use of skills in Jesus' name.
4. All my work on my own websites, is done as unto the Lord, but with the goal of raising more income so that I can exercise the gift of generosity.
5. Desiring to be a generous and wise, thoughtful giver I already give a percentage to my church, and another to other ministries in need as the Lord prompts. I see myself in a learning process here, but like to think that as the Lord continues to prosper me I will be able to give more and with great discernment.
6. Perhaps my most secret ministry is one of intercessory prayer. From way-way back I have felt that if I promise someone I will pray for them, I must keep my promise. I'm sure I've prayed long past when those individuals have forgotten that they asked. I also divide up relatives, friends and missionaries, and church needs, into lists, and pray for a few from each list every morning. I pray for my immediate family every day as well. It happens at times that my day's schedule is so disrupted I don't get to it, but keeping my prayer promises is very important to me. I can get very tenacious when someone I love has a problem!
So you see, even though I can't travel to other countries in my present circumstances, I've got my plate full of ministries and missions. I don't need to apologize at all to those who have tighter, narrower definitions of what it means to be in ministry.
I share all the personal information above to help you see how to find your niche for serving God in any variety of ministries and missions' organizations. Your work does not even have to be a formal worker or volunteer with an organization. It is as simple as stepping in to give a helping hand when you see such a situation near you.