Time and talent sheets are surveys that ostensibly present opportunities for service in the congregation and invite people to get more involved in church life. By and large they are a waste of time. Congregations are rarely poised to activate all responses in a timely and meaningful way, and even if they were, the message these surveys communicate is so often: “Institutional Maintenance is Hard and We Need Your Help! I Mean, Look At All The Busy Ways We Need Your Help!”
Disrupt the impulse to send out another of these surveys with an “Anti-Time-and-Talent Sheet.” It asks a different set of questions – questions that are immediately relevant to participants and questions that can be wonderfully useful in helping a congregation take its own pulse and listen to its own story as it’s unfolding. “How have you experienced the presence of God in this community?” is a very different question than “What committee are you willing to join?” “What question is challenging you in your faith?” nurtures a church culture that is often squelched by questions like, “How can we use a couple extra hours of your time?”
For what are you most hopeful? What lament do you carry? Who or what are you praying for today? These are great questions for an Anti-Sheet.
And here’s the best part. The Anti-Sheet isn’t a “sheet” at all. Or it can be. But it can also be a giant canvas in the narthex with paint and brushes standing by. Or it can be a text you ask people to send during a quiet moment in worship. Or it can be a conversation starter on each table at your next potluck. Or it can be an actual sheet – twin, queen, or king – draped over a table with sharpie markers scattered around on it. Or it can be…
In the spirit of disruption, regardless of what shape it takes, go ahead and call this thing an “Anti-Time-and-Talent Sheet.” Why? Because you want to send a disruptive message right into the heart of an overscheduled, overprogrammed, and over-busy culture that says, We’re not here to give you one more thing to do. Really. We just value a deeper kind of sharing that doesn’t often happen in other places.
Trust that with one or two meaningful questions, thoughtfully asked and respectfully received, you can learn more about congregants than you can by seeing what jobs they’re willing to do.
Ben Johnston-Krase is a cofounder of Farm Church in Durham, NC, a congregation that meets on a farm and leverages the resources of that farm to address food insecurity. He blogs occasionally at www.PracticeResurrection.com and the “Anti-Time-and-Talent Sheet” is part of a larger creative resource he is developing for congregations.