MTS: Givers and Takers

Monday, 22 January, 2007

This is one of the wisest pieces of advice I ever received while doing MTS. There are Givers. There are Takers. (The man who gave this advice actually called the Takers “leeches” but I think that's a bit rude and isn't really fair to the Takers.) And there is a whole spectrum of different kinds of peoples in between. You need to split your time between the two. If you only met up with Takers, you'd find yourself being drained again and again. The Givers will give back to you so that you can then look after the Takers. If, on the other hand, you only met up with Givers, then the Takers lose out and you will not get a very good sense of what ministry is all about.

Speaking very generally, Givers are usually the ones who are a pleasure to meet with because they're so enthusiastic. They love reading the Bible with you, they appreciate you taking the time to meet with them, they're always interested to know how you're doing (and not just telling you how they're doing), and they genuinely care about the relationship so they will pray for you and ask you for prayer points. They're characterised by godliness and other-person-centredness, and after you've met with them, you usually feel like quietly praising God for what he's doing in their lives, and you can't wait to see what else he's going to do through them.

Takers are a little harder to meet with and it isn't necessarily because they're self-obsessed or disinterested in you. Often Takers have a lot going on personally, and they are struggling with stuff which they may or may not choose to divulge to you (nor should they have to)—family problems, mental illness, sexual abuse (it's appalling the number of young women I know who have been sexually abused), neglect, tragedy, etc. You will find that Takers will use up a lot of your energy as you strive to love them and serve them, listening to them, praying with them, encouraging them from God's word, gently prodding them to seek help (if they need it), occasionally ditching the agenda to just go have coffee and chat if circumstances require ... and so on. They will not give as much to you as the givers because they have to keep so much in reserve for themselves. (Or they're self-obsessed and haven't learnt yet what it means to be other-person-centred—in which case you need to model other-person-centredness to them.)

Please note though: an MTS worker is not a counsellor. It's not your job to try and solve all their problems. You're there to engage in Word ministry, and sometimes it is better, if the person requires more than just a listening ear, to refer them on for counselling or whatever else they might need. That doesn't mean that you simply pass them on and just keep yourself focused on reading the Bible with them. You can still encourage them to get professional help while at the same time continuing to be a good friend—to listen, to help them do practical things like buy their groceries or whatever else they need. It's just sometimes what they need is far beyond your capabilities to give them, and it's far better for them to see someone who actually knows what they're doing.

There are Givers, there are Takers and there are a whole range of people in between. (I think I am both a Giver and Taker—I need a lot but I give back too.) Balance your time between the two and you'll keep yourself going for the long haul.

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Hi Karen
Miss Potter looks and sounds good.

I love Rachel Portman’s music, too [especially in Chocolat], but don’t neglect Nigel Westlake [great Aussie composer], who wrote terrific music for the IMAX Antarctica film and also for Babe [though quite a bit of that was rearranged Saint-Saens].

Hi Karen,

Couldn’t help noticing this post. smile

I think it is perhaps a little unfair to classify someone as a Giver or a Taker. People take different roles at different times. I often notice this in friendship and flatmate situations, where people ‘swap’ roles as they read and respond to the other person’s moods and situations. And a person may be more of a Taker in one area (say, emotionally) but more of a Giver in another (say, practically).

Your post also possibly leaves room for a new MTS trainee to assume that Givers don’t “have a lot going on personally” ... but sometimes the very things that characterize such a person as a ‘Giver’ are masks that cover up things they are struggling with. I wouldn’t want an MTS fresher to assume all ‘Givers’ are cruising along just fine.

I know you were speaking in generalizations, and I know you said there are a whole range of people in between the two extremes. I did hear that bit. I just hope any MTS fresher reading this also hears it, and remembers to try and meet each person where they are at and treat them as an individual. smile

Posted by Emma on 22 January, 2007 6:57 PM

Em, I think the last paragraph of your comment contradicted the rest of it. But I take your point that I should have talked about the spectrum of people in between a little more.


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