So far in this series on spiritual gifts in children, we have discussed the importance of knowing what God says in the Bible about spiritual gifts, knowing what our own unique gifts are, and observing and leading the kids under our care to discover how they are uniquely created to serve God and engage the world.
But how do we really do this?
My children are growing and changing so much everyday...how can we possibly figure out how they are wired? With their rapidly growing and developing maturity level, is discovering spiritual gifts in children even possible? The answer is yes, but beware of wanting a formula to follow. You will find yourself frustrated, confused, and often doubting yourself. A young boy may be wired up for leadership one day, but could spend most of his childhood years as a strong-willed, independent rebel. A young girl may be equipped with the gifts of wisdom and discernment, but as a child may often be moody and opinionated, wondering why nobody else sees things her way.
Helping your children discover their unique spiritual gifts will be a constant process. It will involve a lifetime of presence, observation, and teachable moments. It will require nothing than your complete attention, but nothing more than your heart for them to succeed and to discover God's amazing and unique plan for their lives.
Five Practical Thoughts:
1) Be a Yes person whenever you can (but mean it when you say no). When my kids want something from me, my gut reaction is usually no...what's up with that? When I take 3 seconds to give their request an honest look, I find myself wanting to say yes a whole lot more...and if I must say no, really knowing the reasons why. Saying yes will create new settings for you to watch their gifts come to life.
2) Observe their sin patterns as well as their spiritual gifts. As parents, it is our responsibility to help our children see their sin and their gifts, and to bring the light of the Gospel into each scenario. It is our privilege to help them see these things, embrace them, own them, and give them both back to God. Whatever you do...talk to them! They will never know what we're thinking if we do not communicate it.
3) Give them lots of freedom to try things on their own (but be clear with regard to their boundaries). Doing things for our kids is much easier. It takes less time, makes more sense, and the results are always better. But although we may "win" in this choice, our kids lose big time. If we want our kids to take more responsibility, we must give it to them first. At least consider doing hard things with your kids whenever you can.
4) Do special things together often. Wednesday if family night at our house. Every other night may be crazy, with 5 people going in 5 different directions. But Wednesday is protected. We will eat, read, play, and laugh together. Don't miss this unique season of your family history because you were just too busy.
5) Count the number of Saturdays you have left with your kids under your roof. Seriously, get out a calendar and do it. Think of all of the time you want to spend with your kids and the stuff you'd like to do with them in light of this number. It should humble you and make you want to loosen up your personal agenda a little bit.
We all want it to be easy, but it won't be. We all think we know what the end result should look like, but we must leave that to the Lord. Intentional parents will shepherd their children's hearts, not just try to control or modify their behavior. Intentional parents make the most of every opportunity with their kids, but completely trust God with the results.
- Ed Sweeny, Pastor to Families