How can I help my kids prepare themselves for career choices, and equip them with good decision making skills? Is it possible to start doing things now, while they are young, that could better prepare them for those big life decisions? Is it really possible to know a first grader’s spiritual gifts and how do I find them? These are all questions I have been contemplating myself, and here is why…
I grew up as a pastor’s kid, very much involved in the church.
I was very ambitious (the kind of kid that would completely annoy my current self).
I served in the nursery at a very young age, which lead to reading “The Babysitter’s Club” books and actually starting a “Babysitter’s Club” with some of the neighbor girls. We took babysitting classes together, passed out fliers and went to work for many families on our street. Because of being in small churches, I was given opportunities to sing and play music, even leading the congregation at a very young age. I read a lot, and wrote many “books.” I painted pictures and designed wedding dresses. I gave haircuts and cleaned my friend’s rooms. My first jobs were helping at a day care and a home interior store. I did flower arranging and painted the walls of our home. I wrote “plays” and performed in our church Christmas productions. I decorated the church building and published a monthly “magazine.”
I was pretty convinced that any and all of the these ventures were legit and met a high caliber of greatness.
Was I super mature for my years and completely competent at any of these things?
No, not really.
But I was given opportunities. Most of these were things I did before the age of 12.
- Are you giving your child opportunities?
- Are you letting them help and pushing them to step up?
- Are you giving your child a part to play at home or church, even when it may be an inconvenience to you, slow you down or create more of a mess?
Looking back at the bigger picture now, I see how God used every opportunity I was given to shape and guide me to the place I am today. I am now a youth and music pastor’s wife, I teach our three kids at home, I organize children’s ministry events and run weekly kids programs. I have the opportunity to sing and play music for adults, teens and kids on a weekly basis. I counsel teens and host women’s ministry events. I paint the walls of my house (over and over again), I paint murals on the walls at church, I decorate, I sew dresses for friends, and help people arrange their homes.
I’m not writing a list of accomplishments here to brag. Most of these things are not brag worthy, and aren’t anything special to the untrained eye.
But they are the things I take delight in!
- Take a look at your own life, what kinds of things are you involved in now, that you also took delight in as a child?
- What hurts or struggles did you face as a child that have allowed you to connect with someone you otherwise would not have connected with?
- What skill did you learn as a child that you still use today?
- What challenge did you overcome that you can help someone else through?
- What lessons have you learned the hard way, that you can help someone else avoid?
Every heartache, every trial, every opportunity and every skill that you’ve acquired, can be used for God’s glory and is equipping you to help someone, connect with someone, be something and go somewhere that God wants you to be.
Please don’t make the same mistakes I did:
- OVER-THINKING Spiritual gift assessment tools are great, and taking tests can be fun, but I did so many I got caught up hard core in over analyzing myself to the point of self obsession. Instead, try seeking the insight of someone else that really knows you!
- OVER-COMPLICATING God wants his children to follow Him. He wants you to do His will. He is not purposefully trying to confuse you. He has equipped every believer with the personality traits, talents, life experiences and even interests, to perfectly fulfill His specific plan for their life. When a believer surrenders those life experiences, talents and interest over to God, their gifts are evident because God equips and enables us to do things we could never accomplish on our own!
- OVER-ANALYZING The subject of spiritual gifts can get quite controversial, and though the Bible does talk a lot about it, there is a lot of debate out there. The debate is over what the specific gifts are, weather there are specific gifts, are the lists found in the Bible exhaustive, are there others not mentioned in the Bible, are some no longer needed or in use. It can get confusing and overwhelming, but it’s not supposed to be! Don’t over-analyze it. Study God’s Word, allow Him to lead you, be in constant fellowship with Him and other believers that know you well and can be open with you about the areas they see God working in your life.
I Am Indecisive
I had a hard time making little decisions as a teen, let alone big ones concerning what I was going to do with my life. I had so many interests and passions, so many things I enjoyed and things I desperately wanted to be a part of the rest of my life. I wanted to be a Fashion Designer, Counselor, Wedding Planner, Artist, Photographer, Social Worker, Musician, you name it. Because I couldn’t make up my mind, I jumped around to 4 different undergraduate colleges, only to end up with a general studies associate degree. Don’t get me wrong, I have great memories from those 4 unique college experiences. I held a 4.0 grade average and enjoyed all my classes. I racked up thousands in student loan debt, only to finally admit to myself that what I truly longed for was to be in full-time ministry as a mom and a pastor’s wife! Though I didn’t (technically) need any of the college courses that I paid for, the classes I took in Social Work and Biblical Counseling have continued to benefit me to this day. The awesome thing about God’s plan, is that all those interests and passions I had, are all things I really get to do on a regular basis, just being me.
If your heart’s desire is to please God with your abilities and passions, then chances are, that is exactly what is going to happen. It’s not complicated!
I was so afraid of choosing a path that would limit or restrict me from doing what I really wanted to do, that I forgot to trust that part to God. God had been shaping me and preparing me for something my whole life, and I honestly thought I could mess it up that easily. What about you? What about your kids?
- How has God shaped or guided your life so far?
- What things are you doing now that bring you joy and please God?
- What kinds of things are your kids doing that bring them joy?
- Have you encouraged them to use that delight in a way that honors God?
Help Your Kids Out
Even at a young age, our kids have interests and talents that can be discovered and trained! As they grow in the Lord and start to show fruit of the Spirit’s work in their lives, we may start to see their spiritual gifts emerge. I’ve been thinking on this topic for a while now, and how to make this simple for other parents and myself, to keep a yearly progress report of traits we’ve noticed in our kid’s lives. Wont it be great, years from now, when your teenager turns to you and says “I have no idea what I want to do with my life!” You can pull out records of their interests and gifts that have been evident throughout their life. You could turn to them and say, “well Sweetheart, at a very young age you demonstrated a remarkable ability to anticipate needs. Your strengths were assertiveness and compassion. Even at the age of 7, you would go out of your way to help others. You have always done well in math and science. I think you would do really well in the health care field!”
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- Uniquely You: Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts
- Alpha and Omega Homeschooling: Unwrapping Your Child's Spiritual Gifts
- Focus on the Family: Spiritual Gifts
A good summary of what Spiritual gifts are and some tools for discerning them in teenagers
- Give Your Kids the Keys
A book I have not read, but it looks interesting!
- Give Your Kids the Keys: Questionnaire PDF
A kid's gift assesment sample test that can be found in the above book.
- Lifeway Spiritual Gift Assessment Tools
Some good links from Lifeway to spiritual gift assesment tests.
- Early Signs of God's Design
A Lutheran ministry. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for some pdf links to gift assessment tools for kids. I like how they worded things in their "Early Signs of God's Design" pdf. They use language that makes sense for kids and provide good ideas for questions to ask.