Peter has always been my favorite Apostle. I love him because when he was “in”, he was “all in”. You never doubted where Peter came down on an issue. He was passionate about whatever he was saying or doing. If you recall, being passionate also got him in a little bit of turbulent water. Peter didn’t hesitate to jump out of the boat and start walking towards Jesus. He didn’t think things through too well though and forgot to keep his eyes on Jesus. Thankfully, Jesus was there to bail him out.
I think there was something important about Peter’s passion. Jesus knew that very difficult times were ahead for the Apostles and all Christians. It would take a passionate person to keep everyone on track through the persecutions and grow the church at the same time.
Jesus also knew Peter had to learn when it was great to be passionate and when he needed to take a step back and think before acting. Several times, Jesus corrected Peter when he acted passionately without thinking first. Once, Jesus’ had to heal the ear of a soldier Peter had lopped off in his passion to try to protect Jesus. Peter had not stopped to ask whether what he was about to do to the soldier was God’s will. Sometimes, Peter needed to harness his passion for just a few minutes and consult God before acting.
I don’t know about Peter, but as a person who can get very passionate about things, I always have people trying to calm me down. It seems our society does not value passion any more. Better to be calm and not make any waves. Don’t stand up for your beliefs, as that is judgmental. And whatever you do, don’t try to convince anyone you have a better way (or rather God does), because that is condescending.
Over time, passionate people begin to lose their passion. They learn to stifle their enthusiasm in order to avoid correction. Because many passionate people are also creative, their dreams begin to die quietly as they anticipate the negative reaction to their enthusiasm.
Our world desperately needs passionate Christians again. People who love God and can’t wait to share the Good News with others. People who have unique ways of reaching others for God. People who in many churches are told to keep quiet or calm down or “it’s just you who sees that need” or “we don’t do things that way.”
Enter our children. I love teaching children because they are passionate about almost everything. Even the things they think they won’t like, I enjoy finding a way to excite their passion about them. Unfortunately, the educational system today is focusing more on results and less on creating a love for learning. Enjoyable ways of learning, that feed a child’s passion for a subject, are pushed aside for rote methods with more visable results.
Bible classes for children are often the worst. To save money, much of the literature that is produced is similar to what was given to children decades ago. More modern classroom tools are often fluff games with little spiritual depth. In congregations where assembly is before class, services often go over, leaving a teacher only a handful of minutes to try and excite children about God’s Words.
Should a Bible class teacher be able to overcome the obstacles and excite her students about God, the children rush home wanting to “do” something new. This means extra work for an already over scheduled and exhausted parent. The child is usually patted on the head and sent on her way discouraged from actually beginning a new home Bible study or service project.
Most children eventually lose their enthusiasm for God and the Bible quickly as they learn no one else is really excited. Their ideas for service projects or evangelism are often pushed aside. Their offers to help in a meaningful way with the work of the church is often ignored. I have even seen many children and teens discouraged from getting baptized until their late teens or twenties. By that time, they have lost all of their passion for God and many never return.
So how do we encourage our children to be passionate for God? How do we encourage them to use their creative gifts to help grow God’s Kingdom? How do we keep them from driving us and everyone else crazy in the process?
The trick is encouraging creativity and passion for the Lord while also teaching them to think for just a minute before they speak or act. Passionate people need training to know when and how to harness their passion and creativity and how and when to hold it in check a little.
Developing your child’s passion for God is fun and exciting. There are so many past articles in this blog of fun things to do with your children to help them grow more passionate about serving and obeying God. If they want to do something in church or at home for God, please do everything you can to make it possible.
Many congregations have to be encouraged to use the talents of children and teens. Use your passion for your child and maneuver obstacles or volunteer to oversee activities that will allow the children in your congregation to express their passion for God. Although it may mean a lot of extra time and effort on your part, I personally believe it is worth the hassle. I think the child who has his passion for God encouraged and nurtured is probably more likely to stay faithful than one who does not.
If you are creative yourself and have some extra time, help the children and teens in your congregation plan and execute meaningful activities to help the Church. They may be purely evangelistic or service evangelism, but include the children or teens in the planning and execution.
My daughter was on an Odyssey of the Mind team I coached for two years. They have their issues, but I really admired that everything was child driven. The kids wrote the scripts, made the costumes, props and sets and did basically everything. You would think five and six year olds would struggle and become frustrated, but they flew. The resulting plays were absolutely amazing.
As a coach, I was only allowed to ask thoughtful questions and teach them basic skills they needed to execute some of their plans. The best thing was that this way of coaching was encouraging their enthusiasm and creativity, while also teaching them necessary thinking skills.
Years ago, I took horseback riding lessons. I was a little disappointed at how much time they spent in the beginning teaching us how to put the bridle and bit on a horse and how to use it. One time I went riding on vacation. Even though I was a somewhat experienced rider, I could not get this horse to do anything I asked it to do. I complained and was told to work the bit harder. When we finished the trail, the owner realized she had put the bit in incorrectly and it wasn’t working at all. An unharnessed horse was useless to me as I tried to enjoy the ride.
Teaching your child how to remain enthusiastic, but to take a moment to step back and plan is as important as putting the bit in the mouth of a horse properly. A thoughtful, passionate person is much more successful in fulfilling the dream of his passion than someone who throws caution to the wind. That success will in turn continue to feed his passion and a productive, passionate Christian is now working in God’s Kingdom.
Teach your child who is naturally passionate to find a calmer, thoughtful friend or later on in life, spouse to help them. People who are passionate by personality (like Peter) find it much harder to take the time to slow down and think things through. They want to jump in immediately and get started. Sometimes that works and sometimes it ends in disaster. Over time the passionate person can become passionately discouraged and give up.
I have learned the hard way to run things by my husband before jumping. He of course has had to learn how not to dampen my enthusiasm while pointing out things I may not have thought through thoroughly enough. Teach your child how to ask someone to review their creative idea or plan before acting. Try to help them analyze their own plans for things they may have missed before beginning.
Encouraging your child to be passionate for God can only help grow her relationship with God. Just make sure you also train her how to harness her enthusiasm just enough to make sure her plans are within God’s Will and are well planned. Not only will this help her share her faith more effectively, but it will lessen the chance of discouragement from plans failing for lack of planning. Let’s help bring back passion to Christianity and see if we and our children can start helping God’s Kingdom grow.