You know the parenting verse in Proverbs everyone always quotes about training your child “in the way he should go”? (Proverbs 22:6) Most preachers will point out this means we should discipline our children really well or make sure they know the Bible. Once though, I heard a preacher say he thought it meant God had hard-wired each child for what God wanted them to do in His kingdom. Our job as parents was to help them find the path God had set for them and encourage them to follow it.
Now, I am not about to take sides in the debate, partially because I don’t speak Hebrew, but mainly because I think all of them have valid points when you add additional scriptures to the mix. I love the idea though that God has gifted your child with certain gifts God wants him to use to serve others and to spread the Gospel.
If you read Ephesians 4:1-16, Paul addresses this idea in more depth. He mentions several specific gifts, but I believe there are many more God has given us to use for the same purposes. So how do we help our children discover their gifts? More importantly, how do we get them to use their gifts for God?
I would encourage you (no matter how young or old your child is) to allow your child to explore. Many parents seem to have decided before their child was even born what the child would do in life. Often, this idea actually has more to do with what the parents wish they had done than anything else. Your actual job is to observe your children and listen to them as they express an interest or display signs of talent.
When our daughter was small, she was interested in lots of subjects. Part of growing during those early years is a desire to explore and try out new things. Indulge this in every way you can. The great thing is you don’t have to spend a lot of money to do it. Libraries, children’s museum exhibits, local free events, low cost events at stores like Home Depot and Michaels and even yard sales can provide your child with a lot of new experiences at very little cost to you.
As your child starts to narrow his interests, you can begin to invest a little money in the area. Remember the narrowing is your child’s decision for the most part (danger or an activity you believe is moving your child away from God would be exceptions). Allow her to decide what is working for her and what is no longer interesting. Our only rule was that if you committed to a teacher or an organized program for a year or a season, you had to complete it before moving on to something new.
As your child matures, the internet is a great tool for her to use to learn new skills. Many websites have free tutorials and if your child is artistic or loves crafts and cooking, Pinterest can give them lots of great ideas. If your budget is tight, try to locate sources of low cost materials for your child to follow his passion. The materials they may need also make welcome Christmas and birthday gifts.
Once your child begins to develop proficiency in his area of giftedness, find ways to help him use his talent in God’s kingdom. In some areas, this may be tougher than others. Hopefully your church is open to using the talents of the next generation to serve God. If not, it may be an opportunity for you to enlighten them! If that fails or if your child wants more opportunities to serve others, try other church related or secular charities. If you go the secular route, help your child find ways they can still spread God’s word in the process.
One of our daughter’s gifts is serving others and one of her passions is charity: water. Ironically, this passion was born after a family mission trip to Mexico when we couldn’t drink the city water from the tap unless we wanted to get sick. The experience brought up a lot of questions about how tap water could be unfit to drink. We have always encouraged the idea of actually going to the trouble to find the answers to your questions. Her search for knowledge led her to charity: water where she discovered how bad the problem of dirty water really is.
Now, here is the really cool part of following your child’s passions. After you have helped them experiment and begin to find the things for which God has gifted them, join in the fun yourself. I’m not saying you try to steal your child’s thunder or trapeze thirty feet in the air. Just show a real interest in their passion. Let them teach you about it. I can almost guarantee you will learn about a lot of interesting things you didn’t even know existed before your child found them.
Once you are better informed about what they love, it is easier for you to show them ways to use their passion and gifts for God. We took Charity Water’s story to the children in our church. They saved their change all summer to help fund a clean water project in another country. Once Charity Water tells us where our project is, we will try to find a local missionary to go tell the people of that village about why our children wanted them to have clean water – so they could be well enough to feel up to hearing about God’s wonderful news for them.
If your child has a passion or gift that is unique, you may have to get a little more creative in helping them use it for God. Feel free to comment to this post or email me and I will try to help you or see if my readers can. I truly believe our children were gifted to serve God. We just need to help them find their way there. Once they do, the excitement and joy of serving God by doing the things they love will make their love for God contagious to others. I can only imagine what a church full of people who were actively using all of their gifts and talents for God could do!