One of the characteristics of a young person who is ready to be a productive Christian is the awareness of their gifts from God. Unfortunately, your kids didn’t come with a user manual where God lists each of your children’s gifts from Him. Many people go through their entire lives not realizing God has given them one or more gifts to use in serving the Kingdom. It is one of the saddest conversations I regularly have with adults – they have missed part of their sense of purpose in life and in the Church because they never discovered their gifts.
One of the most rewarding parts of Christian parenting is helping your kids discover, develop and begin to use the gifts God has given them to serve Him. It can be a fun journey for you and your kids. It won’t always be the smoothest of journeys as there are often false starts and disappointments along the way. It will give you pure joy though to watch your child use a gift for God in service to Him at some point in the future – especially a gift you helped your child discover and develop.
You may not be aware of your own gifts yet. Or you may have no idea how to get started, as the possibilities are rather endless and the gifts each of your children was given may be very different. There are, however, a lot of fun things you can do when your children are young to begin the discovery process with them.
Here are some of the favorite ones we did with our daughter when she was little:
- Visit Your Public Library. I know it may be considered a bit old school, but it’s an essential resource for young children. Find the non-fiction section. (You may have to ask for directions. In our library, children’s non-fiction books are mixed in with the ones for adults and not in the children’s section.) As you go through the sections, allow your child to pick a couple of books that look interesting to him/her. Each time you go, help your child choose books from a new section. It’s also great if they return to the same section, because something sparked their interest. It’s a clue God may have given them a temporary or a life-long passion for the topic – which may also be a clue to one or more gifts.
- Take advantage of library book sales and yard sales. In addition to interesting non-fiction books, I want you to hunt for old girl scout badge books. (The newer ones aren’t as good for gift discovery and boy scout handbooks tend to focus on camping skills.) I love these older badge books because they were set up for kids to play around with a new skill, craft or talent with little cost and age appropriate activities. Some of course are better than others, but they will generate lots of ideas of things you can do at home to allow your kids to experiment with lots of possible gifts – without breaking the bank in the process.
- Sign your child up for free and low cost classes at retail stores or through church, scouting and other groups. Stores like Home Depot, JoAnn’s and Michaels often offer free one session classes to draw customers into their stores. They provide all of the supplies for your child to make something. They take a few minutes to a few hours and may require you to sign up in advance. The craft stores also offer low cost classes for older kids and teens. It’s great because your child can experiment with sewing, for example, without you having to purchase a sewing machine. Churches, scouts and other groups serving children will often have activities allowing kids to experiment with different gifts and talents.
- Ask family, friends and neighbors to demonstrate, share and even teach. Almost everyone has some sort of hobby or special interest. Most would love the opportunity to share it with a young person who was curious about it. Some would be willing to teach or give tips and even give left-over supplies to get your child started. If your child is showing an interest in a hobby or craft, ask around. Chances are someone you know is already enjoying it.
- Don’t forget about gifts outside of the box. Your child may have a gift for organizing, public speaking, leadership or some other gift that doesn’t necessarily align with standard hobbies or interests. In most cases though, you can use the same resources above – you may just have to be a bit more creative in your search. Often others don’t think of these as gifts from God or talents and may not even realize they have them either. You may give them a gift as you ask them to share their knowledge and expertise with your child.
Helping your children discover their gifts from God can take a lot of time and work. If you are successful though, it can help them find their place and purpose in the Kingdom. That is definitely worth the effort!