Raising Your Kids to Be the People God Created Them To Be

In his book, 9 Things You Simply Must Do, Henry Cloud tells the story of two little girls. The details have been played out in homes all over the world with both sons and daughters for centuries.

I won’t share the actual story and ruin the book for you, but the gist of it is this. Two children are born, blessed by God with similar gifts and passions. In one home, the child is encouraged to explore and develop each gift and passion as it becomes evident. In the other home, the child’s dreams are often redirected or worse yet mocked as being useless or frivolous.

The girl who was encouraged, grows up to be successful in a field that ties all of those seemingly random gifts and passions together. She loves what she does and can serve God with those gifts and passions as well as make a living. The other child never fulfills her God given potential, because her parents direct her into choices that are not a match for her gifts and passions. She hates her job and for our purposes has no idea how God has gifted her to serve Him.

God gives each child potential. That potential includes one or more special gifts He wants them to use to serve Him. Some kids seem to know at least one of these gifts from early childhood, while others may have to experiment with several things until they find their gifts.

Christians often get confused by the spiritual gifts listed in Corinthians. It’s important to remember there are many gifts that were used by God in the Bible that we would call talents. Those are usually easier to identify and develop in young people. The spiritual gifts usually become more obvious as young people use their talents to serve God.

Your kids need your help finding and developing their gifts from God. God doesn’t give you a vote on whether or not you believe that gift is useful or important. God knows why your child needs those particular gifts. You don’t. Don’t second guess or try to over rule God. Teach your kids to see how God directs them to use those gifts to serve Him.

Sometimes parents try to overrule God because they are afraid. In the original story, the parents overruled the child’s love of drawing and artistic ability, fearing she would become a starving artist. The parents in the other family, encouraged their daughter’s love of art and found it was actually combined with her love of math and building things and she became an architect. Which, by the way, is a very well paid profession for many.

You don’t know the future like God does. You can’t begin to know for sure how He will use the combination of gifts and talents your child has to serve Him. In many cases, there may also be an intersection between their occupation and their personal ministry. When you attempt to down play your child’s talents and passions, you are in effect second guessing God blindfolded! That rarely works out well for anyone.

Have faith. Pray. Lean into the gifts and passions God has given each of your children. Help them uncover and develop them. Help them notice opportunities God gives them to use those talents to serve Him. Constantly remind them God has planned good works for them to do before they were born and some of them might involve using these talents.

If they don’t develop them or miss seeing the opportunities God has given them to serve Him, they will miss a part of Christianity that happens when you fully serve God with all of the talents and passions God gave you. And you will miss the blessing of watching your children serve God with all of their hearts, souls and minds in the ways God created them, doing the good works He has planned for them in advance.

Fun Fall Family Service Projects

The more your family works together to serve others and share your faith, the more it will become natural and easy for your kids to continue to live that way as adults. Fall is a great time to serve others. As you serve, you can find ways to point others to Jesus. If you are serving Christians, you can find ways to encourage their faith.

Here are some ideas for fun Fall family service projects to get you started.

  • Apples. Do you have an apple orchard somewhat close to you? Take the kids and go apple picking. When you get home you can create little gift baskets or bags of apples to share with neighbors.
  • Hand Pies. Take some apples and this recipe and make apple hand pies for people. Make sure you are wearing masks and handling them with food gloves after they come out of the oven, to keep recipients safe from any COVID germs your family might be carrying. Adding a reminder to reheat should also kill any germs.
  • Pumpkins. Most areas have pumpkin patches. Grab your kids and go buy pumpkins for at risk people who aren’t getting out much. You can also offer to carve their pumpkins when it gets close to the end of October.
  • Pumpkin spice muffins. Grab a box of spice cake mix and a can of pumpkin (regular size, not extra large). Mix the cake mix, can of pumpkin and about ½ of the empty can of water. No need to add the other ingredients on the cake mix box. Put the batter in a muffin tin lined with muffin papers and bake at 350* until firm to the touch. Once again, wear masks and food gloves when handling cooked muffins. These taste better warmed, so that should also kill any germs when the recipient reheats them.
  • Fall Garden. Winter kale and cabbages as well as some herbs will produce during the fall months. Depending on your zone, you may still be able to plant and harvest foods you can share with others…especially those in food insecurity.
  • Fall flowers and decorations. Sunflowers, mums and other fall flowers are often cheap to purchase. Or have your kids gather acorns and colorful leaves and make an art project. Take them to someone who can’t get out safely to purchase those things and brighten their day.
  • Nuts. You can’t do this in every location, but in some places you can pick edible nuts off the ground. Make sure you are allowed to do it and know you are picking edible nuts (chestnuts for example can be edible or inedible depending upon the tree). Give them quickly as nuts can go rancid over time.
  • Leaf raking. This fall service project staple really does make a huge difference in the lives of homeowners who are in poor health or physically disabled. Make sure you are disposing of the leaves the way the homeowner wants them to be removed or used.

No matter which service projects you choose to do, having your kids make cards or drawings with a note and a scripture written on them, pretty much guarantees their faith sharing scripture will end up on the refrigerator of the recipient. It’s a great way to teach your kids about faith sharing and encouraging others as you help them choose which scripture to use. If they want to get really creative, they can make scripture art to share – with a service project or as a service project on its own.

You will have to carve out time and use some family resources to do some of these family service projects. It’s a great way though, to create family memories and help your kids learn how to put the pieces of a Christian life together.

6 Thinking Skills Christian Kids Need

As the secular world’s views take permanent hold on every aspect of our culture, it’s more important than ever your kids become critical thinkers. Not to try and rewrite the Bible so God allows them to do whatever they want, but so they can see through the arguments that are meant to encourage them to reject God.

We have had several recent posts about critical thinking skills, but there are some underlying cognitive or thinking skills that will help your kids on their Christian walk. You can do a lot of things at home that will help them sharpen these skills, while also teaching them how these gifts from God can help them stay close to God if they use them well.

  • Comprehension. Do your kids really understand what they are being taught at church and home about the Bible and what God wants from them and for them? Be careful. Just because your kids can quote a neatly turned phrase, doesn’t mean they really understand what it means, why it’s important to God or how to apply it to their lives.
  • Analysis. Can your kids analyze a doctrine, argument, philosophy and their own lives and compare them to God’s standard? Or are they comparing things to some other, less reliable or godly standard?
  • Creation. Can your kids take what they read in the Bible and create a life that is pleasing to God? Can they create a personal ministry that serves others and teaches them about God? Can they eventually create a family of their own that will be the Christian family God wants?
  • Creativity. Can they take the commands and principles in the Bible and apply them in situations that aren’t an exact match for what is in the Bible? In other words, can they take the commands and principles from a story like the Good Samaritan and apply them appropriately to a situation that doesn’t involve a man robbed and beaten, but in which god would expect the same commands and principles to be obeyed?
  • Communication. Can your kids clearly communicate what they believe to others? Can they communicate the Gospel message in a compelling way? Can they explain how God makes a difference in their lives? Can they explain what God wants from them and for them so others understand the importance of obedience?

Helping your kids work on these thinking skills can better prepare them for critical thinking, living the Christian life and sharing their faith. They’re part of the strong faith foundation your kids need to remain faithful to God in this secular world.

Teaching Your Kids to Fail Well

Failure is an odd topic in our culture. There are people who believe children shouldn’t experience failure, because it could somehow damage their fragile psyches. Others celebrate failure as something that makes us more approachable and even fun, looking down on those who want to learn, grow and improve from their failures.

As with many topics, God has some things He wants us to teach our kids about failure. Perhaps the first is the definition of failure. God doesn’t define success or failure by how much money your kids eventually make or how famous they become. To God success is living a life that ends with spending eternity in Heaven with Him.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with worldly success obtained in godly ways, your kids need to be taught their ultimate goal. Their standard of success is Heaven and the only real failure is rejecting God.

But what about all of those little failures in life that don’t necessarily have Heaven or Hell consequences? It’s important to teach your kids the difference between mistakes and sins. They have different motivations and different consequences. They also have some differences in how they need to be handled when each of those failures happens.

Mistakes are those little failures that have no connection to the commands God has given us. They may reveal a character flaw that needs additional work, but the motivation behind the original action was not a rebellion against God’s laws.

These mistakes happen regularly as children learn and grow. At times, you need to allow these mistakes to happen – and the natural consequences of those mistakes. Those natural consequences are often the best teacher. If your child doesn’t study enough for a test and misses answers, the consequence of a poor grade should provide the motivation for studying more the next time. There will be times when you will have to help your child make the connections between actions, failures, consequences and how to keep them from happening again in the future.

Other mistakes can arise from the clumsiness that often comes with a growth spurt or a lack of life experience. If no one has ever taught you to separate reds from whites when doing laundry, then the resulting pink clothes are a mistake from a lack of life experience.

Obviously, there are times when these mistakes require apologies, cleaning up the mess they created or making some sort of restitution. In general though, mistakes should be discussed with loving patience. Too much harsh criticism can make your kids so afraid of failure, they may be unwilling to do the good works God has planned for them. Like Moses, they will become paralyzed by their fear of failure – without the benefit of hearing God’s voice to help them work through those fears.

Finally, there are the mistakes your kids will make when they are trying something new. It may be learning a new concept in math or developing the gifts God has given them. They may make mistakes the first time they try to serve someone independently or share their faith. It is so crucial with these mistakes, that your response is encouraging. They need to learn to embrace these mistakes and learn and improve from them. If they stop trying because they are fearful of failure, it is highly unlikely they will ever reach their godly potential.

Sins on the other hand, come from a rebellious heart. Even though children before the age of accountability are not responsible for sins, they need to be taught that rebellion against God is unacceptable. Of course, this begins with rebelling against your authority by disobeying your rules. These failures are heart issues at their core – a selfishness that puts one’s own desires ahead of obedience and respect.

Heart issues are tough, but if dealt with at young ages you can help mold your kids hearts towards God. These failures must be discouraged and the heart molded away from selfish rebellion or your kids will have great difficulty obeying God as adults.

If your kids are old enough to become Christians, then it’s time to really focus on repentance and forgiveness. It’s important they understand repentance is not a kicking the dirt, glum, “sorry” to God. It is truly mourning the sin, asking God for forgiveness, thinking of ways to avoid committing the sin again and making any necessary restitution.

Failure is a complex subject, but taking the time and effort to help your kids understand it through God’s eyes can make them more resilient, more likely to use their gifts to serve God and share their faith and less likely to live a life enmeshed in sin. It’s worth every second you put in to helping your kids navigate failure in godly ways.

10 Truths Your Kids Must Know to Change the World

The great thing about kids and teens is their passion for changing the world. They notice things many adults have given up on trying to change. They have the innocence and passion to believe complex problems have simple solutions and that they have those solutions.

Unfortunately, Satan has a vested interested in the world’s problems remaining untouched. He will do what he can to discourage young people – especially Christian young people who might also teach those they are helping the things God wants them to know and do.

You can’t totally protect your kids from Satan’s interference, but you can lessen his effectiveness by teaching your kids some basic truths.

  • God has a plan. Find it. Follow it. God doesn’t want our world to be full of sin and chaos any more than we do. He gave us free will though so we aren’t just robots He controls. Unfortunately, many people believe because God doesn’t force us to follow His plan for how He wants things to be that He doesn’t have one. God has a plan. Your kids just need to be taught how to figure out what God’s plan is for solving the problem about which they are passionate and follow it. When they do that instead of trying to force their plan on to God, the implementation and results are often easier and better.
  • Pray. A Lot. Then really listen for God’s answers. Many people who want to make the world a better place, forget to pray to God for His guidance and assistance. Or when they do, they ignore all of the people and circumstances He sends to tell them to go in a different direction. Prayers often don’t seem to work, because we fail to remember it’s a conversation and we need to listen as much, if not more, than we talk.
  • Use their gifts or ask someone to help who was given the gifts you need. There are times when God asks us to do something for a period for which we are only adequate. In general though, God has built everyone a lane and their most effective ministry occurs when they stay in that lane. World changers often give up because they are trying to do tasks which God meant for them to ask others to do.
  • Take advantage of the opportunities God gives them. Sure, their plan may be more fun than the opportunity God is giving them right now, but there is a reason He wants them to serve in this way at this moment. Turning down those less glamorous, less fun opportunities God gives them to serve, may mean their personal ministry will never reach its full potential.
  • Be patiently impatient. God’s timing is perfect. Sometimes that means we need to wait until it is in His plans for us to do the next thing. On the other hand, sometimes God can’t use us, because we refuse to do all of those little things He is giving us to do now. Or we procrastinate for any number of reasons. Or we let others discourage us from pursuing the dream God has given us for our personal ministry. The key is balance.
  • Do their homework and be humble enough to learn from those who have gone before them. There is often an underlying arrogance about those wanting to change the world. They believe because previous people have failed to completely solve the problem, they have nothing of value to teach newcomers. They may indeed have a bright great new idea that will work. Or they may be getting ready to waste a lot of unnecessary time, energy and money on something that is not going to work. Ask questions, listen, learn…then analyze and make choices.
  • Remember bigger isn’t always better. It’s better to start small and let God give them a larger territory if it’s in His plan rather than starting too large and failing miserably – hurting others unnecessarily in the process.
  • Empathy Works. Sympathy doesn’t. Too many people in ministries and charities are full of sympathy. Unfortunately, that reads like they have all the answers and the people they are serving have nothing of value to offer. Empathy looks for commonalities. It learns from those it is serving rather than assuming it is the only one with the solution to the problem. Empathy loves like Jesus.
  • Equip and empower. Don’t boss and control. Ineffective leaders feel the need to control and boss people around. Effective leaders find people gifted in certain areas and equip, support, nurture and empower them.
  • Remember the ultimate goal is to help as many people as possible get to Heaven. Earthly needs and problems are important. If we help solve those, but don’t teach anyone about what God wants for them and from them, we have failed as Christians. We cannot and should not ignore earthly needs, but we can’t let them distract us to the point where we forget eternity is forever and our primary goal should always be to help people spend eternity in Heaven.

Who knows what good works God has planned for your children? If you help them learn these truths when they are young though, it is much more likely they will help the world be more like God planned it to be.