Christians often get bogged down trying to figure out which of the gifts on the list in 1 Corinthians God gave them. It’s one of the reasons kids and teens are rarely taught about discovering, developing and using the gift or gifts God gave them to serve Him. It’s little wonder they often believe there’s no place or purpose for them in God’s Kingdom.
It’s easier to instead focus on the gifts God gave people in Exodus 36 to do the work He wanted them to do in the building of the Tabernacle. Even kids can understand God gave them gifts of talents they can use to serve Him. It’s concrete, easy to understand and biblical. Those spiritual gifts in Corinthians often reveal themselves as we use our other gifts to serve God.
Some kids seem to be born knowing what their gifts are. Others discover them naturally as they explore the world around them. Some, however, will struggle and believe God didn’t give them a gift. We know He gave every child at least one gift. The problem is that we often lack the creativity to see those gifts and help young people figure out how to use them to serve God.
Here’s a list of possible gifts to get you started. Go over the list with each of your kids. Use the quiz in the last post to help you focus your search. Then have fun helping your kids develop and use those gifts to serve God!
Do your kids know the gifts God gave them to serve Him? The truth is that you may still be struggling to figure out what your own gifts from God may be. Often if churches even address giftedness, they use the scripture in Corinthians about spiritual gifts and a long inventory to “help”. Often, those exercises just leave people more confused than ever and teens and kids are often excluded entirely from the conversation.
Why not make the entire exercise a bit more concrete and practical – easy enough to use with even relatively young children? We suggest that instead of starting in Corinthians, you show your kids Exodus 31. In this chapter, it discusses how God used what we call the “secular” gifts or talents of various individuals to build the Tabernacle. It also explains how God gave certain individuals a little extra bit of talent so they could do the work well.
Then read to them the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. Although there is more than one way to interpret this parable, it is acceptable to equate the money “talent” with what we now call talents or gifts. Point out that each person received a different number of talents, but each received at least one talent. Note that the master was only upset with the man who didn’t do anything with his talent at all.
Explain to your kids that God gave each of them at least one talent. One of their jobs as a Christian (or future Christian) is to find, develop and use their talent or talents to serve God. To get started, ask each of your kids to answer the following questions:
What classes or training have they had that have taught you anything that might be considered a talent? (These can be at school or extracurricular classes…even one time classes.)
When someone compliments you, what are the two or three attributes they most often mention?
What is your favorite class in school?
In what class is it easiest for you to make a good grade?
What jobs (if they are old enough) or volunteer work have you done in the past?
Which ones did you enjoy the most and why?
What are your hobbies?
What type of non-fiction books (or YouTube videos if they watch instructional ones) do you enjoy the most?
What are some things you do well, but don’t necessarily consider a talent?
If you could learn or try something new, what would it be?
What is something you love doing (or would love to do), but don’t feel as if you would do it well?
If someone asks you for help or advice, what is it that is most often asked of you?
After your child has answered all of the questions, look at the answers together. Is there a pattern? Is there a particular gift already demonstrated? Is there an interest that might also indicate a gift if they are given opportunities to develop it? Don’t limit yourself to more obvious gifts like artistic talent, teaching talent, etc. In our next post, we will give you a list of more subtle talents that God can use as much as the more obvious ones.
Taking the time to help your kids discover, develop and use their gifts to serve God is the beginning of their understanding their place and role in God’s Kingdom and the good works He has planned for them to do.
As a Christian parent, you’ve probably heard the story of the Good Samaritan. He was actually in a parable told by Jesus. A man was walking along a road when he was beaten, robbed and left for dead. A priest and a Levite walked right by the injured man. Although the most likely candidates to help someone, they were filled with excuses and kept going. Then a Samaritan, who culturally should have hated the injured man, stopped and provided a great deal of assistance.
The point of the parable, you may wonder? Jesus wanted it to be clear that hearts and actions are more important than words. One would think Christians and even those exposed to the story would be automatic helpers in a crisis, but a study found that only 7% of people even stopped to check on a biker who was “injured”.
How do you raise your kids to be the Good Samaritan and not the religious people who didn’t stop to help? How can you help your kids be in that 7% of people who helped?
There are six key traits of children who live their lives, making serving others a priority.
Loving Empathy. We tend to think these are two separate character traits, but you must have empathy to truly love someone. The priest and the Levite couldn’t put themselves in the place of the injured man. They couldn’t imagine themselves being in a similar situation. Their love for the man wasn’t evident, because they felt no connection to him.
Sense of Purpose. One could argue the priest and Levite thought they knew their purpose in serving God, but they missed the point of the Law. Yes, God wanted them to take care of the Temple and teach the Law, but God’s main purpose was for them to love Him with all their heart, soul and mind and love their neighbor as themselves. Had they known and embraced their full purpose in serving God, they would have realized helping the injured man was more important than where they were going. Your kids need to fully understand and embrace from a young age that their purpose in God’s Kingdom includes serving others and sharing their faith.
Godly Priorities. Life is about choices. Your kids need to have a great understanding of God’s priorities for their life and match their priorities to His. The priest and Levite misunderstood God’s priorities and replaced the important with the urgent. They focused on chores rather than service and ministry.
Time Management Skills. We don’t know much about the priest and the Levite. One has to wonder, though. If they had stopped and helped the injured man, would they really have missed doing what they were going to do? Maybe if they had gotten up a few minutes earlier or been better organized, they could have easily done both things. In the study mentioned earlier, the majority of the 93% who didn’t help the injured biker cited lack of time as their reason. If your kids learn how to trim wasted time and manage their time in an organized fashion, they will accomplish more of the good works God has planned for them to do.
Generosity. The parable doesn’t address the priest and Levite’s financial concerns, if any, but it does tell us the Good Samaritan spent money on the care of the injured man. There’s no indication he expected it to be paid back or wanted anything in return for his generosity. The Samaritan recognized money was needed to care for the man and he was more than willing to share what he had to make sure those caring for the man had enough money to do so. Your kids need to learn to be generous with their time and money to truly be Good Samaritans.
Skills. We don’t know what skills or talents God had gifted to the Good Samaritan. Maybe he was a doctor. Maybe he knew first aid. Good Samaritans don’t always need to use a skill to help someone, but if they do it’s important to be ready. Your kids need to discover and be developing their gifts from God so when they need them to serve Him, they will be ready.
Courage. The parable doesn’t mention whether or not the Good Samaritan had any fear in the moment he decided to help. He would have been justified if he had been afraid though. Those robbers could still be lurking nearby and attack him. The man was a Jew and he was a Samaritan. The hatred between the two groups was huge. People would walk miles out of their way to avoid touching the very land where Samaritans lived. There could have been repercussions for touching a Jew, much less helping one. Whether he was courageous by nature or had to summon the courage to help, the Good Samaritan showed courage by stopping and helping. Your kids need to understand God may ask them to help others in ways that feel scary to them. They will need to learn to trust in God and be brave to do those good works God has planned for them.
Good Samaritans are lovingly created by parents teaching and molding their children to be who God created them to be…someone who willingly serves others. Taking the time to develop these traits in your kids will make it more likely they will be life long Good Samaritans.
There is a lot of misinformation floating around Christian circles about how children were perceived, educated and involved in spiritual life during the time of Jesus and in the early Church. Often this misinformation is based on writers who didn’t thoroughly research the topic or didn’t have access to primary source documents and then that incomplete or inaccurate information used as an excuse for the often subpar spiritual education provided by Churches (i.e. “It’s the parents’ responsibility, not the Church’s, to provide quality spiritual education for children. It wasn’t provided during Bible times, so why do we need to provide it now? It’s not an issue if young people aren’t really learning anything in our Bible classes.”)
The reality of spiritual education for Jesus and other Jewish children during his childhood and for the children of early Christians was more nuanced. The reality of spiritual education in those times does not in any way remove the responsibility of the Christian community found in the Church to assist parents by providing quality spiritual training for children. This post may be a bit more academic than most of our posts, but if you want to engage in meaningful conversations on the topic, you need to be armed with some helpful background information.
First, those who dismiss or minimize the need for quality religious instruction in ministry settings are at least partially correct. In the early Old Testament times, parents were the primary source of spiritual education. In fact, parents did not view childhood as a time to focus on play, but rather on preparing for adulthood both spiritually and in the roles their children would play as adults.
Parents actively taught their children the scriptures, gave them correction when they disobeyed or showed character that was not what God would want and modeled the life God wanted them to live. They also used the various Feasts in the Bible as interactive ways to review important Bible stories, commands and principles. Children were also expected to sit and listen whenever the priests read the Law to the people.
Things changed when the Jews were taken into captivity and again when they returned. The synagogues began during captivity to replace at least some of the functions of the destroyed Temple. They were kept upon the people’s return to Israel and it seems every village had its own synagogue that was used for worship and as a school for children.
Synagogues were tasked with keeping the people on track spiritually through teaching and other activities. This included helping the parents educate their children. In 75 B.C.E. elementary education was declared compulsory, so Jesus, like all of the other Jewish children of his time would have attended school at the local synagogue. There is some debate about how much education girls were given, with the general consensus that primarily boys attended the synagogue schools, but girls were often homeschooled with a similar curriculum.
The teachers used what we call the Old Testament as the only textbook. Children began attending school at about the same age as children today. They were taught to read using the Bible and were tasked with memorizing large portions of scripture including Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21, Numbers 15:37-41, Psalms 113-118 (chapters), the first several chapters of Genesis and the essence of Leviticus/the Law. They also each had to memorize a portion of scripture that was determined by the child’s name and contained about twenty verses. They of course were also taught what the scriptures meant and how to live them in their lives.
There were two basic types of synagogue schools in the time of Jesus. The one Jesus attended focused more on the spiritual teachings of the Law and the Prophets rather than the many oral traditions that had developed over the years. Children were also taught mathematics, astronomy and the natural sciences, which they somehow related back to the scriptures. There is thought that the science lessons were actually based on writings of Solomon that are no longer available, although I couldn’t find any actual evidence those existed and were used in synagogue schools.
In the afternoon, children went home to learn a trade they would ply as adults. This means about four hours a day were spent in active religious instruction in addition to what the parents taught and reinforced at home. This amount of time is interesting, because recent research is finding kids who are engaged in about 15-20 hours a week spiritually (including independent engagement in spiritual disciplines, worship and conversations about God) were more likely to be active, productive Christians as adults than children who spent much less time engaged in spiritual pursuits as children.
The early Christians must have realized the necessity of controlling their children’s education fairly early. After the split with Judaism and the inclusion of Gentiles in Christianity, the synagogue schools would have no longer been an option. Not enough research has been done on the topic, but the little that has been done suggests an early mix of education for children raised in Christian homes.
Many children who were not Jewish had been attending secular Roman schools. Some parents initially left their children in those schools and supplemented with religious instruction at home. Unfortunately, Roman schools also taught Roman morals and the Roman religion which did not align with Christianity. As a result, it appears many Christians began homeschooling their children. As the persecution of Christians began to die down, the first Christian schools emerged to help parents.
Spiritual education for children was a top priority for the Jews and the early Christians. In fact, the Talmud says, “The world is preserved by the breath of children in the schools.” The Talmud also says, “Jerusalem was destroyed because the education of children was neglected.” It’s important to remember the goal of education was spiritual – not secular – even though some secular topics were taught. The writers of the Talmud realized, the moment they stopped doing their very best to teach their children what God wanted them to know, was also the moment everything fell apart. If we look at the world around us and the Church at large, we may be seeing the same dynamic at play. It’s past time to make the spiritual education of our children our number one priority.
Parents will often tell their kids that they can do anything they put their minds to do. The implication being that with enough hard work, anything is possible. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Other factors can prevent your kids from achieving their dreams, but were those the right dreams anyway?
The Bible tells us God has good works planned for each of us to do. It also tells us that He loves us enough to know the number of hairs on our heads! I doubt even the most loving mother could tell you the number of hairs on the heads of each of her kids, but she still has plans and dreams for them. It only makes sense that God cares about more details in our lives than we often give Him credit for having.
God has specific plans He would like for each of your kids to follow. Obviously, becoming a Christian is one of those plans. Obeying His commands is another. Serving others and sharing their faith would also fall under plans God has for your kids. There is a reason though, all of your kids are at least a bit different – with different gifts, talents, interests and passions. They were hard wired by God to be able to do the good works He has planned for them to do. Some of those good works will overlap with where they attend school, live or the careers they choose.
So why don’t Christian parents tell their kids they can do anything if it’s in God’s plans for their lives? Why aren’t we spending more time helping them discover their gifts and passions and helping them match those up with potential careers? Why aren’t we spending more time teaching them about vocational ministry – finding ways to serve others, share their faith and be a light in the world while at work, school or even home? Why aren’t we equipping them to discern God’s plans for their lives, so it will be easier to follow them?
Instead, parents often either micromanage their kids’ choices or encourage them to think almost selfishly…focusing on plans that will make them happy. Christian parents need to spend more time teaching our kids how to focus on being more holy. Happiness may or may not come with holiness, but joy always does. We need to teach our kids how to dream godly dreams. Dreams the Holy Spirit is perhaps placing on their hearts for ways to minister to others. It may be through their career or in their time outside of the job…hopefully, both.
“You can do anything” may be encouraging your kids to do what they want to do – whether or not it is in God’s plans for their lives. It encourages them to make major life decisions by bringing God into them late in the process – if at all. It encourages them to perhaps even push past walls God has set up to protect them from that choice. If you have been telling your kids they can do anything, try switching the dialogue. Point them to including God and following the plans He has for their lives. Everyone will benefit from the change.