Did you know a common resilience activity for children and teens who have experienced trauma is to help them define their support network? Whom do they know that will listen to them, give them emotional support and help them problem solve? The truth is that all young people need to develop a support network – even if they never experience a traumatic event.
Christian children and teens need an extra dynamic in their support networks. As our world moves more and more towards secularism, whom can your children depend upon to give them godly advice? Since all wisdom comes from God, it makes sense that those sharing God’s wisdom will be giving the most helpful advice and counsel.
Ask your children whom they would talk if they had a problem. If those people weren’t available, to whom else could they turn? Why did they choose those particular people? Even though it’s not required, often children and teens prefer to go to someone they like for help. Talk about the value of godly advice – even if it’s not coming from someone who is ”fun” or ”popular”.
If your children can’t quickly name two or three strong Christians to whom they would turn for help if family weren’t available or if they aren’t choosing people who would give them godly advice, you have some work to do. Explain some of the people you would trust to take care of them. Tell them why you think those are the best people for them to ask for help. Find ways to have your children spend quality time with these people, so they feel comfortable with them and will hopefully decide to place them towards the top of their list of helpers.
Life has lots of twists and turns. You may not always have an opportunity to be there to support your children emotionally and spiritually when they are struggling. Making sure they have plenty of godly options as helpers will give your children an extra layer of protection.
Goals can be tricky for Christians. The Bible teaches that while it can be good to make plans, we still need to make room for God to adjust or change those plans. Christians also shouldn’t focus on selfish goals… which then requires one to define the term selfish that matches the definition God would give. All of these twists and turns in goal setting can leave people confused. Setting and meeting goals is tough enough, this added spiritual level can cause many to give up.
Which is sad, because most of us could benefit from having a few spiritual goals. Your kids need to learn how to set goals that are godly, help them better reflect the image of God and see how God may want them to adjust, drop or add goals. So how do you do that in a way that makes sense to your kids?
Explain God’s plans for everyone. God has predetermined goals for His people. First of course, is to become a Christian at the age of accountability. Naturally, obeying God’s commands would also be a goal God has for your children. The Great Commission gives us two more goals – serving others and sharing our faith with them. Finally, we know God has planned good works for each person to do in his or her lifetime. As for other areas of life, it is a little less clear how specific God’s plans for your children may be and in which areas He may leave a lot of room for personal taste. This is why it is so important for your children to learn how to see God trying to adjust their goals.
Modified SMART goals are most effective. Because we want to pay attention to God, the key elements for your children when they create goals is are they specific and measurable? “Read the Bible more.” won’t work as well as “Read a chapter of the Bible every day.” Teach them God will decide whether the goal is realistic and achievable. The ”T” is a little trickier. On some goals, it can help to have a deadline, but they need to understand God’s timing is perfect and they may need to adjust their timeline to meet God’s.
Prayer is a crucial part of the process. This is where many Christians make their first mistake. They either don’t pray at all or pray fully expecting God to bend to their will. Effective prayers should ask for wisdom and the humility to see and accept God’s guidance.
Brick walls can be a ”sign” or not. This part is possibly the hardest. Is Satan trying to block your child from becoming more godly or is God trying to get your child to change or modify the goal? Often, more time makes things clearer. Keep praying and try again later. Ask strong Christians for godly advice. Try going in a different direction and see what happens. It’s not a science, but with practice it does get a bit easier.
Don’t become enamored with a goal. So many Christians ignore obvious signs God sends them to abandon a goal, because they are certain God would want them to “be happy”. Teach your children, that if multiple strong Christians urge them to abandon a goal (like marrying a specific person), it’s very likely the Holy Spirit may be moving them to issue an important warning.
Work on only two or three goals at a time. If your children set too many goals, they can become overwhelmed and quit. They can have a master wish list of goals, but should focus on only a couple of those at a time. As they reach a goal, they can add a new one from the list.
Teach them to develop strategies. Your kids need to break down goals into action steps or develop strategies for achieving a goal. This step requires extra time and effort, but will make it much more likely they will reach a goal.
Some goals require help from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit – which happens at baptism. Many people who were never baptized don’t understand why they are struggling with things like the Fruit of the Spirit. It’s because the Holy Spirit is a gift given Christians at baptism. We need that extra help to truly become who God wants us to be. Those without the Holy Spirit may achieve some success, but it is a lot more difficult without that extra help.
Goals can be set any day of the year. Waiting until New Year’s or Monday probably means the goal will never truly be set or achieved. Even tomorrow can become a way to procrastinate. Starting new goals now, gets the ball rolling immediately.
Go grab your kids and start teaching them about setting goals. Who knows what God will accomplish through all of you once you know how to see Him directing your steps?
As someone tangentially involved with multiple ministries and non-profits, I have recently realized Christians are leaving out some critical conversations about careers with their children – especially their teens. You may have discussed with your kids how to match their talents and interests with a career. Most likely, you have discussed the importance of being able to cover living expenses with a career. You may have even briefly discussed vocational ministry (the idea of using one’s job or career to serve God regardless of what it may be) with them.
What you may not realize is that there is a critical need in many ministries and non profits for people with specific career training. While your child can serve God in almost any career or job, Christian ministries and non-profits are finding there is a critical absence of Christians with training needed to fill key positions.
Of course, full time ministry always needs gifted, faithful Christians, but there are other needs as well. Christian schools need Christians with teaching degrees in just about every subject. As the teacher shortage grows more severe, Christian schools struggle to find enough qualified Christians to hire. Likewise, Christian universities struggle to find enough strong, productive Christians with Phd’s in a variety of fields to fill university openings.
Christian foster care and adoption agencies often struggle to find Christians with degrees in social work. Many Christian ministries could use qualified Christians in the mental health fields. Mission teams often need medical professionals like doctors, nurses, techs and dentists, as well as physical, occupational and speech therapists to assist in areas where those professionals are often unavailable.
Beyond these fields, the world could use more Christians who live their faith in fields like politics, entertainment, journalism and business. While these probably fit in the more traditional idea of vocational ministry, a quick look at the world around us makes it evident how badly we need more Christians to stand up and live their faith in their chosen occupation.
So the next time you talk about possible careers with your children, encourage them to at least learn about these underserved fields. They may just find that is where God is calling them to minister to the world around them.
Life is full of choices and the older your children get, the more freedom they will have to make choices independently. Unless they have been taught how to make godly decisions, they may base their choices on their emotions, the pressure from friends or a number of other reasons that don’t necessarily factor in what God wants them to do.
As Christians, we should attempt to make all of our decisions based on the commands and principles of God. God may not care if we wear a blue shirt or a green one, but your kids will make a lot of decisions where God definitely has a preference regarding which option He wants them to choose.
So how can you prepare your kids to make godly decisions – especially since we know making sinful choices often leads to negative consequences that can last a lifetime? There are many things you can do, but here are some of our favorites.
Discussing and acting out scenarios. Will your children be facing a tough situation soon? Have a discussion about how God would want them to handle the situation. If they are nervous about what they will say or do, encourage them to practice with you playing the role of the other person. Feeling confident in their decision and how they will tell those who may not agree, can make it easier for them to follow through with those godly decisions that are counter cultural.
Encouraging pre-decisions. It is much easier to say “no” to peer pressure if you have already decided that will be your response. Most children and teens can’t process a complex situation and what God might want them to do quickly enough to make consistently good choices. If they have already decided they will not do something (or will do something good), it can be easier to withstand pressure and stick with the godly choice.
Studying scripture and its real life applications as a family. No matter how wonderful your congregation may be, they will not be able to teach your children everything in the Bible and how to apply it to their lives. Studying scripture as a family – making sure to discuss how God wants us to apply each passage to our daily lives – gives your children a mental tool box full of God’s wisdom, principles and commands. They can use those tools to analyze their choices and come to a decision that will please God.
Teaching them a godly decision making model. Children can benefit for being taught a model to use when they are faced with a difficult choice. We have a free printable resource that walks them through the steps. (Also available in Spanish and Ukrainian.)
Modeling and explaining godly decision making. Did you and your spouse decide to turn down a promotion at work because it meant too much time away from your family or some other godly reason? Your kids need to see how you make those tough decisions and how you factored God’s principles and commands into your choice. Of course, this should be done in age appropriate ways, but if your kids never see the process modeled, how are they going to do it themselves?
Discussing long term thinking and potential long term consequences. One of the challenges young people often face in decision making is thinking beyond the moment. They can see cheating on the test may give them a better grade, but fail to factor in what will happen if they get caught. Should young people obey God because they love Him rather than from fear of negative consequences? That’s the eventual goal, but it often starts with understanding God’s wisdom in guiding you to live in such a way that it minimizes unnecessary negative consequences.
Don’t leave your children unprepared to make godly decisions. Spend plenty of time teaching them how to make decisions that will be pleasing to God.
Over the years, I have noticed that sermons and Bible classes discussing serving others and sharing our faith tend to go one of two ways. Either they are extremely general in nature or (if it’s a class specifically for kids or teens) it focuses on doing little basic things around the home or school. As a result, kids and teens often get more specific ideas and encouragement about ways to serve others from secular sources. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing except that they begin to believe serving others happens more in a secular environment and they don’t learn the importance of connecting sharing their faith to service (or how to do it).
You may not be able to change this dynamic in your church very easily, but you can do some things with your own kids to help them learn about some of the many ways Christians serve others and share their faith around the world. This more specific knowledge can help them begin dreaming about how they can serve God and share their faith using their own talents and opportunities – now and in the future as adults.
Here are a few ways to expose your kids to more specific ideas of ways to serve God, while sharing their faith.
Invite people to share their stories with your kids. Since hospitality has been shown to be a key ingredient in successful Christian parenting, get even more benefits by inviting over people who serve God and share their faith. Encourage them to share their stories with your kids. What are they doing? How did they get involved in those ways? What skills and knowledge did they need to be effective?
Share books, articles and social media posts with your kids. Many people in ministry share their stories in a variety of ways. Follow lots of different people to get a taste of a variety of experiences. In my own ministry, for example, I would have never mentioned ministering to children who have been through a war. Then this year, a war broke out in a country where I do quite a bit if ministry work. I had a steep learning curve about ministering effectively to young people who have lived through a war. I also shared what I learned with others through my ministry. Your teens could have read the ebook that resulted and learned about what would be involved in helping children of war (who are often underserved around the world). While they might not be ready to do much yet, it can plant a seed either for more skills they want to learn or for ministry they hope to do in the future.
Explore secular non profits and discuss ways to adapt them so they would also include faith sharing. Secular non profits do some great things. They just don’t include the faith sharing piece God wants us to include in everything we do. Explore with your kids what different non profits are doing. How could a few things be changed to point those they are helping to God? (Note: For teens, the discussion should include funding. Many Christian groups become secular because access to government funds is often restricted if Jesus is mentioned. How could they find funding and still share their faith?)
Encourage dreaming, brainstorming and experimenting. Your kids need time to dream these godly dreams. Encourage them to brainstorm ways to solve the problems they see in the world around them by serving others and sharing their faith. Allow them to take some first steps towards something that interests them. Look at ”failure” as a learning experience. Not every idea will work, but sometimes what they learn from their mistakes leads to an idea that will work well.
Encourage shadowing, mentoring and apprenticeships. Do your kids seems particularly interested in a specific area? Is there a Christian doing those things that would allow your child to shadow him or her for a day or a project? Would they be willing to mentor your child? What about an apprenticeship where your child will be providing actual help on a ministry project? Encourage your kids to learn as much as they can and think of ways to make the ministry even more effective. Even if that ministry doesn’t like the ideas, they may be useful to your child in the future.
Don’t raise kids who have no specific ideas of ways they can serve others or share their faith. Or kids who think doing an occasional extra chore around the house or being kind to someone at school fulfills God’s commands for them to serve others and share their faith. Help them be prepared to fully serve God every day of their lives.