In Top Tips for Teaching Kids About Empathy, we shared some basic tips for teaching empathy. To really raise empathetic kids though, they need a lot of practice seeing the world in different ways. (This is in no way an attempt to water down God’s Truths, rather to understand relationship dynamics caused by different points of view.) Fortunately, there are a lot of fun things you can do to help your kids begin to develop an empathetic heart.
When I train mission teams, I usually ask them what their goals are for the experience. The most common answer is to “love them like Jesus”. To “be the hands and feet of Jesus” is really just another way of expressing the same idea. When pressed what those expressions look like in the “real life” mission experience, I have yet to have a young person be able to articulate what they need to actually do to fulfill what they consider their mandate. This is not only sad, but a bit scary. Undefined, those teens will believe they have “been the hands and feet of Jesus” no matter what they did or did not do.
Nick Vujicic attempts in his latest book Be the Hands and Feet to help readers understand in more practical terms what being “the hands and feet of Jesus” really means. Full disclosure – I am a huge Nick Vujicic fan. His way of viewing his disabilities through the lens of God and not man is not only refreshing, but I have personally witnessed the positive effect his message has on children with special needs and their families.
One of the hardest things about this ministry is seeing all of the wasted potential in the church and in the lives of children and teens. God gives each of us potential to make an impact on the world by serving the church and others and sharing our faith. Yet much of it lies untapped for a variety of reasons. Most are living lives that are a mere shadow of what God had intended for them to be.
Those who reach the potential God gives them have some of the richest, fullest lives I have ever witnessed. They know their purpose. Their lives have meaning and their connection to God is strong. Their faith allows them to cope with the problems of living in a fallen world with grace.
So, what do you need to do to help your kids reach their godly potential? These tips should get you started.
Gift giving to kids always fascinates me. There are the families who encourage their kids to ask for donations to charity instead of gifts for themselves. There are families who have a three or four gift limit. There are grandparents who shower kids in presents. There are uncles, aunts and friends who purposely seek out the most annoying gifts possible for your kids in order to amuse themselves.
My theory is that if you want your kids to reach their godly potential and become mighty men and women of God, there are special gifts you should give them. Don’t worry. Many of them are actually more fun than those plastic toys with a million pieces (although some of these are probably also plastic with a million pieces…). Yet these gifts have a secondary purpose. They are gifts that make your kids think or help them discover some of the gifts God may (or may not) have given them. Hopefully, they will point your kids towards who God created them to be.
So what are these gifts? In the list below, I have given you categories, but also a link to an example in that category to start your thinking. (I am not endorsing any particular company, brand or product including the website to which the link takes you. I merely want to give you a visual of the types of things I am suggesting.)