Unique Career Guidance for Christian Young People

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.

Fun Family Activity That Teaches Your Kids About the Needs of Others

If you think back to the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), one of the themes is whether or not we are willing to notice the needs of others. The priest and the Levite “saw” the badly beaten man, but they didn’t want to acknowledge the man’s needs in any way that might require them to actually get involved and provide assistance.

Many Christians go through their daily lives in a similar fashion. They may see a need someone has, but find ways to rationalize the fact that they don’t get involved with any number of seemingly valid reasons. Yet those who have the needs not only continue to have a crucial need, but they may also miss out on an opportunity to learn about Jesus or have their faith in God strengthened.

What if you trained your children to be different? To not ignore someone’s needs, but seek out that knowledge? To not only pray for someone, but also put in the effort to get involved in meeting that need? There’s a fun activity you can do with your children, that can begin laying the groundwork for their service to others in life.

Pick an area to explore, like your neighborhood or some public place where you are likely to encounter a lot of people. Explain to your children the challenge before you go. Start by reading or telling them the story of the Good Samaritan. Point out how the priest and Levite acted almost as if they didn’t actually see the man. Explain that often we can act the same way. We look the other way, so we don’t have to get involved. Today your family is going to be different. You are going to look for needs and meet as many of them as you can.

This activity is actually a scavenger hunt of sorts. Perhaps you notice a neighbor hasn’t picked up their paper from their driveway. You can move it to the door they use to save them a few steps and brighten their day. Perhaps another neighbor hasn’t had an opportunity to rake their leaves. If your family worked together, you could rake a yard in just a short time. (You may want to ask permission first, if you think the neighbor might get upset.)

Sometimes the little things – like holding open a door or thanking a worker for doing a great job – can make a person’s day brighter. Your family can bring a little light into their lives. Other times, the project may require a little effort on the part of your family. Occasionally, your family may notice a need that is too big for your family to meet. Can you brainstorm ways to get the need met anyway? Perhaps involving other families or your church or finding non-profits or agencies who can help.

Be creative. Do this regularly as a regular reminder of how God wants you to serve others. Encourage your children to look for similar opportunities at school or work each day. Make sure your family is the Good Samaritan and not the priest or Levite.

What David & Goliath Can Teach Your Kids About Being Ready

You and your children have probably heard the story of David and Goliath used to talk about trusting God and courage, but did you know it is also a great story about being ready when God has a good deed prepared for you or your children to do in service to Him? Although we rarely mention it, the story also illustrates the importance of discovering, developing and using the gifts God has given each of your children to serve Him.

Found in 1 Samuel 17, the story tells us that before his battle with Goliath, David was a shepherd. In David’s time, shepherds needed to protect their sheep from predators like lions and bears. In fact, David had to protect his flock from both at one point. Since guns hadn’t been invented yet and hand to hand combat with a lion probably wouldn’t end well for the shepherd, shepherds were slingers.

Slingers learned to use a sling and stones so well that an excellent slinger could release a stone from a sling so that it hit its target with the force of a bullet! Many armies at that time had entire units of slingers. Of course, to reach the level of skill and accuracy needed, a slinger had to put in hours and hours of practice. Since shepherding is generally not the most exciting of jobs, David probably had plenty of time to practice slinging. To have already defeated a lion and a bear, indicates David was a great slinger (even if God did put a little extra something in it for Goliath).

Although David might have had the natural talent to become a great slinger, he wouldn’t have become one without practice. It also didn’t matter how great of a slinger he was, if he did not trust God enough to use his slinging to take on Goliath, he would not have been a part of the story.

It’s often tempting when we have been given a gift by God, to not take the time and effort to develop it to its fullest. Without that hard work, when God has a good work He wants our kids to do using that gift, they may not be ready. While God may use someone else to accomplish His purposes, your child will have missed out on an important opportunity to serve God.

To help your children understand how much practice David needed to be ready to serve God in fighting Goliath, you can mimic the challenge. Take a small scrap of pliable leather. Cut it into a sling sized oval and punch a hole on each end. String a long, thin leather strip through each end, making the final length of both strips equal. For safety, use ping pong balls instead of rocks. Set up a target. Can your kids hit the target? What about from a distance? Obviously, a rock would be difficult to compare exactly to a ping pong ball, but it should give them a rough idea. If they get lucky and hit the target on the first try, point out that slingers needed to hit certain areas for the stone to do enough damage. Can they hit a very small area on the target accurately, from a distance?

Afterwards, point out that David also practiced his music as a shepherd, playing the lyre. He was good enough, that he was asked to move into the palace to play music to soothe King Saul. That gave David an opportunity to observe the duties of a king and learn how to be a king himself (or often what not to do as king) many years before he actually became one.

Talk with your children about their gifts from God. Help them identify at least some of them. Encourage them to develop them so they will be ready to use them for serving God when they have an opportunity. Help them find ways they can use their gift to serve God now. Who knows, you may be raising a child like David – who God wants to use to do something critically important to the Kingdom!

Fun Gratitude Ideas For Families

Thanksgiving should be exactly that – a day of giving thanks to God for all of the blessings in our lives. Yet, Christian families should express gratitude on a daily basis. It’s sometimes easier though to see what is missing in our lives than what is there. As a result we can fall into the habit of complaining more than we express gratitude – to God and those around us. And since habits are often contagious in families, if you have forgotten daily gratitude, so have your children.

There are lots of fun things you can do with your kids to express gratitude – not just on Thanksgiving or during the month of November, but all year long. Here are some of our favorites.

  • A gratitude bucket. For some reason, in Luke 6:38 when Jesus talks about blessings being tamped down and overflowing (because we have given a lot back to God and to help others ourselves), I think of a bucket. Dollar stores often sell small buckets to use for decorative purposes. Place your blessings bucket in the middle of your kitchen or dining table with slips of paper and pens beside it. Encourage family members and visitors to write the things they are grateful for on the slips and place them in the bucket. Periodically, pull out the slips and read them as a family. How quickly can your family fill the bucket with gratitude? Can you fill a full sized bucket with gratitude, too?
  • A rose amongst thorns. Is your family having a particularly bad day – or series of days? It’s okay for everyone to vent, but put a strict time limit on it. Then spend twice as much time talking about the blessings God has given you that day in spite of the thorns you had to endure.
  • A gratitude wall. It doesn’t have to actually be a wall, but find a large space you can cover with paper. Encourage family members to cover the “wall” with the things for which they are thankful. Make sure the paper is thick enough to keep the writing from bleeding through or you may need to repaint the wall after all. If you want to go all out, paint a wall or an area with chalkboard paint and provide chalk for people to use to decorate your gratitude wall.
  • A family gratitude journal. Take some time at the end of each day to sit down as a family and add a few entries to your gratitude journal. To make the time a mini family devotional, share a few verses of scripture and end your journaling time with a prayer of thanksgiving for all of your many blessings.
  • Gratitude baskets. It could actually be a little token of some sort or a card or note. Periodically, spend time as a family creating thank you items for those to whom you are grateful. Pay special attention to thanking those who are often forgotten, like garbage collectors, mail carriers, Bible class teachers, kind neighbors, restaurant servers and store keepers. Discuss with your children how often we take people for granted who are helpful or kind. Remind them to constantly thank others each day.
  • Gratitude tsunami. This takes a little more effort, but can make the impact of gratitude more obvious to your children. Help your kids plan and execute a gratitude tsunami for someone like the school janitor or custodian, a bus driver or the person at church who is always especially kind to children. What’s a gratitude tsunami? At a specific time on a particular day arrange for as many people as possible to flood that person with notes, tokens of appreciation and verbal gratitude. The bigger the “tsunami” your kids can execute, the more obvious the impact of gratitude on others will be.

Have fun with it, but make sure your home is filled with gratitude. You will all benefit from it.

Helping Your Kids Dream of Serving 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.