Are you in a service rut with the teens in your family or youth group? It seems as if there is an unwritten rule stating all teen service projects must involve painting some portion of a building or doing yard-work. By relying on the same types of service projects over and over (often with only the locale changing), we are denying our teens an opportunity to explore how they can use some of their talents for God.
Recently, we had a few teen girls over to our house to work on a project. Going into this project, all of them claimed to have minimal artistic talent. Yet as you can see, the results were adorable. The girls were making these particular onsies for their youth minister’s new baby. This project would be great for the girls to do again and donate the finished products to shelters catering to mothers and infants who are abused or homeless.
In college, I was supposed to write a review of the play Waiting for Godot. I am sure it was wonderful, but frankly at that age my only take away was that Godot was a metaphor for God. I was also pretty sure the waiting (and the play) would last forever. With my apologies to Samuel Beckett for panning his play, I think we may just be spending too much of our time in our own production of Waiting for God.
At some point in their lives, most people develop a sense of missed importance. Most of us in our heart of hearts know that given a chance we could win American Idol, Dancing with the Stars and/or be discovered at the Mall by a casting agent. We know we were meant for something more exciting, more important than the normal mundane lives we are living. We are even training our children that way. “You can be anything you want to be,” is spoken over and over again to children all over this country. So we all sit and wait for someone to discover the greatness within us and introduce us to the life we know we were meant to live.
When our daughter was about three years old, she started getting job offers to work in retail. From the time she could walk, if a cabinet door or drawer were open, she would shut it. While we waited to check out in a store, she would automatically start organizing the counter displays to make them look neat and interesting. If I were looking at a rack of clothes, she would start putting things where they belonged on nearby tables. She was blessed by God with the talent of organization. (Which I hasten to add, she did not get from me!)
Some children are not artistic in any way. Their stick figures even look bad and they can’t carry a tune. It would be easy to dismiss them as having no talent. I think the Bible tells us something different. When the members of the Church are spoken of as parts of the body, it appears everyone has a function. It doesn’t say anywhere, “and for the rest of you talentless people”. God has given everyone at least one gift that helps the Church. The trick is to help your child find out what that gift is.
Our daughter had quite a flair for the dramatic when she was younger (I can’t imagine from whom she inherited that trait!). At one point, I warned our pediatrician I would probably bring my daughter in one day with an arm that had been broken for a couple of days. I told the doctor I wasn’t abusive. It was just that every tiny injury our daughter had at that age was most definitely “a broken something, from which I may probably die” (pronounced with much wailing and gnashing of teeth). The pediatrician smiled and said it was a common story from the parents of her patients.
If your child isn’t the dramatic sort, then the previous paragraph makes absolutely no sense to you and you can skip reading the rest. If, however, you totally understand what I am describing, chances are you too have given birth (after three days of excruciating labor – but I digress!) to a dramatic child.
You would think encouraging children’s artistic talent would be so easy every Church is doing it well. Not really. Coloring sheets really do very little to develop artistic talent in anyone. In fact, I have known many adult artists who still struggle with how to use their gifts for God.
As a non-artist, I have to beat the bushes for help with all of the art projects I am unable to do well. Even those people who are very talented, downplay their artistic abilities when I ask for their help. Maybe it’s because the art world is very competitive and it can be a difficult way to make money. People assume if they aren’t making lots of money with their art, they have no talent. As a non-artist, I say God can use whatever artistic talent you have or can fake!