Helping Your Kids Use Their Gifts

You think you have helped your kids figure out at least a gift or two God has given them to serve Him. Now what? Maybe your kids are still rather young and you aren’t quite sure how to help them develop their gifts. Or maybe money is tight and you can’t afford the supplies and lessons they will need.

Or perhaps they have been developing their gifts for awhile, but your congregation is reluctant to allow young people to serve. Or your child has a gift out of the norm and no one is quite sure how they can serve God with it. Whatever the issue may be, it’s important to remember that Satan doesn’t want your kids to use their gifts to serve God. He’s going to throw roadblocks in their way to distract and deter them.

There are some basic tips that can help you get your kids around the most common roadblocks to developing and using their talents to serve God.

  • Find people with similar gifts in your congregation. This may take some detective work on your part. People with unusual gifts are often especially well hidden. They have usually found ways to quietly use their gifts to serve God outside of the church environment. Ask around though and you will probably find someone with a similar gift.
  • Ask them to help. People who use their gifts from God to serve Him are usually passionate about it. They love sharing their passion with a new generation. They may have extra supplies or be able to give your kids some tips. Often they will let a young person help them serve God with their gift. Don’t burden them, but take advantage of anything they are willing to do. (If someone seems totally uninterested in helping, it may be they are actually serving in an area where they are not actually gifted or they are carrying a heavy burden of some sort. Don’t take it personally.)
  • Watch social media, newspapers, retail fliers and clubs for kids. At times, you can find free or low cost classes and materials. Yard sales are another place you can find supplies. If your child needs craft supplies, many craft stores have clearance aisles and coupons with huge discounts.
  • Be creative. You may need to have other Christians brainstorm with you. Don’t worry if the initial ideas seem silly. Keep throwing out ideas and you may just find a solution to your obstacle.
  • Be an advocate. Sometimes people get stuck in a rut. If kids and teens have never served in meaningful ways before, why start now? You may need to educate church leaders and be an advocate for all of the young people in your church – not just your kids. It may take time, but finding a way for your kids to serve God regularly in their congregations is crucial.
  • Don’t be afraid to step outside the building. Your kids can serve God in their communities and around the world. Find ways for them to serve others and share their faith, whether or not they can use their gifts in your congregation. The goal is to help them see the plans God has for using their gifts to serve Him. Don’t forget, God may have a reason He wants your child serving in a particular place.
  • Keep this entire journey in your prayers and have regular conversations with your kids about it. If you don’t keep your focus on God in this process or explain to your kids why they are doing the things they are doing, you may find the focus has shifted away from serving God and towards hobbies and careers. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but if you leave God out of the process, it ends up secular every time.

    Does this take a lot of time? Honestly, yes. But helping your kids find their purpose in God’s kingdom is key to building a strong faith foundation and reaching their godly potential.

Helping Your Kids Discover Their Gifts From God

One of the “big” questions kids have about life and faith is what God created them to do. They are curious whether or not God gave them gifts or talents. They want to know what those gifts or talents might be and how they can discover them. They wonder how God wants them to use their talents to serve Him.

They probably can’t articulate those questions quite yet, but they are there waiting to be explored. Some children learn quickly that they have a special talent for art or music or that they are gifted with extra intelligence or athletic ability.

For other children, their gifts may not be quite as obvious to themselves or the adults around them. As they begin hearing Christians talk about gifts, they may silently wonder if God forgot them. Children who struggle in school or have special needs may actually begin to believe God indeed forgot to give them any gifts or talents.

The truth though is found in an Old Testament story and a couple of parables in the New Testament. In Exodus 31, we see God giving people gifts to help them build the Tabernacle. It appears God may have enhanced talents He had already given some of them, while others may have received these talents for the first time.

In the New Testament parables of the talents and the minas (Matthew 25 and Luke 19), we see a master giving varying amounts of gifts to care for in his absence. In both parables, some of the servants use these gifts wisely and return to the master more than he gave them. In each parable, one servant did nothing with the gift he was given. When the master returned, the servant was chastised for not using the gift and it was taken from him.

Most Christians believe the talents and minas represent the gifts God gives us. While everyone receives at least one gift, the distribution is unequal. God’s expectation, however, is that everyone will use any gift He gives them wisely.

Your children will have a difficult time using their gifts from God wisely, if they never discover them. They will need your help in exploring possible areas of giftedness. Some of your children may have multiple gifts, while others may have one or two.

Don’t be concerned about the number of gifts or talents each child has been given. Rather focus on helping them discover all of the gifts God has given them. This can be more difficult if your children were given gifts that we don’t normally think about when we discuss using our gifts to serve God.

Below you will find a list of some of the many possible gifts your kids may have received from God. Spend time praying about it. Watch your children and look for sparks of these gifts. Ask them their opinions. Give them chances to experiment in these areas to see if there is potential talent.

  • Ability to Focus
  • Accounting
  • Adaptability
  • Athletic Ability
  • Audio Visual
  • Automobile Repair
  • Analyzing
  • Art
  • Asking Questions
  • Building
  • Computer Coding
  • Cooking
  • Counseling
  • Crafts
  • Decorating
  • Detail Oriented
  • Drama
  • Editing
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Encouragement
  • Enthusiasm
  • Faith Sharing
  • Fashion/Clothing
  • Generosity
  • Greeting/Outreach
  • Human Resources/Talent Identification in Others
  • Humor
  • Imagination
  • Intelligence
  • Juggling
  • Listening
  • Marketing
  • Math
  • Medicine
  • Mercy
  • Music
  • Networking
  • Organizing
  • Photography
  • Problem Solving
  • Public Speaking
  • Research
  • Risk Management
  • Science
  • Self Control
  • Service
  • Social Media
  • Stewardship
  • Teaching
  • Time Management
  • Typing
  • Video Production
  • Wood Working
  • Writing

It may take time to discover all of the gifts God has given your children to serve Him. Don’t stop searching until you have discovered at least one gift from God for each of your children. Tomorrow I will share some creative ways to help your children begin to develop their gifts and find ways to use them to serve God.

Parenting Goals That Work

New Year’s Day is full of hope. It’s a fresh start. A new year. In this case, a new decade. We haven’t made any resolutions yet, so we haven’t broken them either.

The temptation is to make a long list of everything you want to change about yourself. All of those parenting things you’ve wanted to do better, but haven’t had the time. So you begin by listing things you want to add to your family’s schedule, like family devotionals.

Then you add other things to your list of parenting goals. Perhaps you want to behave differently towards your kids or work on being a better example. Then you remember, you need to spend more time with your kids helping them improve on a few character and attitude issues of their own.

Your list is now becoming quite long. Many of your goals are actually rather difficult and time consuming to achieve. No wonder most of us give up on our new goals within a week or two.

There are some things you can do this year to change the normal pattern. Doing these things could help you follow through and actually accomplish your goals.

  • Make your normal list of goals. Make it as long as you would like. Put everything you would want to accomplish this year as if it is going to be a perfect year.
  • Whenever possible, make your goals specific and measurable. “Have family devotionals” won’t work as well as “Spend ten minutes each day having a family devotional.” If you make the goal even more specific, it will be even easier to know when you have actually accomplished the goal.
  • Prioritize your goals. If you could only accomplish one thing on the list this year, what is the most important goal? Continue deciding which goal is the next most important until you have them all ranked.
  • Write you the goal that is your top priority on a different sheet of paper. Save the list of your other goals, because you will need to refer to it later.
  • Break down the goal with a task analysis. What are the steps you will have to accomplish to successfully complete the goal? For example, if I want to wake up a few minutes earlier every day to spend time reading my Bible and praying, I would include steps like “set the alarm fifteen minutes earlier before going to bed”.
  • Instead of the entire goal, you may need to focus on only one step at a time. I am naturally a morning person. Getting up early might not be a challenge for me. Perhaps I get stuck because I can’t decide what to read in my Bible. My husband would struggle with getting up earlier than usual. He may need to spend a couple of weeks just learning how to wake up earlier. I may need to spend a couple of days finding a Bible reading plan that is realistic and helpful to me. Trying to accomplish every step of a goal can seem overwhelming if each of those steps is normally difficult for you. Focusing on one step at a time allows you to slowly build on your success.
  • Continue adding or completing tasks until you have accomplished the goal. This may take a day, a week or the entire year. That largely depends upon how complex or difficult the original goal was. As long as you are making forward progress towards your goal, you are succeeding.
  • Give yourself time to adapt. Estimates vary, but I have found it can take up to a month or more to be consistent in a new habit. It may take longer if the habit is something with which you struggle. Don’t move on to the next task or step until you are confident the one on which you are currently working has become more natural to you.
  • Give yourself grace. I am firmly convinced Satan knows when we are trying to become more godly and throws distractions in our path. We have all fallen into that trap. If it happens and you fall back into old habits for a day or even a week or a month, don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t quit trying. As soon as you realize you have stopped working on your goal, start back where you left off or start from the beginning again if that is necessary.
  • Don’t try too many new things at once. It’s too much to remember and honestly, a lot of stress. Focus on achieving that first goal well. When you believe you are accomplishing it or have completed the goal, then you can return to your original list of goals. Choose the next one on your list of prioritized goals. Repeat the process you just used to accomplish that first goal. Continue adding one new goal as soon as you are consistently accomplishing or have completed the previous one. Over the course of a year, you can often accomplish more by focusing on one goal at a time, than by trying to accomplish ten new things at the same time.
  • Don’t be afraid to dream godly dreams when creating your goals. God can help you accomplish many things for His Kingdom using your gifts and talents…if you are open to where He sends you. Don’t be afraid to write down those goals on your heart that seem too farfetched. You won’t know if the Holy Spirit put them on your heart or they were your own wild idea until you start moving towards that goal.
  • Don’t forget to tap into God’s wisdom, power and strength as you work towards your goals. God wants to help you be more godly and the best Christian parent you can be. We just forget sometimes that we need to ask for His help. Prayer, Bible study and other spiritual disciplines can keep us in touch with God and give us the strength and wisdom we need to accomplish our goals.

This method of accomplishing goals is a little more difficult than that most people use for New Year’s resolutions. Taking the time to do the extra steps though, can make achieving your goals more realistic. It really is worth your time and effort.

Fun Ways to Strengthen Family Bonds

Feel like you are not as close to one or more of your kids as you would like to be? Don’t ignore the tension in your relationship, hoping it will disappear on its own. It may, but it’s more likely the issues will compound over time, gradually weakening your relationship.

You may not be overly concerned, because you believe it is natural for parents and kids to grow apart emotionally as your children approach adulthood. While teens will become more independent as they reach the end of high school, your emotional bonds should still be strong and healthy.

If you allow your relationship to deteriorate, you will have fewer opportunities to encourage your kids to grow to be who God wants them to be. Since getting your kids to Heaven should be your most important parenting goal, you need to have the type of relationship that allows you to provide guidance and advice to adult children if they need or want encouragement in their Christian walk.

Repairing relationships with your kids can become hard work if you let them deteriorate too far. If you catch issues when they begin though (or even before), it’s perfectly reasonable to expect your relationship to remain strong and healthy with a little focused effort.

There are fun things you can do with your kids that usually lead to a relationship becoming stronger.

  • Playing board games. Games are fun if you don’t get too competitive. It’s a great way to switch gears if you are currently in a period when you have been giving a lot of corrections and consequences.
  • Parent child dates. This is great for kids who have lots of siblings or for a parent who is absent a lot because of work or other obligations. Take one child at a time and do something you will both enjoy. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Choose activities that will allow you to have great conversations, too.
  • Take a class together. Learning together can be a great equalizer for a child who feels unheard or invisible. Take a class in an area where you both have no experience or your child is a bit better at the topic then you are.
  • Hikes, walks and other physical activities. This is great for parents and kids under a lot of stress. If the activity makes talking difficulty, make sure you allow time for talking in a relaxing activity afterwards.
  • Cooking. There’s something about a kitchen that encourages kids to talk. Your conversations will be even longer if your child is helping you cook something – or you are helping your child cook.
  • Planning an adventure. Whether it’s a family vacation, a birthday party or redecorating their bedroom, planning something big usually involves a lot of conversation and a bit of dreaming.
  • Serving someone. If your child is old enough, let him or her take the lead planning and executing the service project. Instead of correcting your child when you think his or her ideas are unrealistic, ask questions to get your child to reflect and make more effective choices. Service is a great way to take the focus off of any tension and put it into working together to help someone else. It can also give all of you some needed perspective.

In the end, what the activity is will not be as important as carving out extra time to really interact with your child in meaningful ways. Those times can help even great parent – child relationships. They can also repair the emotional distancing that can sometimes occur as kids get older. It’s worth your extra time and effort.

How Telling the “Christmas Story” Might Weaken Your Kids’ Faith

When you are fighting a battle, it’s important to know your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. Whether you realize it or not, you are in a constant battle with Satan for your kids’ souls.

Satan is a tricky opponent. He can use all sorts of statements from people in the secular world to confuse your kids. He uses the writings of people from other faiths to cause your kids to question basic faith tenets.

One of Satan’s most devious tricks is taking the teachings of well meaning Christians and pointing out all of the flaws with what they said. These flaws could be a simple misunderstanding, a result of poor memory or weak logic. Unfortunately, many times we could prevent these flaws, but fail to do the research our opponents do to rid our teachings of mistakes.

Christmas is one of those places where error is often innocently taught. Young people can easily find those mistakes. Instead of understanding they were unintentional mistakes of well meaning Christians, adolescents and young adults may allow them to undermine their faith.

When telling any Bible story to kids or teens, it is crucial that you are accurate. Don’t add details that the Bible omits. Here are some things commonly taught about Christmas that could later become a stumbling block for a struggling young person.

  • Christ was born on Christmas Day. We don’t have any idea when Jesus was actually born. Many believe, it is more likely Jesus was born in the Spring or Fall. You can tell your kids some Christians chose this day to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but not because they knew it was his actual birthday.
  • There were three wisemen. We actually don’t know for sure how many wisemen traveled to worship Jesus. The number three became attached because the wise men brought three gifts. Similar groups historically had five or more men and possibly their servants, too. (They also weren’t the kings of the Christmas song. They were magi or wisemen.)
  • Mary rode to Bethlehem on a donkey. Since she was pregnant, it is not hard to believe she did ride a donkey to keep from having to walk that far. The Bible, however, makes no mention of how Mary and Joseph got to Bethlehem.
  • Jesus was born in a stable or barn. While we know Jesus was swaddled and laid in a manger, the stable part is a bit of a misconception. There are two common opinions of what actually happened. One was that animals often spent the night in a cave. The other is that Mary and Joseph were staying with relatives. The guest room was full of other relatives, so they were staying on the first floor of the house. Many households with only a few animals brought them into the first floor of the home at night. (This still happened in places like Ireland hundreds of years after Jesus.) There weren’t what we would call traditional wooden stables or barns in the area at the time of Jesus.
  • The shepherds and wisemen showed up the night Jesus was born. While the shepherds may have come the night Jesus was born, we are pretty sure the wisemen arrived much later. Their journey was long and King Herod later killed all of the boys under the age of two years, indicating he believed Jesus was probably not a newborn.
  • Jesus was born in 1 A.D. The calendar thing can get confusing. The Bible doesn’t give us the exact year of Jesus’ birth. Based on other information provided in Luke about rulers, most historians believe it is more likely Jesus was born about 5 B.C. (or B.C.E.)

Do any of those details really matter? In the larger scheme of things, the only thing that really matters is that Jesus was born, fulfilling Old Testament prophecies and later died and rose from the dead. If you are telling the story to your kids though, the details do matter. Making up details or repeating details that are misunderstandings can give Satan a tool to use to create cracks in the faith foundations of your kids. It’s worth getting the details right.