Raising Your Kids to Be the People God Created Them To Be

In his book, 9 Things You Simply Must Do, Henry Cloud tells the story of two little girls. The details have been played out in homes all over the world with both sons and daughters for centuries.

I won’t share the actual story and ruin the book for you, but the gist of it is this. Two children are born, blessed by God with similar gifts and passions. In one home, the child is encouraged to explore and develop each gift and passion as it becomes evident. In the other home, the child’s dreams are often redirected or worse yet mocked as being useless or frivolous.

The girl who was encouraged, grows up to be successful in a field that ties all of those seemingly random gifts and passions together. She loves what she does and can serve God with those gifts and passions as well as make a living. The other child never fulfills her God given potential, because her parents direct her into choices that are not a match for her gifts and passions. She hates her job and for our purposes has no idea how God has gifted her to serve Him.

God gives each child potential. That potential includes one or more special gifts He wants them to use to serve Him. Some kids seem to know at least one of these gifts from early childhood, while others may have to experiment with several things until they find their gifts.

Christians often get confused by the spiritual gifts listed in Corinthians. It’s important to remember there are many gifts that were used by God in the Bible that we would call talents. Those are usually easier to identify and develop in young people. The spiritual gifts usually become more obvious as young people use their talents to serve God.

Your kids need your help finding and developing their gifts from God. God doesn’t give you a vote on whether or not you believe that gift is useful or important. God knows why your child needs those particular gifts. You don’t. Don’t second guess or try to over rule God. Teach your kids to see how God directs them to use those gifts to serve Him.

Sometimes parents try to overrule God because they are afraid. In the original story, the parents overruled the child’s love of drawing and artistic ability, fearing she would become a starving artist. The parents in the other family, encouraged their daughter’s love of art and found it was actually combined with her love of math and building things and she became an architect. Which, by the way, is a very well paid profession for many.

You don’t know the future like God does. You can’t begin to know for sure how He will use the combination of gifts and talents your child has to serve Him. In many cases, there may also be an intersection between their occupation and their personal ministry. When you attempt to down play your child’s talents and passions, you are in effect second guessing God blindfolded! That rarely works out well for anyone.

Have faith. Pray. Lean into the gifts and passions God has given each of your children. Help them uncover and develop them. Help them notice opportunities God gives them to use those talents to serve Him. Constantly remind them God has planned good works for them to do before they were born and some of them might involve using these talents.

If they don’t develop them or miss seeing the opportunities God has given them to serve Him, they will miss a part of Christianity that happens when you fully serve God with all of the talents and passions God gave you. And you will miss the blessing of watching your children serve God with all of their hearts, souls and minds in the ways God created them, doing the good works He has planned for them in advance.

Weekly Christian Parenting Challenges #18

We have actually had some Fall weather here this week. How was your week? Been to busy to check our daily challenges? Here’s a recap.

Monday: Did you know sounds can impact your kids? Sounds like water running and waves can soothe. Loud, chaotic noises can cause stress or distract them. Silence can encourage them to hear their own thoughts. Some classical music can help put them to sleep. Cheerful songs can improve their mood or raise energy levels. If you’re not sure, ask them questions like, “What kind of sounds make it easier or more difficult to pray/study your Bible/reflect, etc.”

Tuesday: Did you know flamingos’ coloring is because of what they eat? Your kids’ spiritual health will be determined in part by what they “consume” in games, books, movies, music and more. Teaching them how to choose entertainment that helps rather than hurts them is crucial if you want them to develop unshakeable faith foundations.

Wednesday: Struggling with some aspect of your Christian parenting journey? You’re not alone! We’ve all been there at some point. Ask your questions on this page, email us through the contact feature on our website or ask an experienced Christian parent you know. Don’t keep struggling alone. God gave us the body of Christ in part for godly support. Take advantage of that gift from God.

Thursday: This is a poison garden. Every plant in it is poisonous. They’ve put up signs to warn people in case they are tempted to taste the plants. Your kids need to learn the warning signs of temptation and what to do to keep from sinning when tempted. Otherwise, they will be more vulnerable to Satan’s poisonous suggestions.

Friday: Have teens who are passionate about a social justice issue? Unfortunately, many times the secular world has taken the lead in areas the church should have. Here are some great service projects involving popular issues your family can do together. Not only will they help others, but it will give you a great opportunity to teach your kids the difference between biblical and secular social justice. http://teachonereachone.org/meaningful-social-justice…/

Fun Family Projects to Encourage Others

This year has been harder than most for many people. While others may struggle with loneliness, sadness, hopelessness, discouragement, depression and other negative feelings at any point in time, the problems and issues of this year have tested almost everyone to some extent. What a great opportunity for your family to reflect God’s love and hope to others.

While there are many things your family can do to encourage someone, this year, it’s important to encourage as many people as possible. It’s difficult to know for sure who is struggling the most at times. The reality is everyone can use some encouragement, love and joy over the remaining few months of the year.

Your family may want to set some sort of specific goal, like making a special effort to encourage a specific number of people each week. Or you may want to find some way to encourage multiple people each day. You may even want to form a lose alliance with other families in your church and encourage each other by sharing ideas or working on a larger project together (but safely socially distant).

The sky’s the limit, but here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Create encouraging chalk drawings. If your neighborhood is like ours, a lot more people are milling about the neighborhood exercising or playing. Why not draw messages of encouragement on your sidewalk or driveway with chalk? If you know for sure your neighbors would appreciate it, you can decorate their driveway, too. Or pull out paper and create chalk drawings for people to display inside and brighten their homes.
  • Interact joyfully with others. Whether it’s online or from a socially distanced neighborhood exchange, encourage your family members to smile at everyone they encounter – even if they are wearing a mask. Give a friendly greeting. Ask how they are doing and actually listen to the response. Have your kids learn some riddles and jokes to ask those who want to engage in conversation a little more. Extroverts and those with severe restrictions on going out are most appreciative of any sort of positive social interaction.
  • Make or purchase and share little treats with others. Place it on the doorstep, ring the bell and run back about ten feet to keep others safe. It’s amazing what some flowers, cookies, apples or other small treat and a few minutes of conversation can do to encourage someone.
  • Send real mail. It’s rare and a bit exciting to get “real” mail. Why not send letters, cards, children’s artwork or care packages to people you know? See how creative you can be in what you send.
  • Offer to pray for everyone you meet. We know a couple who has asked every restaurant server they have had for years if there is anything than can pray about for them. The responses have all been positive, pre-COVID. I can imagine anyone you ask today will have something they would like your family to pray about. If you want to make it truly meaningful, keep a written record, pray multiple times about the request and check back in with the person later to let them know you have been praying for them.
  • Help meet the basic needs of others. Whether it’s job loss, COVID, hurricane damage, wildfire damage or one of the other multiple issues plaguing many this year, a lot of people have unusual needs for basic supplies like food and clothing. Find creative ways for your family to help meet some of these needs…even if it’s just cleaning out your closet and donating clothes and toys to someone who needs them.
  • Run errands or do outside chores for others. Some people are severely restricted in their activities because they are in high risk groups. Or they may still be recovering from COVID or another illness that makes it impossible for them to maintain their yard and exterior of their home. Depending upon your family’s risk tolerance, you and your kids may be able to help with things like yard work, grocery shopping, outdoor maintenance projects and more.
  • Make and share scripture art. You can find all sorts of ideas on our website and on Pinterest. Find verses that are encouraging and create scripture art you can share with others.
  • Sing or play music in your yard. Granted this one depends upon your family’s level of talent and the personality of your neighbors. We have several young people in our neighborhood who practice their instruments outside in the afternoons, adding a little joy to those exercising in the area. We’ve even had a neighborhood troubadour in the past who played his guitar while riding his skateboard around the neighborhood.
  • Go apple picking or fishing and share the wealth. Take an outdoor, safe family outing to an orchard, farmers’ market or fishing area. Share some of what you get with friends or neighbors – especially those who can’t get out or would appreciate some safe interaction when you put it on their doorstep.

What your family does to encourage others is not as important as actually doing something to encourage the people around you. Not only does it help others, but it teaches your kids how to be like Barnabas and become encouragers to those around them. It’s also a great way to teach them how to reflect God’s love by serving others and sharing their faith. It’s a great way for your family to spend time together, too!

How Special Needs Might Impact Your Child’s Faith

The term special needs covers a wide variety of potential issues a child might have that separates him or her from the norm. Technically, those differences can be above or below the norm in a number of areas. Some children are born with special needs, while others develop them after an illness or accident. A child can have special needs that impact him or her in movement, sight, hearing, cognition, behavior or a combination of these.

What we rarely discuss in Christianity is the impact a child’s special needs might have on his or her faith journey. Every child is different, but these are some things to consider as you help your child with special needs build a strong faith foundation and grow to his or her godly potential.

  • Most young people with special needs will eventually reach the age of accountability. Assuming the average twelve year old is about the age of accountability, estimates are that as many as 80% of people with special needs will eventually be able to reach the age of accountability. They will be able to make an informed decision about being baptized for the forgiveness of their sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Assuming your child will reach that milestone will help you make better choices to help him or her grow spiritually.
  • Spiritual growth milestones may be reached later, sometimes years later than for the average young person. Some young people with severe cognitive impairment may not reach the age of accountability until they are in their 20’s or even 30’s. Others may struggle with maintaining spiritual disciplines or exhibiting Christian character traits like self control until they are older than average. That’s okay. Your child – every child – has a unique timetable and your goal is to help your child reach those spiritual goals at the correct time for him or her. Just don’t underestimate your child’s potential.
  • No matter how severe your child’s special needs may be, he or she has been given potential and at least one gift from God to use to serve Him. Over the years, I have heard so many stories of people who were non-verbal and wheelchair bound who still impacted people’s lives and ministries in amazing ways….often because of their personalities that shown through. You may have to be creative to help your child find and use those gifts to serve God, but it is possible.
  • Your child may need special strategies to help him or her obey God and do the things God wants him or her to do. Children born with fetal alcohol syndrome, for example, have erratic memories. They need visual cues to help them remember things on those difficult days. Adding visual cues for spiritual things like scripture reading or prayer can help. In general, the special strategies your child needs to navigate life may also need to be adapted to help him or her navigate the spiritual aspects of life.
  • Your child will need your advocacy at church, especially in Bible classes. Unfortunately, many churches do not have people who are trained in how to minister to kids and teens with special needs. Some children with special needs can participate fully in Bible classes and activities. Others will need special strategies or extra help to be able to learn and grow. You may have to guide ministry leaders and Bible class teachers or suggest resources to help them minister to your child in ways that are spiritually productive. Don’t be afraid to intervene if you see your child is being placed in a corner and ignored. Ask that your child be taught using strategies that will help him or her best learn what God wants them to know.
  • The way your child worships, serves, and learns about God may look different from other children, but it is just as important and impactful. Depending on your child’s special needs, he or she may never “look” like the average Christian. Maybe your child sees the world a bit differently or interacts with it in a unique way. Those differences can actually make your child’s light shine brighter than that of the average child. That brightness can mean your child may end up having an amazing positive impact on God’s Kingdom…if he or she is given the teaching, opportunities and guidance needed to reach that potential.
  • Your child may have questions or doubts that stem in part from their special needs. Children with special needs may wonder why God made them different from others. It is important you help them understand the concept of God’s original perfect plan and how sin brought a lot of issues…including illness and genetic imperfections into the world. They need to understand more than anyone how much God truly loves them…especially when they are lonely, frustrated or discouraged. They need to hear Bible stories of people God used in spite of their frailties. They need to know God can and will use them to serve others and share their faith, just like all of His people. They need to appreciate that their special needs may actually give them special opportunities to minister to others in ways an average person may not be able to do as effectively. They need to understand the reality of Heaven and the hope for the future it can give.
  • They will need Christian friends and mentors who can see past their special needs. A mother of a child with special needs said she found there were three basic ways people tended to interact with her son. Either they avoided him entirely, they wanted to interact but were very uncomfortable (although willing to learn), or they treated her son like any other person in their lives. Those, she said, were the people who founded it easiest to be a great friend or mentor to her child. Look for those people. Seek them out. Make them a part of your child’s life. It will take intentionality on your part, but the results can be beautiful and lifelong.

Understanding how your child’s special needs can impact his or her faith is crucial if you want to help him or her build a strong spiritual foundation and grow it his or her godly potential. As with many things in parenting, it will take extra time and effort on your part. The rewards in this case are eternal, however, making it more than worth the extra effort.

Weekly Christian Parenting Challenges #17

Although next week is the official start of Fall, many of your families are already in a routine of school and whatever activities are still happening. Need some ideas or encouragement to navigate the “new normal” of this Fall? Here are this week’s social media challenges.

Monday: Want to start your day off great? Say a prayer and read the Bible verse for the day from the Bible app on your phone before you even get out of bed. Want to lower your stress during the day? Meditate on that verse all day. Pray in the moment or while you are waiting in the carpool lane. You may just find spending a bit more time with God each day can make a huge positive difference.

Tuesday: Have you ever craved something? This sandwich from my college years has me running to this cheese shop whenever I’m in town. Just thinking about it makes me want one so badly! That craving is what you want your kids to develop for reading God’s Word…the Bible. It starts with being excited about reading it yourself, reading it to them with excitement and explaining to them how exciting it will be to be able to read it independently as they grow older. Being in scripture daily will make it a lot easier for them to stay connected and obedient to God, so help them crave it.

Wednesday: Just because something is labeled “Bible” or “Christian” doesn’t mean it’s accurate. The maker of this Noah’s Ark toy probably had no ill intent, but either through ignorance or “practicality” created a replica of Noah’s ark that is inaccurate. It’s not necessarily a huge deal with a toy, but many times inaccuracies cause problems. Teaching your kids to check everything by the actual Bible will prevent them from being swayed by a lot of inaccurate information that could negatively impact their faith.

Thursday: Did you know the supposedly ideal tithing amount for Christians is not in the Bible? Why? Because God wants us to be generous with our money, helping others and sharing our faith with it. Generosity often starts in childhood. Watching how parents hoard or share. Whether they give willingly and generously…or not. It also begins with teaching them good stewardship skills like budgeting and staying out of debt. Even teaching the difference between needs and wants can help your kids grow to be the generous Christians God wants them to be.

Friday: Want to let your kids know how much you love them and are proud of them? Need to have a delicate conversation? Find those types of conversations are often interrupted with protests from your kids? Write them notes and leave them on their pillows to find. Even kids who don’t like “mushy” stuff will read and often save those notes to read again later.