According to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, one of many Christian denominations that advocate the use of spiritual gifts, “God provides people of all ages with personal, environmental, relational and spiritual gifts to enrich their lives and equip them for growth in faith and service to God and others.” Churches often invite their adult members to identify, develop and use their spiritual gifts. More recently, churches are involving children in spiritual gift programs and projects. In addition, parents are beginning to include children in family faith discussions about spiritual gifts.
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Tell your children, Sunday school class or youth group a story about spiritual gifts. Create a story about a child or a group of children using their special gifts to help change a place, a person or a family. Alternatively, read a story from a book about spiritual gifts. One example is “The Gifts from Outer Space: Ages 8-12: 12 Mystery Stories to Solve Using Spiritual Gifts" by Christopher P. N. Maselli, 2006. Another is “My Spiritual Gifts" by Kenneth Cain, 2005.
Discuss spiritual gifts with your children. Larry Shallenberger, author of “Divine Intention: How God’s Work in the Early Church Empowers Us Today,” says, “Teach [children] that their everyday interests, hobbies, and personality are clues to uncovering purpose.” Generate thoughts, questions and discussion about spiritual gifts. Topics might include: what are spiritual gifts, how many gifts does each person receive, how to use spiritual gifts, and are children’s spiritual gifts different from adults’ spiritual gifts?
Give your children a time frame to consider and try out their possible gifts. Explain that part of understanding and developing a person’s spiritual gifts involves prayer. In addition, it requires opportunities to test their potential gifts. Especially for children, with many untapped and developing abilities, a time to test their skills is critical. The time frame might be a week or a month or more, depending on the age of the children.
Involve the children in activities and outings related to spiritual gifts. Encourage participation in church workdays to help clean or rake. Develop opportunities for the children to volunteer in new church activities. Transport the children to a children’s hospital or retirement center. Develop writing or drawing projects that suggest ways for children to discern and share their spiritual gifts. Promote these activities as a trial period to explore their spiritual gifts.
Convene a discussion about the evaluation period. Ask them to talk about their experiences and encourage them to share successes and challenges. Provide opportunities for children to ask each other questions about what they learned. Help children to identify their spiritual gift or gifts based on their testing period. Remember that some children will take longer than others to discern their spiritual gifts.