Nurturing Kids’ Spiritual Gifts

I had the privilege of teaching at INCM’s Children’s Pastors’ Conference this month in Orlando. I was assigned a unique topic. 

When we think of spiritual gifts, many of us think of spiritual gift tests. We remember a time of trying to pinpoint our own gifts. When we think about kids, however, I think we have to think in bigger terms. I don’t think there’s value in telling a seven year old that they have one particular gift and defining that via a test or any other method. Seven year olds have a lot of growing to do and there’s no telling how God will change them over the years.

Our role, rather, is to help them understand some foundational principles that are ultimately rooted in the gospel.

  1. God created us and saved us to do good works for Him. 

 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.  Ephesians 2:8-10

When kids understand this, they have the potential to grab on to some life-changing truths:

  • They don’t serve or use their gifts to earn favor with God. The good news of Jesus is that our works don’t save us. Kids can serve Jesus with their gifts from a grateful heart, not from a desire to earn a place in heaven.
  • They have purpose. Kids can understand that God has great plans and wants to use them to do really cool things for them.
  • Their “weird” is not an accident. They are created exactly how God wants them and their unique quirks and interests can be a part of His plan.
  • They know they are part of a bigger picture. In a world of social media and globalization, kids can grow up feeling that they just don’t matter. God says they do and He has gifted them to make a difference.
  • They know they have value. God didn’t just say they were created to do stuff. They were created to do good works.

2.  God uniquely gives each person gifts (1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12) and skills (Exodus 31:3-5) for the work of ministry to bring glory to Him. While it probably isn’t beneficial to try to nail down a kid’s specific spiritual gift, it is important for them to learn about different gifts that God gives people and to begin exploring what those look like in the church.

3. Gifts are given for God’s glory, not for the glory of the kid, parent, or ministry. We don’t help kids discover how God has made them so that we can say, “What a great kid!” or so parents can be fulfilled and look good. We don’t help kids discover their gifts and talents so we can be that kids’ ministry with awesome kids. All of this is for God’s glory alone.

In future posts, I’ll share some practical ideas for helping kids nurture their gifts, but remember, your task is not to pigeon-hole kids at this age. It is more important for kids to understand that God has created them uniquely than for them to be able to name their spiritual gift. Our role is to help them be rooted in the gospel and to begin to explore how God has made them.

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