There are different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; and there are different ministries and the same Lord; and there are different activities but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7
Often times we read the above words and we think that Paul must have been talking about adults. However, many Christians believe that God’s gift of grace, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is given to all people, no matter their age. No one is without a gift or purpose. God calls each of us to use our gifts to make a difference in the world, sharing God’s love with others.
Those of us who are called to ministry with children have a great opportunity to build relationships with the youngest members of God’s Creation. Relational ministry requires that we take time to get to know the children with whom we are in ministry. This includes the holy work of identifying, claiming, and using the gifts that God gives us.
Scripture identifies 20 spiritual gifts that are given to help build up the body of Christ. (See Ephesians 4; 1 Corinthians 12–13; Romans 12)
A few of these gifts include:
- Compassion: showing empathy and concern for others,
- Leadership: leading and guiding others; showing them the way,
- Encouragement: offering encouragement; urging someone to do something, and
- Helping: serving, supporting, and assisting others in ministry.
While reviewing this list, one can see how each gift is beneficial to the building up of the body of Christ. Consider the children in your ministry. What gifts do you see? How might the children use their gifts to share God’s love with others?
We help children discover, recognize, and use their spiritual gifts through intentional and prayerful ministry.
First, help children DISCOVER their gifts by paying attention to them, and listening to their stories and sharing.
Second, AFFIRM their gifts by talking about the gifts you see in the children, inviting them to share what gifts they think they might have, and by affirming the value of these gifts.
Third, WONDER with your children. Invite them to consider what gifts they have and how they might be able to use their gifts to help share God’s love with others.
Fourth, PRACTICE with your children by providing opportunities for your community’s children to use their gifts as they lead and serve in your church and your community.
Finally, hold your children in prayer. Take time each week to PRAY for them by name. When you see them, tell them that you have been praying for them. Ask them how they used their gifts that week to share God’s love with others. Over time, children will begin to anticipate these questions and will be excited and willing to share.
Always remember that the children in your community and care are created good. God has given them gifts and called them to a purpose. Our job as teachers, mentors, and faith guides is to help them discover their gifts, to help them hear and discern God’s call, and to encourage them as they find ways to respond faithfully.