5:00 P.M. EST Feb. 23, 2010
Identifying a child’s spiritual gifts can take place at an early age.
UMNS photo from iStock.com.
Imagine a religious education class that focuses on children’s
gifts, rather than their sins.
It is a class that helps parents recognize what their kids are doing
right, and calls on them to nurture those gifts.
When those children become teenagers, and face temptations from
alcohol to sex, they will have the spiritual talents and readiness to
make good decisions.
That is the hope of Ken Seidel and the Rev. Ray Crawford, who teach
an intergenerational class at Claremore (Okla.) First United Methodist
Letting children focus on those gifts gives them a greater sense of
self-worth, which helps them combat bad habits.
“Our youth are distracted by overstimulation in our society,” Seidel
says. “So many are going in directions harmful to themselves – drugs,
alcohol, violence, sex. It seems to be escalating.”
Seidel, a Claremore First member and teacher at an
alternative-education center, said that parents, frustrated by running
out of answers trying things that did not work, often ask him for
advice. After 10 years of listening to students, he realized the most
troubled teens were adopting self-destructive lifestyles modeled after
what they saw in popular culture.
“It interests me how many children end up being the ‘parent’ in the
family,” Seidel said. “The parents in our society are so confused. They
fall into wanting to please their child and keep them happy.
‘Happiness’ is available in our society through all kinds of diversions
and too many children choose that route.”
After taking an adult spiritual gifts inventory class, Seidel
approached Crawford, Claremore First’s senior pastor, about designing a
similar class for children and their parents.
“We wanted a gifts inventory for children where they could get
feedback from parents, grandparents and others in their lives who love
them,” Crawford said. “If you have people who love you, who have been
reinforcing that you have some wonderful gifts that God has given you,
you’re more likely to believe it.”
The result was a five-week intergenerational course that helps
parents focus on their children more closely. Through weekly lessons
and homework, parents are taught to observe their children, identify
their spiritual gifts, and then talk to the children about their gifts
and how to use them. At the end of the class, parents and children
collaborate to make a poster that illustrates each child’s gifts. This
allows each child to see how their gifts make them unique.
“When we take the time to focus, we see things that were right in
front of our eyes that we’d never seen before. Once we see that, it’s a
surprise, and it seems to hit home more,” Seidel said.
Crawford said the class differs from an adult spiritual gifts
inventory, in that “these aren’t necessarily the spiritual gifts from
the New Testament.
“For instance, we had one father who said, ‘My kids just love Jesus.
They love to come to church; they want to pray for people.’ We said
that is definitely something to be affirmed. We didn’t limit parents to
the classical spiritual gifts definition,” he said.
The class was designed for parents of children ages 5-11.
“Our approach is telling parents, ‘You’re missing these years, when
you’re running around and getting them involved in soccer and keeping
the activity level high. You’ve kept them busy, but you haven’t given
them the moral compass to rely on when all the temptations come their
way.’ We’re trying to offer parents more preventative measures,” Seidel
*Butler is editor of 18-34 content for United Methodist
Communications, Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Joey Butler, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.