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Class helps parents find children’s gifts


5:00 P.M. EST Feb. 23, 2010

Identifying a child’s 
spiritual gifts can take place at an early age. A UMNS photo from 
Identifying a child’s spiritual gifts can take place at an early age.
A 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 Church

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 said.

*Butler is editor of 18-34 content for United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Joey Butler, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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