At Teach One Reach One Ministries we believe one of the keys to retaining young adults as active, productive Christians is to help them discover, develop and use their gifts from God to serve Him starting at the earliest possible ages. A great way to get started is to host a gift discovery day for the children and teens in your church (it also makes a great community outreach event).
First, it’s important to differentiate this from the typical spiritual gift surveys you have probably seen. For children and teens, spiritual gifts are often too abstract for them to really understand. They can, however, understand that God created them with the ability to be really good at doing something – or several somethings. They can also understand that they may need to take lessons and practice to get better at doing their something – even if God did give them that gift. Finally, they will be excited more than you know at the idea that they can serve God in meaningful ways, even though they are young.
Before hosting your event, you will need to be a talent scout. Search for people who have used a talent of theirs to serve God in some way. Encourage creativity and variety. I have hosted these where cooking, sewing, woodworking, knitting and other rather obvious gifts were featured. But we also found people with unique gifts like a man who used old colorful telephone cable to create little creatures. He would do this on the mission field to help him create a connection with children he was there to serve. Don’t forget less obvious gifts like organizational skills and people skills.
Give each talent a table. If a lot of children or teens are attending, you will need either a lot of tables or multiple people with similar gifts so those attending can get the help they need. Volunteers should demonstrate their talent and explain how they use it to serve God. They should also bring the materials to do a simple trial of the talent for everyone attending. Some groups may complete an entire quick project, while others may try just a skill like crocheting a short chain using the chain stitch.
Start your day with explaining the purpose of the day using the gifts given craftspeople for the building of the Tabernacle and the Parable of the Talents for some biblical context. Then divide the attendees into small groups. Give the groups enough time at each station to learn and try something, but not so much time they become bored. You may want to establish an order for how they move from table to table and a signal when it is time to try something new.
After the end of the rotations, bring attendees back to take our simple gift inventory. Encourage them to use what they discovered from the activities and the survey to start developing any gift they think they may have. Allow time for them to go back and talk to any volunteer that they believed demonstrated their gift for tips on how to develop their gift.
For this event to truly make a difference, follow up is critical. Help match volunteers with young people who may have similar gifts in mentoring relationships. Provide opportunities for talent development. Most importantly, find creative ways young people can use their developing gifts to serve God in meaningful ways. You may just change the spiritual trajectory of multiple lives in positive ways.