Make that List and Check it Twice
by Kim Allen, Director of SHINE Children's Ministry
Whether it’s those tables of stocking stuffers at Restoration Hardware (mini fishing pole, anyone?) or the latest pool toy, I am a sucker for a gimmick and a good deal.
As parents, we long to give our children “good gifts,” but what is it about Christmas that sends me into a spending spree as if I am a billionaire with nothing better to do than buy random, useless items I will be scooping into the trash within four days? Without fail, every year around Christmas Day afternoon, I promise myself that next year will be different.
Now that our children are basically adults, I can look back and see that even all those bikes and baby dolls, wonderful as they were, weren’t the best gifts we gave our kids. And I can also see what was.
So if I may, I’d like to offer a gift idea for your children that will be truly life-changing.
Make that List
I like to call it intentional parenting. By this, I do not mean to imply that you are not intentionally parenting now. Rather, are there ways you can build on what you are doing in order to prepare for the coming year as a time for transformation? Could there be new opportunities to guide and direct your family for their good and God’s glory? Rather than being some magic formula, consider this your jump start for ways that God may prompt you in your daily routines.
When our children were younger, every 6 months or so, Bret and I would go out for dinner and bring a notebook. We had a list of questions (see Helpful Questions for Discernment below) we used to discuss each child—his or her spiritual development and their patterns of behavior that reflected this assessment. This discussion always proved fruitful for the coming months as it put mom and dad on the same page and helped us devise a plan to guide our children toward deeper maturity. If you are a single parent, perhaps you have a family member or close friend who might help you take an honest look at your own family.
By choosing to focus on two to three key issues for each child, we were able to pinpoint certain areas in need of attention without feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of it all. For example, one child may have been particularly spiritually aware but the flip side of this was a pharisaical (self-righteous) tendency. Another child had a lazy streak and desperately needed extra chores to improve self-discipline. Talking through our observations together helped us focus on ways we could parent toward common goals rather than just survival.
Check it Twice
But perhaps the biggest benefit was a personal one. Many times I could recognize my parenting style as a major contributor to the very obstacles that I faced. As iron sharpens iron, so one parent sharpens another. Bret and I helped each other see ways that we could improve our own approach in an effort to reach the hearts of our children and not just correct their behavior. This proved humbling but fruitful for us, as we weren’t exactly perfect parents and had some things we could work on too.
God used these discussions over the years and even now, when I come across an old notebook with these entries, I am reminded that most of our insights were fairly accurate and consistent, even as our children have grown and matured. For the Allens, I would say this gimmick ended up being a very good deal.
Check out this list of great resources that may help point you in the right direction for transformation in the coming year. And it’s definitely more useful than a mini fishing pole!
Helpful Questions for Discernment
- Does the child ask questions about God, the Bible and spiritual topics? Does the child demonstrate curiosity about spiritual ideas?
- Does he/she demonstrate teachability concerning spiritual things?
- Does the child show a willingness to pray? What does he/she pray about?
- Does the child initiate spiritual conversations?
- How does the child respond to church and worship?
- Is the child growing in an “others” awareness and not just only always concerned with himself?
- Does he/she desire to help or serve without being prompted?
- Is he/she willing to share?
- What are the conflicts the child has with others? Is it usually based in his/her selfishness?
- How does the child respond to correction/discipline?
- When in a conversation does the child mostly talk more about themselves or ask questions of/listen to the other person?
- Does the child acknowledge his/her own sin?
- How does the child deal with his/her guilt?
- How does the child respond to criticism? Accolades?
- Is this child a leader or a follower? How do you know? What are the areas of vulnerability as a result?
- How does the child think about himself? Positive or negative.
- Can the child identify his/her own strengths and weaknesses?
- Does the child see himself/herself as having value? Where does that value come from?
The Breadbox is our Children's Ministry email. This monthly publication arrives chock-full information about SHINE, but also tips and resources on how you can disciple your small people.