Helping kids and teens find purpose in this next season
As we come out of lockdown there is a sense of being released and freed to new purpose in this new season. Being purposeful is part of our faith, but children and teens don't always have a sense of purpose. But purpose is a key part of our faith, and without it, our children and teens can feel helpless and hopeless. So how can we help our children and teens find their purpose in this next season: find out what God is calling them to?
In Genesis 1:28 we read God’s first words to people: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” The very first thing God gives his children is purpose - why they are here. But with our children we can often keep them in a self-focussed faith, where they are told God loves you, you can have a relationship with him, God has good plans for you. And we keep the idea that they have purpose until they are older.
But if God's number one thing for us is purpose, then our kids need to know this too. We need to help them join in this amazing adventure he has for us. If they don’t know they have purpose, they will miss out a significant part of their faith, and will see God as boring and safe, missing out on key aspects of his character.
Here are four steps for helping kids find their purpose.
Create a language for it
Introduce your kids to the idea that we have a big call as the people of God (our general purpose) and as well as that, there are specific things that God has asked us to do (our individual specific purposes). One way to distinguish between the two is to talk about who we are called to be (eg seek out the lost and lonely, live with compassion, counter the works of the enemy, love others as I have loved you) and what we are to do (individual calls, both calls that are small, and calls that are life-long and life-changing).
Create windows into and frame your purpose
As your child sees you doing what God's asked you to do, you can create windows into what purpose looks like for followers of Jesus. You an also explain, or frame, what you are doing and why, to give your child ideas and inspiration of what pursuing their purpose - both general and specific - might look like.
Affirm their power
Children often assume that they don’t have much power. But they do. So notice, affirm and define for them the power they have, for example that their words carry power. When you’re having a hard day you can ask them to use their words to encourage and help you. Ask them to pray for you and see that their prayers are powerful. Show them the impact they have on others, and explore ways they can use that power.
Ask questions that shape their brains for purpose
As our kids go out into the world again, use questions to frame for them that you expect that they are purposeful every day. How we do this helps them see this isn’t about performing good works, but impacting others for good. So questions like ‘How have your words made an impact today?’, or ‘What was a time today when you did something that you did helped somebody else - how it changed their heart or mind or encouraged them in some way?’
Other questions can be used to help them find purpose: ‘What’s bugged you this week at school that you think needs to change?’ or ‘What’s God been asking you to do recently?’. And as you create windows into how you understand and respond to God’s purpose, you help them see and learn what they might be called to do and how they might do it. Focus on what they feel they can do rather than what they feel they should be doing.
Rachel's book 'Parenting Children for a Life of Purpose' is available as part of the 'Parenting Children for a Life of Faith Omnibus'.