When our oldest daughter turned four, we figured we should start trying her out in activities. Our friends with older kids were well into their kids’ sport and artistic paths with multiple practices a week, club tryouts, big stage recitals, and dreams of college scholarship offers stuffing the mailbox.
We had no expectation of nailing her primary life interest at the age of four—but we didn’t exactly think her next six years would look like this:
Pre-K: soccer; Kindergarten: Destination Imagination; 1st grade: kids choir; 2nd grade: tap and ballet; 3rd grade: cheer and a cooking subscription; 4th grade: piano
No repeats. Did you catch that? She enjoyed all of them, and she still speaks so fondly of her memories with each one. But as each drew to a close, she would look up at us and ask, “what else can I do?”
Gifts and Passions
The draw for her to pour herself into one thing was strong for me. Was she missing out on skills like grit, teamwork, and perseverance by jumping from one thing to another? Those fears have slowly faded over the last six years. I think we have landed in a place of seeing her just enjoy life without any specific attachment to one organized activity. However—that does not mean that we should be hands-off in this aspect of character development. She may not be gifted with the drive it takes to be an Olympic athlete or a prodigy piano player, but as a believer, she has been gifted with something the church needs, and I genuinely believe that is aligned with her passions in life.
The Variety of Life
In Joe Rigney’s book “The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts,” he says, “When you set your mind on something, you orient your life by it. Your mindset guides and governs everything else you do, whether in thoughts or words or deeds.” If our children set their minds to be the greatest athlete, artist, musician, or chef so that they can achieve fame and fortune, then we have deeply missed the mark. If our children pursue drama, debate, the fishing club, or chess because it is their dream or their heart’s desire, then we might as well collect rocks in a bag with holes in it.
I say this because it’s not aiming deep enough. God told Adam and Eve not to eat from one tree—think of all the other trees they had access to! Think of the variety that life offers you on a daily basis. God wants us to enjoy his created world—but not at the expense of mis-proportioned affections.
Here are four ordered steps in considering how to help your children discover their passions biblically. Two of these speak to the heart, and two handle the body.
1. Run from Idolatry—Keep the First Commandment
Any type of interest we have can and usually will turn into an idol. We quickly become so short-sighted that we forget the grandeur of God and settle on much less. C.S. Lewis says it this way: “We are half-hearted creatures. . .like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” Lewis isn’t saying that we are restricted from joy, but rather that we tend to turn away from real, authentic joy because we think we know better.
We are told in Matthew 6 to seek first the kingdom of God. This directly aligns with the first commandment of having no other gods before the one true, living God. We must teach our children (and often model for them) that we first enjoy the Lord, always maintaining an eternal mindset.
Then we can receive good gifts in this world like books, athletic shoes, Prisma color pencils, sheet music, and the balance beam.
2. Talk about How it Can Honor the Lord and Build Up the Church
It’s tough to target our expectations of our children to be righteous in their passions. Some parents are competitive, and kids’ sports can quickly become an obsessive outlet for that. Some were once a boss at an activity, so naturally, their child should bear that, too. We should point them towards doing everything to honor the Lord (Colossians 3:23) and not man or the self. Likewise, they should first consider their spiritual gifts and how to use them to build up the church (1 Corinthians 14) as mandated by scripture. Often a kid’s giftings can direct a family to discover a passion in life. Wanting success, growth, skill development, or even a winning season isn’t bad. However, those are just preferences and not requirements of our faith. These are all sweet to witness, but they are just grace on top of grace and cannot be expected from our kids.
3. Let Them See You Try New Things and Talk about Your Own Passions
Shame on us parents if we think we are too old to start something new!! I know we are often weighed down with our lists of tasks and responsibilities, so perhaps there is a hidden passion we haven’t tapped into yet.
Recently convicted of this, I started knitting, calligraphy, and weight lifting. Haha! I sound like a buff old lady—but I want my daughters to see me trying new things so that they will be inspired to do the same. Directing our kids to find their passion frequently means we talk about our passions with them also. Bring up the history of you and your family members and what they have participated in and failed at or what they are still passionate about. How did they become involved in music, pick-up basketball games, video games, duck hunting, blogging, gardening, or fundraising for good causes?
4. Set Boundaries and Expectations
Lastly, when trying out something new, remember to set boundaries. It is wise to talk about how much money, time, energy, and other resources will be spent. I think the old adage of “boiling a frog one degree at a time” can easily fit the scenarios of introducing new activities to our family members.
And what are expectations beyond honoring the Lord? It would help if you considered goals and desired outcomes—both long and short term. This will definitely help with direction and motivation.
The World Is the Lord’s
Ultimately, we should teach them that the world and everything in it are the Lord’s (Psalm 24:1). We should first be most passionate about the Lord and the work he is doing in the world. Only then can our kids discover how they fit into that world with their own passions at play.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/twinsterphoto
Kate Stevens is a worshiper, wife, and mom, and with the help of the Lord, that is her hierarchy of work. Beyond this, she works with the youth and children at her church and edits as a freelancer. She enjoys reading, writing, running, cooking, and practicing thinking pure and lovely things.
After being unsure if they ever wanted children, the Lord eventually blessed Kate and her husband Clint after nearly three years of waiting. They welcomed their first daughter in 2011, another daughter in 2013, and yet another daughter in 2016. Kate considers this her most time-consuming, emotion-full, sanctifying, not always pretty but trusting in the Lord’s plan, and blessed work. Stuck in a house with four females, her husband Clint consistently reminds Kate of her identity and union in Christ.
You can read more of Kate's work here.