The Episcopal Diocese
of New York

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New York, NY 10025
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Discerning Gods Call to Ministry with Children

A resource for adults

Who am I?*

Why am I here?*

What am I doing about it?*

 * Some ways to think about ministry and answering the questions of life… inspired by the Presiding Bishop’s article for Episcopal Life entitled “Three Questions for Mission”

Why discern our gifts?

Discerning gifts is a way of beginning to find answers for the questions:  “Who am I?”  “Why am I here?” and “What am I doing about it?”   It is a way of beginning to discover God’s will for us that we can use throughout our lives.  As we grow and change, new gifts we can use in serving God will continually emerge.

It is never too early to explore the varieties of our God-given gifts. Like all of us, children have a profound need to know what is  good, worthy and loving about themselves.  One pathway to this knowledge is through the process of an age-appropriate discernment of spiritual gifts.

How can we help children identify their gifts?

A good way to do this is to talk with children about the things they like to do or do well.  Some of the best gifts are simple, such as the gifts of making others happy, running fast, reading stories, helping people, playing games, laughing….  The possibilities are endless.  Children of different ages will identify different gifts.  Adults can always help by suggesting gifts they see in the child.

As they grow in awareness about their Creator, children will also want to know what God wants of them – “What does God want me to do?”

The Baptismal Covenant (found on page 304 of The Book of Common Prayer) tells us much about how to discern God’s will for us and make use of our gifts at any age:

  1. We prepare ourselves for living the sacred promise of the Covenant with God through our involvement in church life: this includes Sunday school, Sunday services and youth activities in the church and in the community.
  2. We take responsibility for our promises; We resist blaming someone or something else for our broken promises and when possible, we make amends for them
  3. We discover, over time, how Jesus can serve us, as mentor and guide.
  4. We respect ourselves and all of God’s Creation by not causing unnecessary harm to any one or any thing.
  5. We share the gifts that God has given us (whatever they may be) with family, friends, school, church and others in our community, as we are able.

How does it work?

When we connect what God wants from us – the Baptismal Covenant – with the gifts He has given us to fulfill His will, this is discernment at its fullest.

Making these connections is not always easy for adults or children: Sometimes we may confuse our will for God’s will; other times we may not be sufficiently aware of our own gifts so that we feel empowered to live out our Baptismal Covenant.

Finding the clearest connections between these two can be achieved through a careful discernment process over time.  For example: We can begin to assist the child to explore their God-given-gifts well before confirmation — and beyond.  Ongoing discernment, over time, helps the child cultivate a vocabulary for, and an awareness of, God’s will that will bear fruit all the days of his or her life.

Seeing how we can use our simple gifts to serve God and God’s people and seeing that we can make a difference in the world becomes a gift in itself.  This kind of discernment enables Christians to draw closer to God, at a very early age, with ever-increasing strength and makes possible His indwelling in us.

Selected Resources