Helping you grow closer to God
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About this series
This Christmas, how do you give your children what money can't buy? We all desire to give gifts of significant value, but what does that really look like? What “Priceless” gifts can we give? In this series, Chip unpacks 5 key areas that tend to make or break our children and gives solid biblical insight and practical steps for managing those 5 important life skills. As a parent, or grandparent, you want to give your child every advantage in life. A “Priceless” Christmas gives you the tools to help your child develop godly character and important life-skills. Your life, their lives, and the lives of generations to come will never be the same.More from this series
Feed them responsibility. Feed them responsibility. I see parents that are totally worn out, putting all the things here, doing all, you got kids at twelve, thirteen, fourteen, why should you be doing all the laundry? Why shouldn’t they do their own? Why are parents shaking kids, “You have to get up! You have to get up!” They’re fourteen, they’re fifteen years old. Buy them an alarm! If they miss, they miss. If they miss the test, they miss the test. If they get a low grade, they get a low grade.
You are way more committed to their success than they are. And what they feel is pressure from you. What you want is kids that can get up, that are self-disciplined, that work well, that handle responsibility, not necessarily have high SAT scores. But they’ll get great scores if you teach them.
But here’s what we do, we take care of everything for them. I’ve seen parents completely harried while the kids are playing video games. “Hey, dinner almost ready?” And I’m thinking, “What’s wrong with this picture?”
Third is require excellent work and help them develop a work ethic. Yes, this sounds crazy but you know when you have them vacuum because they help vacuum, right? They clean out the garage, they clean their room, and you do the deal where, you know, kind of lift up the rug and you realize, “Hey, you didn’t do under the rug.”
And they say, “Well, no one looks here.” You say, “Are you doing this for people or for God? He sees everything.” “Oh, Chip, you’re pushing it too far.” Well, maybe. I would say when I look at my children probably one of the greatest links to all their success in every job is you know what they learned at home? They learned how to work, and work unto the Lord.
And they learned, some of them had to learn it doesn’t have to be so perfect, so you had to help them. And others had to learn, “That’s not close. Do it again.”
Number four, help them to work for an audience of One. It’s about attitude. And often they’re not going to have a good attitude early on. Help them begin to say, my kids heard this verse until it was coming out of their ears. “Oh, yeah, I know, Dad, it’s an audience of One, work unto the Lord.” That’s right. Because someday you’re going to be an engineer unto the Lord, or a musician unto the Lord, or a mom unto the Lord, or a construction worker unto the Lord, or own your own company unto the Lord.
And you know what? If you learn early on that this is His and you do it unto Him, there’s a level of excellence and a level of integrity that your actual work will be a testimony for God because I will tell you, most people do their work and what they’re trying to figure out is, “How fast can I get it done? How little can I do? And how much can I get paid for doing as little as possible?”
And when you don’t work like that, you stand out. When Christians work like that, what a testimony. So, the priceless gift you want to give them is learning what you were made to do. That’s the gift you want to give your kids. Learning what you were made to do.
What I want you, as you listen, I want you to think, “I’ve got some plans to make for the New Year. One of my plans, one of my priorities needs to be, ‘How am I going to teach my children to work unto the Lord?’”
And the only way to do that is you need to figure out what their design is. You need to understand, “How did God make them?” They’re wired! They’re intricately made, they’re wonderfully made, they are wonderful. They may not be like you at all! But I will tell you, they are exactly the way God wants them.
They have certain spiritual gifts, they have certain passions, they have certain aptitudes, they have certain personalities, they have already had some experiences that some have been great, some have been not so great.
And so, what you want to do is you want to figure out, “What’s the SHAPE of my child?” so that you can put your arm around them and coach them toward the thing that He has made them to do. Does that make sense?
So, I’m going to give you some ways to do that and some resources. Helping them discover God’s calling for their life involves this SHAPE. The “S” is for spiritual gifts. What are theirs? Do your kids know what their spiritual gifts are?
My youngest son didn’t like to work, that’s Ryan, but I will tell you what. He had this uncanny spiritual gift. From the time he was nine or ten years old, I still remember, there was a window outside of our garage. We turned a garage into a bedroom.
And outside was a window and I was doing a little work in my boys’ bedroom and I could hear through the window. And Ryan is, like, eight or nine years old. And this is a neighbor kid that’s, like, eight years old. And Ryan is articulating the gospel as clearly as Billy Graham has ever said it. Nine years old!
And then he turns to this little eight-year-old and says, “Are you ready to receive Christ?” And the little kid bows his head and I’m thinking, “Man, are you kidding me?” Now, he didn’t like math, he didn’t like science. But I saw he had a spiritual gift. By the time he was ten years old, “Ryan, you’ve got to get ready for school!” “I’m not done with my quiet time yet! I’m reading the Bible! It’s too interesting!”
Now, I didn’t have that problem with all of my kids. But he had this, and then I remember when he was a senior in high school. He had led four of the six guys on the volleyball team to Christ and then he invited them over. And they would have a Bible study and our house was pretty small so there was nowhere to go. So, Theresa and I would go back in our bedroom. And I can still remember, I put up the pillows and, you know, paper thin doors, and we would lean like this and we’d listen to Ryan teach. And I’d be thinking, “Where is he getting this stuff? I mean, he’s not getting, I mean, I didn’t know that!”
But what I understood was he hated school, it helped me later on, understand why he needed to work for a year so he could learn some discipline, but he needed to go to a school, I mean, he read C.S. Lewis, he read, I gave him theology volumes and he would read them and write reports for me. But he didn’t do his homework. He was completely unmotivated in school.
But you start cooperating. Did I keep working with the school stuff? Yes. That’s why he had to work for a year. I made him pay for his first semester. You’re thinking, “This guy is so heartless.” Well, I had six years in a row of him not being faithful to do what he said he was going to do in school. Again, remember? Manage your money well. It’s not my money.
I told him, “Ryan,” I said, “your first semester is going to be about ten grand. What I know is you have never put two six weeks together for the last six years. So what, if it’s God’s money and I put ten grand down and then you blow it in college, you’re disappointed, I’m sad, ten thousand dollars of God’s money is gone. So, you can work for a year, save eight or ten thousand dollars, you pay for the first semester. If you do okay the first semester, then I’ll chip in and then we’ll go with college stuff.”
And that’s what he did. I mean, the guy began acing Greek! But he only had to take, like, three or four, he went to a Bible school, he only had to take, like, three classes where there was English, Math, and something.
And he, of course, classic, he procrastinated until his senior year, he didn’t take any of those classes but he needed them to graduate. So here is this kid that “can’t study, undisciplined,” he goes in, gets three books, figures out what’s in them, studies for three weeks and CLEPs out of all three classes.
See, your kids are designed and motivated certain ways. You want to cooperate with that. Help them discover their spiritual gift. His obviously was in the area of teaching in the Bible.
Second is “Heart.” Where is your passion? Your desire? What do they dream about? What are your kids’ passions? And, by the way, don’t spiritualize everything. I had one son early on, it was music, music, music. It had me crazy. There was a band in our living room, then there was a band in the garage, then there was a band in the van, then a band moving on, you know?
And we didn’t have… I was committed not to go in debt and we had very little money, but I saw this passion and this gift growing and growing and growing and I’ll never forget, I went to our worship pastor at the time. His name was Dana, a very good friend, I said, “Dana, we got this old clunky, bad, bad piano that they stick and my son, I think there might be some gift here and I want to cooperate with it.”
And he convinced me, he said, “Pianos increase in value. It’s a lot like your house, if you get a decent one.” So, I still remember, it was, like, five thousand dollar Yamaha piano.
And I remember when my son came home. And he wrote his first song on that. And now people are singing that kid’s songs all around the world, all around the world. And for Christmas, after twenty-five years, we shipped that piano and he has it in his studio where he and the likes of Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman and Reuben Morgan and all these guys that write all these worship songs, they hang out together, why? Because you discover where their passions are and then you cooperate with it.
And that’s, see, that’s our job. We’re coaches. We’re helpers. But it’s not so they land this job and go to this school and get these grades so that it reflects we’re good people. Our job is to help them figure out what God made them to do, not what will make us look good. And, by the way, that’s really subtle. I’m not down on anybody, I felt those same pressures.
Third is their aptitude. What are they good at? What are they good at? I remember early on, if you haven’t’ seen the little book, StrengthsFinder, if your kids probably are twelve, thirteen, and up… I remember when Annie went through that and, wow, you could see what her strengths were. This is what she’s good at. And then you begin to gear. Let’s let them major and do things that they’re good at and how they’re made.
Same as with personality. How are they wired? How do they relate to people? I mean, you could take the DISC test or the MMPI. There are so many resources and many of them are online and they’re free. But do you ever think about this as a parent?
Some of you are employers and you’re in business and you do all these tests to figure out: would this employee fit in this job. What about your son or your daughter? Why don’t you give them some tests?
Why don’t you meet with them? Why don’t you observe them? Why don’t you start keeping a little journal with each one of your kids and say, “This is what they’re good at. Here’s their aptitudes. Here’s what I think their spiritual gifts are.”
You want to create a grid where you’re like this coach, you’re this student of your son or your daughter and you’re watching this masterpiece develop and what you want to do is learn more and more and more and more and then align that masterpiece so they do what God made them to do.
“E” is for Experience. What have they done well, and they enjoyed? What have they done well, and they enjoyed? Ask them. Go out for a cup of coffee or a coke and just ask them, “What have you done that you think you’ve really done well that you’ve really enjoyed?”
And so, then you get their SHAPE, you begin to see their spiritual gifts, their heart, their aptitude, their personality, and their experience. And then there will be some times where they’ll have some big decisions. And they’re just like us, they’re just people, so they’re pulled.
And they’re pulled this direction or that direction so as a wise counselor, what you want to do is you say, “Well, this is your SHAPE,” you remind, we always need someone in our life that pulls us back to, “This is who you are.” Because all of us are tempted to take the job where there is fame or ego or money or applause and, by the way, if a job brings that, fine! But a lot of people are doing jobs for the wrong reason and then, if you’re not made for it, you don’t like it.
I remember Annie, shortly after college, had an opportunity to work for two different organizations. One was a startup where she would get to shape things, lead things, and kind of have a lot of responsibility, make it happen.
The other was an organization that was huge and very well known and it would have been a real feather in your cap to get to work for that organization. A very, very high-class organization. And she wrestled with that.
And, you know, those are times too where, as a parent, you step back and say, “You know, pray about it. I’m glad.” But what I remember was thinking, “This is her personality, these are her strengths, she’s going to be about the seventh person down on the pecking order in that organization and the smaller startup, she’s going to get to shape it.
And it was everything I could do to not tell her what she ought to do. Ooh, that’s so hard. But I kind of stepped back and just tried to remind her, “Okay, how are you wired?” I mean, this is part of the Ingram tradition and it’s not all good but when they step in a room, they want to say, “This is the way it goes.” And that’s good and bad.
But what you don’t want to be, you don’t want to have this leadership gift inside of you and feel like you’ll just never have a chance to exercise it. So, for you and for especially for your kids, figure out the design. And then get aligned with it.
She ended up taking the job with the smaller organization, moved up quickly, shaped things. It was really exciting to see. Why? Because she was made to do that.
Second, encourage them to get honest, wise counsel about who they are and where they fit to move forward. Who are they? Wise counsel. You want the children’s pastor, the youth pastor, the parent they look up to, something in their areas of interest, you want them to get wise counsel, in a multitude of counseling, there is safety where they ask questions and can ask someone, “What should I do?”
I remember my son, Eric, really didn’t know what to do with his life. And he took one class, he took one class in biology and they studied the skeleton and the human body and he came and he said, “Dad, this is, it’s unbelievable! Do you realize how God has made the body?” And I said, “Well, not really. But it’s pretty cool.”
And I remember there was, Diana Roberts was a physical therapist and she offered to let Eric volunteer. And he began to volunteer and see how the human body worked. That was pivotal to him becoming a physical therapist. He loves it. He’s been exploring and seeing how he could repair rotator cuffs and ACLs and people that have had hip replacements and seeing where they couldn’t walk, where they get to walk. And he gets to be hands of healing.
Third, help them be willing to move out of their comfort zone to fulfill their divine purpose. And I would add, “and yours.” Sometimes you have to say, “You really do need to take the AP courses because you’ve got what it takes and I know it’s harder.” Sometimes you need to say, “You know something? I know you kind of like it here and all your friends are here or all your friends are going to that school. But you know something? That’s really not what’s best for you. You’re not designed for that. You’re just caving into peer pressure.”
And sometimes God will take you out of your comfort zone. My one son came to me in the middle of college, said to me, “You know what? I’m called to do music, I hate school, I’m getting nothing out of it, God’s called me to be a musician, that’s what I’m going to do.”
What? Both parents were schoolteachers, I was a schoolteacher, education is, like, sacred. And I remember saying to him, “Well, son, you know,” here was the honest dad was, “Probably won’t make it in music. Few people do. You need to have a good backstop. So, get a real job and then if the music thing works out, fine.” So, I was sort of couching that. And I still remember, we were in the kitchen and I can tell you right where he’s standing in the kitchen, picture behind him, and I’m over here in front of the refrigerator.
“Hey, Dad! Who is the person who said, ‘Follow your dreams! Step out! Make a difference! Dream big dreams!’” “I don’t know, I don’t remember that person.” You know? And, I mean, he had literally quoted, like, one of my sermons. And he goes, “If I, hey, Dad, I, you know what? I can go back to college. I’m motivated. But this is what I want to do with my life.” And I remember saying, “You know, you’re a grown man. If that’s what you’re called to do,” and we did.
Now, he drove a muffin truck trying to figure out how to make things work for about six months and kept music and he eventually went back and he decided that he would finish out that little bit of college. And then, he did crazy stuff. He just moved to Nashville and everyone said, “You know, there are bus boys that are better musicians than you.” He goes, “I know that. But this is what God called me to do.” And he drove a UPS truck and he sold t-shirts out of the back of things and he just, and had this little gal that would do whatever, I’m more impressed with Culley than I think I am Jason, to follow him.
But there is a point in time where we need to stop asking, “What’s the most secure place for our kids and what’s the most financially best decision they can make?” and start asking, “Life is short. What did God make them to do? And am I going to cooperate, helping them discover what God made them to do?”
The world screams, “You are what you do!” And God says, “No, the truth is, do what you are.” The message, the life message is, “You were created to work.” Isn’t that great? It’s good! You’re created to work. Help them discover their Ephesians 2:10 calling.