A spiritual gift isn't a natural ability with which you're born. It's not an office, position or job you hold.
Spiritual gifts are abilities that allow you to perform specific tasks beyond the realm of human skill. They're given to believers in Jesus Christ only, and they're given as gifts — not as a result of your maturity level, prayer or education.
Whether all spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible are still available today is a controversial issue. But it's generally agreed that every Christian has at least one spiritual gift. It's up to your teen to discover, develop and exercise his or hers. You can help.
Tell your teen that understanding one's spiritual gifting has several phases. He can begin by praying to understand the gift(s) the Holy Spirit has already placed inside him. Explain that you don't ask for a gift, you ask to be made aware of it.
Next, encourage your teen to learn by doing. Help her get involved in situations where she has to depend on God's Spirit to get something done. Let her work on projects inside and outside your church, getting ongoing, honest feedback from spiritually mature friends and leaders. Suggest that she ask your youth pastor, a coach or a teacher who knows her well what gifts that person sees in her.
There's no "complete" list of spiritual gifts, but partial lists are found six times in the New Testament. You may want to read these passages with your teen:
This discovery process offers two benefits for both you and your teen. First, it's one of the greatest "treasure hunts" you could ever embark upon. Second, it lets you steer your teen toward experiences that reveal and cultivate gifts that can be used for a lifetime.
Your teen's brain has two separate but connected halves known as the left and right hemispheres. Each controls different ways of thinking and perceiving. Your teen uses both sides of her brain but has a preference for one over the other.
When you do something that's in line with your brain preference, it doesn't take a huge effort. But a task that requires using the other side of your brain makes it work 50 to 100 percent harder.
The left side of the brain handles sequential, logical, rational thought. Memorizing, spelling, vocabulary, language and mathematical formulas come easily to it. So do following rules and making decisions based on logic, proof, and facts.
The right side of the brain, meanwhile, is in charge of creativity and feelings. While the left side takes bits of information and arranges them in a logical order, the right side entertains random thought patterns.
What does all this mean for your teen's future? It means she'd better take her brain preference into account as she considers the kind of work she'll do and where she'll do it.
Whether she's at work or in school, her brain will want to stay on the side where it functions most naturally. Forcing herself to use the "other" side of her brain all the time can lead to headaches, fatigue, burnout and frequent illnesses - not to mention procrastination, frustration, mistakes, poor concentration, moodiness, memory problems and a pretty low view of herself.
As your teen thinks about what classes to take, remember that subjects like these may be easier for left-brained people: math (algebra, statistics or calculus), history, civics, reading, technical writing, research, electrical engineering, public speaking, debate team, typing, accounting and bookkeeping.
In which career fields do you find more left-brained people? Corporate presidents, chief financial officers, lawyers, physicians, accountants, bookkeepers, auditors, dentists, electrical and electronic engineers, assembly-line workers, managers and supervisors of all types, operating room and intensive care nurses, mechanics and machinists.
On the other hand - or hemisphere - which subjects in school may be easier for right-brained people? Math (geometry, trigonometry), biology, music, creative writing, foreign languages, drama, dance, choreography, chemistry, physics, art, design, philosophy, sociology and cultural anthropology.
In which career fields do you find more right-brained people? Consultants of all types, philosophers, emergency room physicians, psychiatrists, artists, writers, entertainers, musicians, composers, elementary and high school teachers and coaches, actors, dancers, designers, interior decorators, counselors, chaplains, public relations and marketing people, pediatricians and pediatric nurses.
Being extroverted or introverted isn't a matter of whether your teen "likes people" or "doesn't like people." It's about where he goes to get energy and where he focuses most of his concentration. Introverts find energy in their inner world of ideas, so they require less from the outside world. Extroverts find their energy in things and people; pulled by this outer life of action and interaction, they spend less time with thoughts and concepts.
Can you have both "innie" and "outie" traits? Sure.
Is it better to be an innie or an outie? Neither. Both have their strengths and weaknesses.
If your teen is more of an extrovert, he tends to like action and gets along well in social settings. He's likely to be an optimist. He gets bored or impatient with slow jobs and slow people, enjoys talking on the phone, and is generally confident and relaxed. He tends to work well under pressure, like when he takes tests.
What jobs do extroverts tend to like? Look for those that provide lots of activity, variety and stimulating input. Your teen probably will do best where he has plenty of interaction with people, many things going on at the same time, and deadlines to meet. Extroverts also enjoy jobs that let them turn ideas into reality.
In which career fields do we find more-extroverted people? Here are some: marketing, restaurant managers and workers, actors, salespeople and sales managers, dental hygienists, bank and office managers, religious and personal service workers, hairdressers and cosmetologists, self-employed business people, and teachers.
If your teen is more introverted, she tends to focus her energies inward; she's energized by times when she can be alone to ponder her thoughts, let her mind wander. She needs time to reflect before taking action. She's always asking questions (though not always out loud), tends to be more negative than positive in her outlook, and may get tagged as a pessimist. She tends not to work so well under the pressure of exams.
What kinds of jobs work well for introverts? Consider those that would allow your teen to work alone for much of the time, and where the stimulation level is low. She'll probably do best where she can have her own quiet space and work at her own pace. She may prefer an environment with fewer deadlines, one that lets her think up ideas and overcome the challenges that stand in the way of their becoming reality.
In which career fields do we find more-introverted people? Electrical and electronic engineers, chemists and other scientists, librarians, archivists and curators, mechanics and other repair people, lawyers, computer programmers, physicians, health technicians, priests and monks, and college professors.
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Adapted from Wired by God: Empowering Your Teen for a Life of Passion and Purpose by Joe White with Larry Weeden, Copyright © 2004, Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.
Thanks to counselor Tim Sanford for his contributions to this article.