Redemptive Gift Experiment


Dear Arthur Burk and SLG,

I am a youth minister at a small church in a big city.  Throughout my adult years the teaching on redemptive gifts has played a significant part in how I view the world.  I have listened to the c.d.’s many times and the insights have helped me to understand myself and others better.

Well, I have long believed that these kids can truly follow Christ now, however I recently realized that, in many ways, I had not lived that way nor treated them that way.  As someone with a teacher gift my approach to “working with them” was, largely, to have them sit, listen, and dialogue.  Though it was not the theology of my intellect I also nonverbally communicated to them that, because of their behavior (or lack of behavior) they were not quite Christian enough.

In the midst of seeing that the kids needed to be honored and treated like the church I remembered the redemptive gifts.  I began to think and pray about what each of the kids’ gifts might be and began coming up with jobs for them to do.  Here is a short list of the jobs that the kids are free to accept if they choose based on what I suspect their gifts might be:

Exhorter (12 yr. old girl) – find a song for each person in the Bible study that reminds you of that person and will make them feel good about themselves or help them.

Exhorter (11 yr. old girl) – come up with one thing you think is cool about each person and share it with them.

Prophet (12 or 13 yr. old boy) – come back and tell us about what the Lord is like, what His attitude is, what He cares about, based on the special dream you had as a little child that you shared before.  Not necessarily what you have seen on TV or heard, but from your experiences or heart.

Ruler (14 yr. old boy) – take leader role in project to make youth room look good again, to see what’s good about it and bring it back to the surface again (The youth room has become a wreck.  We were meeting in the Sunday School room.)

Servant (12 year old boy) – Like Sam did for Frodo in the Lord of the Rings, use your strengths to help the boy in the leader role see his mission accomplished.

Two 5 yr. olds – I’m not sure of what their gifts are.  Their job is to ask their family and come up with games that we can play at Bible study or songs that we can sing.

Giver (17 yr. old girl) – the $70.00 we have is in your hands.  Come up with ways to raise more money (for making over the room or future projects) either by utilizing the money we have or other ways.  In charge of the money.

Only 4 of the kids were there last night.  I told the first 2 girls what gifts I thought they had.  They both agreed and looked happy.  They seemed excited about their jobs.  When I told the second girl that I thought she was good at making people feel happy, and like friends she said “Yup, tutoring.” in an affirmative and pleased tone.

When I was going to skip the next boy because he wasn’t there they insisted on me telling them.  They listened eagerly as I went through each kid, even the absent ones.  When they heard that one boy would be leader of the room makeover there was some upset.

The 17 year old was last and there was a sense of wondering what would be said about her.  She can be quiet and more challenging to get to know.  I think sometimes people say that she is peaceful because she has been reserved or a good example because she doesn’t party like allot of teens.  Those things may be true but I think sometimes they are a bi-product of shy feelings rather than character choices, and I think she feels that and it might make her feel like she’s not really known.

I had asked the Lord what her gift was.  As I thought it seemed that she might be a giver.  So last night she was the last one and I told her “In the Bible there’s the gift of giving” and then I told her how it seems like she takes what she has and puts it to work because she knows in the future she will get a bigger pay off, and I told her several different examples of how I’ve seen her do that.  She also gave a gift to one of the other girls on her own birthday.  She was nodding in affirmation the whole time and saying “yes”.  She was perked by her job and excited by the responsibility of the money being in her hands. She was pleased and seemed energized and happy to hear those things about herself.

That night we also talked about how we don’t get to God by doing good stuff, but we become good stuff people by God, by Christ crucified.  And I apologized to them for ever making them think they weren’t accepted enough by God or by me.  It was an electric night.  Each child there was excited about their job and the room renovation, even the 5 year old felt pleasantly entrusted with a responsibility.  Thanks for sharing.

* * *

This is the report from a week later.

I should say though that last night we had our first children’s Bible study since last week.

The 14 year old boy that I invited to be in the leader position for the room makeover was reluctant at first (He asked if he would have to do any physical work.  He is a big boy and maybe thought I just wanted him to do the heavy work.) but ended up deciding to do it and had fun.

The 11 year old forgot what her job was.

The 12 year old did bring in songs but not everybody was pleased with the song chosen for them.

The 17 year old girl said that maybe she wasn’t best for the money job.  When I asked why she said that it was the fundraising planning that seemed like too big a job.  She ended up passing it onto a younger girl and wanted to help with decorating.  I plan to call this week and see if she would be more comfortable leading the job if another girl helped.

All this to say that I do not know how this is going to work out.  But the kids (and I) do feel excitement and have an opportunity to do something with each-other and to learn how to follow the Lord through it.

* * *

Arthur’s comments.

This to me is a lovely illustration of the need to deal with design (redemptive gifts) plus character, plus woundedness.

The beginning point is definitely to find the design of each child and to match the design with a task.  But when there is not good execution, the question is whether it was a lack of character or a fear driven response from woundedness.

When you are working on all three together, you can make good progress.

When you focus on any one of the three alone, it will create more stress and reaction than benefit.

Copyright February 2014 by Arthur Burk

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7 Responses to Redemptive Gift Experiment

  1. Jayne says:

    There has been the odd occasion in my life when I had registered for a course, only to be later informed of the threat of cancellation due to the very small number of registrants. My strong desire to participate and learn always seemed like enough of a justification – to me, anyways – that “the show MUST go on!!!”.
    I struggle for words to convey the emotion I feel as you lead your small flock, of ages 5 to 17. I am so grateful to the people that invested in relationship and growth in my life, in similarly humble contexts.

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  2. phyllis says:

    Just Wondering if there are any youtubes on the redemptive gifts and if not, where I can get the full teaching?

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    • SLG says:

      Phyllis, the original teaching is a CD album called Redemptive Gifts of Individuals. It was first released in 2000 and deals with the horizontal aspects of these gifts — how we related to each other. This is available through our store as a CD album or download, and is also available through Amazon.

      Then in 2008 we recorded a video version that built on the foundation of the first teaching, but showed how each gift related vertically to God, distinctly from their peers. That is available on our channel on YouTube.

      And in 2010 (I think) we recorded an album called The Artistry of His Majesty which showed the redemptive gifts of individuals, of ethnic groups and of land all woven together in one teaching. This is available through us or Amazon.

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  3. K8 says:

    Encouraging + insightful. Thank you!

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  4. Jude says:

    One way to discover each person’s redemptive gift might be to teach the gifts to a class. While teaching (this should last weeks, covering one each session) ask the participants to write down ways they have showed the use of that gift in their day to day lives. It’s not about “works” or “performance” but about discovery of how are are wired! That has to be imparted throughout the teaching, along with healing prayer about confusion that says we are valued for what we do, not who we are. At the end of the classes (or the beginning of the next, allow the kids to share their discoveries and get some feedback. That kind of support would go far! and be so encouraging and affirmative! At the end of the course, ask the kids to share what they think their redemptive gift is with the group. Let them choose the kind of activities that they would like to do to grow that gift, and encourage them to participate in activities that they might not have discerned as their gifting. After all, we are mysteriously and wonderously (?) made!

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  5. Lisa says:

    Love this!!

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  6. Taylor says:

    Wow. This is amazing. I’m so excited. I would have adored to have been considered in such a way by a leader when I was a teen.

    When I read what he said about the 17 year old I had tears, I remember being asked to do things that sounded great and I wanted to do them but with everything inside me I knew I couldnt physically make it happen. This youth pastor put into words what I’ve seen in youngsters a lot, they are praised for being well behaved but really they have a few restrictions inside their hearts. I’m thanking God this morning that there is someone doing this for the kids they’re responsible for. Praise God. Blessings on these efforts.

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