the shape of leadership

Helping Gen Z Discover Their Gifts

Three steps Christian leaders can take

Kent Ingle on March 7, 2023

I’ll always remember how my mentoring pastor taught me the importance of self-awareness and self-management.

By employing those two disciplines, I was able to discover who I was — what I was gifted in and passionate about — and direct my time and energy into investing and developing those areas of my life.

Understanding my gifts helped me discover what God had for my life and pursue opportunities in alignment with those talents and passions.

I love how Don Everts describes gifts in his book, Discover Your Gifts. He says, “We are all created as gifts with gifts to share.”

The topic of gifts is something important in our faith journeys — and it’s very relevant for young adults today.

Barna research found that Generation Z members are more likely than older adults to say they know their gifts. They also define themselves by their gifts and talents when introducing themselves and say they “definitely” have gifts they would like to develop.

Below are three steps leaders can use to help young adults discover their gifts and use them for God’s kingdom.


Start with Self-Awareness

As we guide young adults in discovering their gifts, one of the first steps should be internal reflection. We can begin by asking them what they do well and what areas they succeed in.

Have these individuals write down their passions and reflect on practical circumstances where they excelled. They will often find their gifts are tied to what they are passionate about — and that’s intentional on God’s part.

Recognizing one’s gifts can (and should) include the input of others. Encourage a young adult to reach out to someone close to them (a mentor, friend, family member or professor) and ask what that person thinks they are gifted in. This can be key in helping young adults confirm their talents and feel confident in them.

All young adults have the capacity to live out their divine design but need to cultivate their gifts so they can be used effectively.

While self-awareness and talking to others is important, young adults need to prioritize time in prayer and God’s presence. When they spend time with Christ, He can move within their lives and speak to them about the gifts He has given them. As James 1:17 tells us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above.”

Discovering their talents is vital for young adults as it enables them to understand God’s design for their lives. God has a unique plan and purpose for each individual. He has created every person to be the solution to a specific challenge in this world. By understanding God’s desire for their lives, young adults will comprehend how and where they can serve Christ.


Cultivate Their Gifts

Young adults want to develop their talents. In the Barna survey, nearly all practicing Christian Gen Z respondents said they have already put efforts into developing their skills. And they credit their growth to small groups with friends and educational environments.

It’s vital young adults are cognizant to the types of people they keep in their inner circles. Start by asking them, “Do the people close to you propel or diminish your gifts? Are they helping you find ways to grow your gifts as Christ intended?”

I always encourage young adults to be lifelong learners. We can help them search for books, podcasts, blogs, videos, or other content that will grow and challenge their talents.

Encourage young adults to enroll in higher education classes, certification programs, or online courses where they can learn from experts. Each class, book, and resource is a tool to further develop the skills God has given them.

What I love about working at a university is the opportunity to come alongside students and help them discover their gifts. Through classes, chapel services, and mentorship opportunities, they are provided with the knowledge and wisdom needed to fuel what God has for them.

Gifts are also cultivated through real-life experiences, such as practicums, internships, or community service. I also encourage students to find mentors and opportunities to share their gifts.

Romans 12:6 says, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.” It’s important for young adults to be aware of their gifts and then place themselves in communities and churches that will nurture those talents.

All young adults have the capacity to live out their divine design but need to cultivate their gifts so they can be used effectively.


Unleash Their Capacities

After they discover and develop their gifts, young adults must put what they’ve learned into practice. The more they use those talents the more they learn and grow — from the good and bad. They begin to sharpen what God has given them.

It’s important during this process young adults identify the types of work or avenues for service where their gifts can be used to full potential.

Unfortunately, many people within the Church are working outside their gifts. That often happens because we lack people who are willing to serve. When an individual works outside their area of talent, at least two people suffer — the person currently doing the work and the one who should be doing that task.

While there are many avenues for young adults to use their gifts, we should encourage them to ask themselves, “How can I use my gifts effectively for God’s kingdom?”

1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

The gifts of young adults can affect their vocations, their extracurricular activities (such as community service), and how they get plugged into our churches. As young adults use their gifts for God’s kingdom, they will discover a sense of joy and fulfillment.

In this process of gift discovery, development, and implementation, it’s important that young adults also recognize their gifts can change over time — and that’s completely normal and OK.

As we partner alongside young adults, we must remind them to consecrate everything to Christ. All they do, and every gift they use, should be for His glory. Encourage them to ask the Holy Spirit to minister through them while using their gifts.

On a personal level, evaluate how people in your scope of leadership are using their gifts. Are you creating avenues for young adults to use their gifts as Christ intended?

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