I am a church girl. I have been attending church since I was just a few days old. (Above is a picture of the inside of the church I grew up in.) I try to relate to the unchurched as best I can, but I’ll never fully understand life for those who have not grown up in the church. Along with the gigantic blessings of such a life have come some….how shall I say it…special needs. You see, sometimes knowledge can be an obstacle, a gift, but an obstacle.

I studied gifted education in grad school and enjoyed the paradigms that were shifted for me there. One major paradigm shift was that students with a high IQ or “gifted” students were not more advantaged than everyone else. Sure things came easier to them, but they had internal struggles that they did not share with the rest of the population. They were starved for learning. No one was challenging them because they were getting by. Most kids learned something new every day. They did not. Like a cheetah penned in, they were not getting the mental exercise they yearned for. They were truly a special needs minority.

Back to the church world. If you are a believer who has also grown up in the church, you probably have more knowledge than 80 percent of pastors of churches overseas. When a population has so many that are educated in the faith, this is a highly spiritually “gifted” population. I know we often berate ourselves for not acting on most of what we know, but many of us are sincerely doing the best we can. It is easy to put on a happy face and nod your head at everything the pastor says when you are ignorant of the Bible. But it is hard when you have so much knowledge and you are trying to grapple with so many unanswered questions that the unchurched person doesn’t know to ask. How do you think the 12 year old Jesus felt when he was discoursing with the religious leaders of his time? I have a feeling that there was this burning on the inside for more. I have a feeling that sometimes it was hard for him to relate to the other Jewish boys. So many of us, church kids young and old, are often starved for learning, starved for fascination, starved for satisfaction.

Like some gifted kids I knew, some of us are content to pretend it doesn’t bother us. I will admit to you there was a time in my life when I stopped studying the Bible because I was tired of having questions. I was tired of disagreeing. I was afraid I’d know more than my leaders and I just wanted to be a safe follower. Some gifted kids ignore the desire they once had for learning, concluding that it is more trouble than it’s worth. They make an effort to fit in like the girl who plays dumb so the boys will not be threatened by her. How sad.

Other gifted kids will buck the system. They are aggressive. They will raise their voices and cause trouble for the adults. They won’t be concerned with their grades. They just won’t conform to the mold. We don’t know why they won’t get in line. We feel that they are wasting their talents. Instead of making “good use” of their brain by, say, going into the medical field, they choose instead to pursue something unnerving… like music. These kids often have mismatched maturity for knowledge. They have a lack of experience to go on. Their frustrations can almost be too much to bear.

So what happens to those “church kids,” that “gifted” population within the church? They are often bored. They are often cynical. They often have walls up. Some of them are so disillusioned that they stop trying, stop yearning. Faced with the prospect of living a boring existence, some of them give up on church, trying to find fascination elsewhere. Tragically, we are losing some of our brightest and most talented potential leaders.

Gifted kids, like church kids, don’t always know what to do with the gifts they have. They don’t know how to use them or develop them. Church kids grow up never learning how to make disciples because they themselves were never really discipled. There are aging adult church kids who have never had someone believe in them and invest in them. So, instead of reaching out to others and reproducing, they become stunted in their development. They can be preoccupied with their legitimate need for fathers and mothers of the faith.

I’m not blaming our churches for this phenomenon, I am merely making the observations. My desire is that leaders in the church would at least be aware that there are “church kids” everywhere who are dying inside. They have all the answers and they may even be living right. But they are starved for a challenge, to exercise the full potential of their leadership. Instead of berating them, maybe we need to pour more into them and expect more from of them. Instead of dismissing them, maybe we just need to hear them out. If you are one of those church kids, there is hope. If you have never been discipled the way you would have liked and if your dreams were never realized, there is hope. Jesus gets you. He is no cliche. And he has what you are looking for. So go out and get what you need to grow. Never stop, never settle, never get used to boredom. We need you now like never before.

  1. Al Phillips says:

    This SO familiar with me! The Lord has been me through many unique challenges for me as I am progressing. What if you know and can help and Holy Spirit says to be quiet? Jesus has shown Himself to me that showed His humility and willingness to go through unbelievable trials for mankind… I think I can go through some smaller hard times as well…

    • beleighve says:

      Thanks for the comment. And as you know, Jesus knows. After I wrote this I was remembering when you carried me down from the balcony to the altar to make my decision public. Weren’t they playing, “I Surrender All”? Love ya, Dad!

  2. Luke E. says:

    This is the most insightful synthesis I have read in quite a while. Much to chew on. Thank you.

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