Mapping Spiritual DNA


In a Peanuts comic, Lucy contemplates with Charlie
Brown the meaning of life. Lucy says, “Life is like a deck chair.
Some place it where they are going; some place it where they have
been; and some place it so they can see where they are at present.”
Charlie Brown’s reply: “I can’t even get mine unfolded.”

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Unfolding a life is no easy task. It’s especially difficult if
you’re responsible for unfolding someone else’s. Yet this is our
calling as children’s ministers. Scripture tells us that we’re to
“train a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6). A proper
understanding of this often-misunderstood verse suggests that
children each have a particular path to follow and that as
ministers, teachers, and parents we’re to guide them to find this
God-given way. We’re to help them hear the voice Isaiah referred to
when he said, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your
ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk
in it'” (Isaiah 30:21).

Our dilemma is this: How do we help children live out their way
(fulfill their calling) when we have no idea what their way is?
Fortunately, God places in children a spiritual blueprint that,
when correctly read, makes clear the way they’re to go.

DNA: God’s Blueprint for Destiny Deep within
the cell structure of each child is genetic information that
determines everything from nose size to resistance to cancer. These
microscopic strands of genetic data are called DNA. Every single
hereditary characteristic of our sons or daughters is determined by
this material. DNA is a physiological blueprint for life.

There’s another form of DNA that’s less well-known. You can’t
see it with an electron microscope, and it’s impossible for human
beings to engineer. It’s also formed in the womb and has an even
greater determining force than biological DNA. It’s spiritual DNA
— our Divine Notion Awaiting — God’s spiritual blueprint for
life. Like its biological counterpart, spiritual DNA possesses
information about our children’s unique potential. By carefully
(and prayerfully) analyzing this code, we can collect and interpret
data that reveals mysteries about our children’s futures.

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King David’s DNA

The psalmist David recognized the existence of his spiritual DNA
in Psalm 139:15-16: “My frame was not hidden from you when I was
made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths
of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained
for me were written in your book before one of them came to

God’s plan for David’s life was recorded in his spiritual DNA.
He would be a great leader of his people — a gifted king, a
tremendous worship leader, and a powerful warrior.

When Samuel called on Jesse’s family to anoint the next king of
Israel, David was such an unlikely candidate that he was left to
tend sheep in the field. Samuel, however, was a trained spiritual
geneticist. With God’s help, he analyzed David’s DNA and he saw the
future in the boy. The boy with a passion and gifts to shepherd and
worship would grow up to shepherd God’s people as king and lead
them into the sanctuary of the Lord with praise. “I will place over
them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will
tend them and be their shepherd” (Ezekiel 34:23).

How tragic if David had missed God’s plan for his life because
of a lack of guidance. “No son of mine is gonna be some wimpy
musician!” “What your father means, dearest, is there’s no
financial security in psalmistry. We’d hoped you’d go to
agricultural school like your brother.”

Destiny Awaiting

Like Samuel, we’re called to see the future in children. What
are their gifts? What are their passions? These are the two strands
of their spiritual DNA. Gifting is what a child is good at doing.
Spiritual passion is what a child likes to do. The “way the child
is to go” is located at the place where these two components of
destiny overlap. Where avocation becomes vocation.

Like David, our kids have a call on their lives to fulfill a
specific kingdom purpose. It was placed in them before they were
born. Let’s look at some examples. Don used to read the
encyclopedia for fun when he was 10. He had an insatiable appetite
to learn how things worked. He also loved to hike and explore new
trails and would spend hours out in the woods. Today, he chases
down atomic particles for a living in a radiology lab. Don is a
nuclear physicist.

As a boy, John loved to gather a group of kids in the
neighborhood to play softball. He would encourage everyone on the
team to new levels of performance with his enthusiastic cheers and
screams. Today, he’s a pastor.

The majority of Nick’s first five years of life were spent in a
hospital. Born with a congenital heart defect, Nick’s chest looked
like a checkerboard from all his surgeries. During his long stays,
he would greet and encourage other children who were unfamiliar
with the hospital environment. Today, he’s a nurse. Katlin was
always the champion of the underdog. That she was petite made no
difference if a boy were being bullied on the playground. Her peers
considered her to be confrontational and at times aggressive. She
also had the unsettling habit of always having to be right about
everything. Today, she’s a lawyer!

Spiritual Genetics

So how do we analyze children’s spiritual DNA? And how do we
confirm their calling so they confidently live it out? Observation
and interview are key.

Tell the children in your group: “God has given each of you
special abilities so that you can do many wonderful things for him.
I want to help you discover those special abilities.”

1. List accomplishments. Have kids reflect on
their lives and list as many achievements and accomplishments as
they can remember. Share with them that these achievements don’t
have to be formally recognized. They may be as trivial as “makes
friends easily” or “collects baseball cards.” Have them record any
event or activity that clearly reveals a talent or ability.
Encourage them to list these accomplishments chronologically —
preschool, elementary, and preteen as follows.

  • Preschool — Starred as Mary in a preschool
    pageant. Won a coloring contest. Learned to play songs on
    piano by ear.
  • Elementary — Advanced to highest level in
    Bible club class. Made jewelry to sell to relatives and friends.
    Started and organized a kids’ newsletter at church.
  • Preteen — Swam competitively and won several
    meets. Started a pet-care and grooming business. Assisted in 4- and
    5-year-olds’ Sunday school class.

2. Identify favorites. Ask kids which
activities and events they considered “really enjoyable” or “the
most fun.” Have the children underline them.

Referring to each underlined event or activity, ask kids to
respond to the following interview questions: “What did you like
most about each activity or event? What made it so much fun for
you?” If their answers seem superficial, follow up with probing
questions. For example: “Think back to a time you were making
jewelry. What did you like about it?” The child might answer: “I
liked to design the jewelry best.” Or, “Think about a time you were
playing baseball. What were you doing when you had the most fun?”
Answer: “I like to play baseball because I love being part of a
team. It’s really fun to cheer for my friends.”

More interview questions include: “If I were not afraid of
anything I would…,” “The people I’d like to help the most
are…,” “If time and money were no problem I would want to
serve…,” “The one thing I wish I could do to help others would be
to…,” and “Sometimes I think God is telling me to…”

3. Analyze word choices. Responses from this
final set of questions reveal a great deal about a child’s
direction in life. Look at the verbs and verb phrases. Children who
are called to some form of craftsmanship (from blacksmithing to
wordsmithing) often use words such as “make, create, design, look
at when finished, or build” to describe what they enjoyed about an
achievement. Kids who use words such as “get a group together,
lead, win as a team, invite, guide, start, or help others improve”
often express leadership qualities. (For further insight into verbs
and verb phrases see the “Action Word List.”)

4. Partner with parents. To gain more
understanding about a child’s Divine Notion Awaiting, have parents
save physical evidence of spiritual DNA. Encourage parents to keep
a scrapbook for their children — “A Destiny Journal.” Have parents
save special awards, pieces of artwork, pictures, photographs of
projects, and letters that reveal aptitude and interest.

Among my most treasured destiny finds is a math test my daughter
Rebekah gave to her dolls when she was 7. Of the two dolls who took
the test, one scored a B+ and the other a C. The test had several
arithmetic problems and word problems — each doll answered
separately. Rebekah had to have known the right answer to each
problem to be able to correct the test. Not only does the test show
Rebekah’s passion and gift for teaching but also her aptitude for

5. Report results. While this isn’t scientific,
it is an informative process. Over time, these things may or may
not be confirmed. This information does, though, give children and
their parents insight into the way to go. Share with children and
their parents your findings in the following format:

God seems to be calling Rachael to touch the lives of others
through craftsmanship; she also demonstrates a calling to minister
in encouragement and mercy. God seems to be calling Mike to touch
the lives of others through encouragement; he also demonstrates a
calling to minister in administration.

God has given each child a unique calling — some will grow up
to teach, some to administrate, others to pastor and lead. Our job
as teachers and pastors is to help every boy and girl find their
God-given way and equip them to live it out. A tall order!
Fortunately, the God who calls our children is willing to share his
secrets with us. The God who calls our kids promises to be found.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans
to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a
future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I
will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me
with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord”
(Jeremiah 29:11-14).

Wes Fleming is a pastor and the author of Raising Children
On Purpose. For more information about his book and seminars, go to Please keep
in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to

Action Word List

The following is a list of words associated with various gifts
kids may have in their spiritual DNA.

Administration — list, straighten up,
straighten out, solve, manage, control, direct, oversee, govern,
rule, carry out, organize, figure out, order, arrange, line up,
prepare, measure, schedule, plan, prepare, collect, file, sort, set
up, save, be on time, record, remember, maintain, sustain.

Artisanship and Craftsmanship — make,
construct, design, invent, write, build, devise, assemble, put
together, mold, form, beautify, embellish, adorn, fix, repair,
improve, paint, create, share a creation with others.

Discernment — know, make clear, clarify,
simplify, clear up, summarize, solve, determine, resolve, decide,
perceive, understand, judge, referee, arbitrate, discriminate,
notice, sift, discern, distinguish, make decisions, correct,
listen, think.

Encouragement — talk, make friends, encourage,
inspire, bring hope, make happy, fill with courage or confidence,
support, stimulate, spur, cheer, coach, push, challenge, promote,
comfort, assure, urge, provoke, incite, excite, exhort, talk,
improve, grow, develop, advance, progress, motivate.

Evangelism — persuade, compel, show, convince,
win over, rescue, save, free, sell, win, reach, overcome, succeed,
prevail, tell others.

Giving — share, give, care, offer, provide,

Helping — help, assist, support, aid, ease,
relieve, take care of it, rescue, serve, join.

Hospitality — welcome, invite, host, greet,
care, love, chat, mingle, visit.

Intercession and Prayer — pray, advocate,
uphold, support, defend, reconcile, appeal.

Leadership — lead, build a team, tell others
what to do, overcome, urge, direct, guide, demand, command, order,
influence, initiate, start, dream, take charge, go first, take
others to new heights and limits, expect more from others and self,
compel, improve, change, make happen, persuade, convince, inspire,
advance, improve, excel.

Music and Worship — perform, play and make
music, entertain, applaud, cheer, clap, sing, keep the beat,
whistle, drum, worship, compose, create, write music, represent,
display, feel strongly about God.

Mercy and Compassion — show compassion,
express kindness, show mercy, help, relieve, care, support,
alleviate, lessen, ease, comfort, empathize, sympathize, pity, aid,
soothe, calm, love.

Pastoring — direct, steer, lead, guide,
comfort, take care of, mentor, equip, train, show how, help get
ready, advise, counsel, gather together, round up, get together,
team up, meet with, to be with friends, to make friends, join,
belong, care, love, protect, defend.

Preaching — preach, implore, plead, persuade,
convince, warn, admonish, urge, caution, correct the behavior of,
talk, speak, discuss, tell others to follow the truth, declare,
reveal truth, perform well under stress, compete, speak truth.

Teaching — teach, figure out, instruct,
clarify, explain, demonstrate, help others understand, inform, make
known, investigate, study, read, research, explore, look up,
analyze, solve, examine, learn, discover, observe, show, present,
display, illustrate.


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