With a new school year on the horizon, attention turns to goals for learning and growing. To encourage academic improvement, many schools now emphasize what psychologist Carol Dweck calls the “growth mindset”—a belief that anyone can learn and grow with effort. Potential is unlocked when children believe they can learn from challenges and by working hard. 
By contrast, a “fixed mindset” is a belief that one’s basic abilities and talents are predetermined. These kids (and adults) aren’t interested in learning how to improve because they don’t believe they can.   
Dweck’s approach is relevant beyond the classroom; in fact, it applies to faith growth, to some degree. People with a fixed mindset believe they’re bad and can’t change, that imperfections are shameful, and that if they face challenges, something must be wrong with their faith.  
Those with a growth mindset, however, realize it’s okay to share their sins and struggles with others. They know that Jesus loves and forgives them no matter what, and they believe they can grow closer to Jesus by trusting him during life’s inevitable challenges. 
One thing we do want to be fixed in kids’ minds is their innate, God-given value. God made us in his image and wants to be in relationship with us despite our shortcomings. Because we don’t have to prove our worth to God, we can focus instead on growing closer to him.  

Instilling a faith-growth mindset can be as simple as altering the praise and feedback you give your children. Follow these guidelines: 

  • Let kids know God already loves them—no matter what. 

  • Say the goal is to be best friends with God, not to appear good. 

  • Praise kids for the effort they put into resisting a temptation. 

  • Praise kids for getting to know God, not just knowing about him. 

  • Encourage kids to ask Jesus for help when they’re struggling. 

  • Encourage kids to share their failures with trusted friends and adults. 

Here are some activities to do as a family to help instill a faith-growth mindset: 
Pressing On
Gather origami paper, Glue Dots, and scissors. Download craft instructions from childrensministry.com/origami-star and make a sample ahead of time. Show family members the star and have them make their own. Offer encouragement and help, as needed. Read Philippians 3:12-15 and say: “Paul loved Jesus but still messed up. He pressed on, just as you did with this craft.” Ask: “How can these verses help you press on, even when you mess up?” 
Take Aim!
For this outdoor game, divide a rectangular area in half. Play “volleyball” with an inflated balloon and squirt guns. Players can use unlimited squirts to move the “ball.” Afterward, ask: “What was this game’s goal? How did we work to reach it? What are some goals you have? Who helps you reach them?” Read Psalm 16:7-8. Say: “God instructs you and goes before you as you aim for goals!” 
Growth Takes Time
Fill clean baby food jars halfway with heavy cream. (You can add a marble, but use caution.) Secure the lids. Ask: “Does this look like butter? Do you think you can make it into butter?” Say: “Shake a jar while we talk.” Read Matthew 17:14-20. Ask: “How much faith does it take to do the impossible? What tough thing do you need God’s help with?” Shake jars a few more minutes, until butter forms. Enjoy some on bread. Then discuss how it can take time to see God’s miracles—and how we shouldn’t give up! 

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About the Author: stephanie holmberg

Stephanie is a wife, mother, pastor, and friend who is passionate about seeing people live authentic, purpose-filled lives. When not working alongside her amazing kidmin team, you will find her at home spending time with her family, snuggling her furry friend Milo, or out exploring all the amazing places Edmonton has to offer.