Wednesday, May 31, 2006


[Children's Spirituality Chpt 13 "A Child's Concept of God" by Joyce E. Bellous , Simone A. de Roos (author of Educating Faith: An Approach to Christian Formation), and William Summey - an international team of authors.]

This may be the mother lode of this particular article:

As a child, our sense of self grows from the gaze of our primary caregiver. "If the child perceives itself as wonderful and worthy in [the eyes of his/her primary caregiver] life is good...the child can relax...[If] the image formed is of a bad child, if the child has not been able to fulfill the conditions that inhere in the narrative parents told themselves about the child before its birth, there is likely to be a conflict of being. The child senses that what is wrong is not what the child does but what he or she is. The child can not please parents or his or her God except by becoming a different sort of person . . . the child can never relax." (p. 207)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

more thoughts c. Chapter 13

[Children's Spirituality Chpt 13 "A Child's Concept of God" by Joyce E. Bellous , Simone A. de Roos (author of Educating Faith: An Approach to Christian Formation), and William Summey - an international team of authors.This is a fascinating chapter. ]

More ideas to ponder:

"...God-concepts are personal rather than accurate. They are made from primary experience." (p. 216) We want to give children the words (language) and skills to articulate their own thoughts and ideas but also to observe "what the scriptures reveal about God through the person and works of Christ".

Question: Does religious education actually do this or does it give us language or boxes that we must somehow fit our own experience into?

"God concepts may be repressed or transformed but they do not go away."(p. 204) yet "Having a concept of God is different than having a personal relationship with God." ( p. 213)

They have a very good section addressing Christian educators who use the old (I hope) image of self or God "on the throne." : "It is not by casting one's self off the 'heart's throne' that maturity begins. Rather, obtaining a fresh and enlivened vision of God's own Self enables people to grow up in the faith...revised in light of scripture, communal knowledge, self-examination, and experiencing God 'face to face'. . ." The authors say that unless this happens "God concepts are merely products of imagination." (p. 215) Scary!

"The working out of identity is a conversation." (emotionally charged-rich in meaning- conversation). (p. 216) We need other people in order to know ourselves.

"Religious educators are wise if they treat children differently depending on the God concept that is already formed in a child's mind. . ." "the task of teaching religion to children demands exquisite attention to the experience of the child as well as to what [teachers present to children]" (p. 207)

Question: How do we connect the God of scripture with the God a child "knows" whether their God-concept is accurate or inaccurate? Is it for us to do or is it enough to present the Word, enter into discussion and let a child wrestle with the ways their ideas about God and their experience collide?

The authors say that for faith to survive, children (and adults) have to wrestle everytime they experience an emotional or developmental crisis. They are trying to mesh what they thought they knew of God with their experiences and expectations of God and the outside world.

One of the wonderful things about this book is the way these faith-filled scientists find that their observations help them make sense of scripture and visa versa. Not fudging their faith. Not fudging real science (their observations of all that God has made).


...for your idea box. . .

Friday night was the last House Blend until fall. George wanted us to ponder "neccessary" (Mt.1 6:21-27 and 1 Cor 12.) Able was the only little person who came. The plan for the kids was to have a puzzle on the table with all the pieces except one (the neccessary one to finish the picture) and more puzzles to keep them occupied. Tracey and Abel found the puzzles but I forgot to tell her why the piece was missing. (Sorry, Tracey!)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Child's Concept of God: Relationships

Children's Spirituality Chpt 13 "A Child's Concept of God" by Joyce E. Bellous , Simone A. de Roos (author of Educating Faith: An Approach to Christian Formation), and William Summey - an international team of authors.

Research shows that a child's self-concept is distinctly tied to a child's God-concept. As it turns out self-esteem, self-concept, God-concept and concepts that children have of others are all interrelated. "Parents, teachers, significant others, as well as salient things (e.g., church buildings, television programs) are influential in constructing a child's expectation that God is dependable, good and kind (or the opposite...) whether or not the child has formal religious training."(p. 204)]

However incomplete, language is an important element for people searching for evidence of faith in children. It's interesting that with or without religious training, children do, in fact, find language to articulate what we would consider faith. Apparently when they need the words, they will find the words.

Relationships are important to children. God made us that way. Faith in God is relational. He walked with Adam in the garden. He came to find us. Maybe this relational side of God makes it easier for kids to find the words they need?

1) Our own perception of God, 2) how we as parents (and other adults) relate to our children, 3) how we perceive other people in our attitude and behaviour all affect how children see God and how they see themselves but flip that.

Especially when they're little, children and how they perceive life and God and people also give us clues about ourselves and about God - not just what we're imparting to them but when they smile at you and touch you and love you I think Jesus is loving you. The kingdom of heaven belongs to them. We can give to one another, receive from one another, and grow in our knowledge of God together.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Parent/child communication (from Children's Spirituality)

Children's Spirituality Chapter 12 "The Co-Construction of Spiritual Meaning in Parent-Child Communication." (Chris J. Boyatzis)

That's a mouthful and this may be a little too academic, but think about how your conversations with your child affect his/her faith and spiritual formation.

Boyatzis says, "Parents have a scriptural call to search for the sacred all day and night, in all contexts." (p 183) "When Moses told his people to talk with their children about faith and God throughout the day and in various settings, Moses was also unwittingly telling researchers where to look for a crucial context of spiritual socialization and growth. (p. 196)

From my perspective, we need children as much as they need us. I think "co-construction of spiritual meaning" suggests that parents and children are both building together at the same time. As adults, we teach and train our children yet we must become as children to enter the kingdom. How can we do that if we aren't around them? If we don't learn from them? Not only parents, but adults and children need each other.

Some parents and children journey together listening to one another, asking and answering questions together, building together. Some parents approach parenting as spiritual experts and expect their children to sit at their feet, listen, learn, and obey. And there's all degrees in between, depending on the situation. Parents and children have distinct conversation styles, learning styles, teaching styles. Does our communication style affect the faith of our children? Do their questions and answers affect our faith? How? We had a short but profound conversation with one of our kids recently. Her observations about the affects of our faith on our parenting and how it affects the expression of her faith were profound.

"Unfortunately, an assumption that pervades the social science literature is that such exchanges [parent child religious discussions] feature a unidirectional parent-to-child transmission of religious beliefs and practices..." Boyatzis] gives an example: a father initiates a conversation with a child and it largely consists of "test" questions in order to determine what the child knows with mild corrections. But, she says, in this kind of conversation the child is more apt to be passive not active in the "religious socialization" process. (p. 183)

The alternative? Parents and children growing together and working together to make sense of their faith. She likens this to "cultivation" as opposed to "indoctrination." "Mutual exchange" as opposed to a predominantly one-sided conversation. (p. 183-184))

Some of their questions (p. 194-6), pending more research but interesting to think about from personal experience ie. conversations between you and your parents or you and your children:

1) "[T]o what degree does parent-child communication. . . influence the spiritual growth of children? parents ?

2) How does the conversational style we choose reflect our beliefs? How does it affect our beliefs?

3) To what degree do parents see their role as "sacred" or "holy" ? Would this lend itself to more give and take in conversation or less?

4) Do you use different communication styles for different topics? different aged children? different gender to gender? Many studies show that children talk more with their mothers than fathers about religion-related topics and have more intimate conversations with mothers. (p.186) Is this only when mothers are more available or does it also occur as often when fathers are more available?

5) To what degree does parental conviction or uncertainty direct or affect communication? Some children (and adults) need communication with a distinct sense of closure. Some do better with open-ended discussions. Some deal better with fact, some with possibilities.

6) Does a child's religious style and orientation continue through adulthood?

7) How does childhood experience affect adult spirituality?

8) How do parents influence the spiritual growth of their children? How do children influence the spiritual growth of their parents?

Research to date reveals children to be spiritually active, not blank tablets waiting for the rest of us to write on them. Having once been children, we know that. We don't really know what we're writing on our own children unless we're watching, listening, and sharing conversation.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Add to Resource List

Two more books. I haven't read them but they look like they're worth adding to the resource list.

Children Matter by Stonehouse, Cannell, May etc,

Ratcliff's Experiencing God and Spiritual Growth with Your Children

Monday, May 22, 2006

Ongoing questions

Someone asked me these questions recently. I was struck by the realization that I was asking these same questions a year ago and still don't feel like I have answers, except the resources you'll find in past posts. Many of you have visited other emerging churches, attended conferences, read books ... Anyone have answers?

1) Community practices you see in emerging communities that form children.

2) Writings by true emerging/missional voices along these lines

3) Blogs that have good discussion on this
children spirituality networks

4) Emerging faith communities whose child practices and values you really respect (and tell us why)

5) Your favorite resources for nurturing parents to be strong spiritual directors at home and in their faith communities (and tell us why you liked them)
or maybe you don't believe that parents should be strong spiritual directors ...


Putting on

Yesterday, the passage for the worship message was Philippians 2. Pastor Brian, (who will be taking over Children's Ministry at Artisan after June 11) had all the kids in great costumes and talked about Jesus "putting on" (becoming) man. Don't know if the whole talk is on the Artisan website ipod. The kids and the congregation enjoyed it!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Children's Ministry

Those of you who have worked with kids as Children's Ministers or Sunday School teachers,what are your favorite resources?

For Parents...

What are your favorite parenting resources?

For Kids...

Ok, parents, students, pastors, et al here's your chance to comment and share your most favorite resources FOR kids... tell us if you're a pastor, parent, student, grandparent, 20's, 30' favorites are outdated.



Tuesday, May 16, 2006

more thoughts from Children's Spirituality

Chris J. Boyatzis and Babette T. Newman wrote Chapter 11 in Children's Spirituality- "How Shall We Study Children's Spirituality?" I'm quite impressed by those studying it. They seem to care about children as much or more than their area of expertise and about going after God.

Whether or not the focus is on Christian spirituality, it's exciting for scientists to admit that there is a spiritual part of man (particularly children) and that it's essential to our being human. It's exciting for them to recognize that spirituality (particularly children's spirituality) must be studied from many different angles and levels through the eyes of many different scientific disciplines because it is so complex. They liken this to taking many snapshots of something from many angles giving us a better picture, helping us see and better understand this "complex" "multifaceted" "phenomena." I particularly like this image. They're taking a very holistic approach which I think benefits children greatly. (p. 161)

Two Thoughts
- to understand how a child relates to the trancendent (things like "God, nature, other people, love...") we must "allow the child's own words, activities, and creations to be the primary source of insight." This is the only way to understand the variety and depth of a child's spirituality. (p. 177) Perhaps, it might even be enough just to observe it and record it (it's real! it's there!) without being driven by the need to understand it.

- "to understand the child as a meaning maker, a spiritual pilgrim who grows outward in small steps or sudden spurts toward the transcendent while growing ever more deeply in his or her innermost parts." And perhaps to help children identify and talk about the meaningful experiences and insights that they gather as they grow. God calls us to remember what He does and to tell our children and our children's children. If we approach this with wisdom and care we can help children do this, too. As for adults - something real to hold on to when we doubt.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Turtles and Random Animal Info

I finished another chapter of Children's Spirituality but forgot to save the post, so you'll have to endure this instead.

1) This week I learned that our county Humane Society began as an Animal and Child Welfare Society. It turns out, Animal Welfare existed before Child Welfare. I'm still processing that one.

2) Our silver maple tree is a gray squirrel apartment house if you're into observing wildlife. (But the baby squirrels aren't babies anymore.) The squirrels tease the puppies tempting them from the base of the tree just past the fence line instead of staring down at them from their hole at the top of the tree.

3) We have these HUGE black birds of prey that fly over Highland Park but I don't know what they are. There are oodles of crows, too, but they're much bigger than crows. (turkey vultures, as it turns out.)

4) The best part! This morning I'm staring at the meadow length grass in my city yard wondering why I never seem to have our yard together for the Lilac Festival like the rest of the neighborhood ... and suddenly I'm staring at a large (6-8 inch) turtle in the corner of my yard at the base of a tree trunk . We're a good 1/2- 3/4 mile from significant natural (turtle-friendly) water sources each on the other side of a busy city street. Maybe an escaped pet.

I left the turtle in the yard and it wandered into the grass so I figured it would be fine. (Like the squirrels, it hugged the fenceline so the puppies didn't find it.) At lunchtime it's in the same place and drying out so I pour some water on it and set the dish a couple feet away and it finds the water. Very cool.

I look up NYS turtles on line and thinking it's a kind of turtle people raise as pets from the SW or SE US (not to be released into the Eastern US) so I put it in an old guinea pig cage because the Buffalo website said to take it to the Humane Society or find it a home. Looking more closely, the turtle has a cracked shell and it looks more like native NYS turtle pictures.

So I call the wild life rehabilitators at East Ridge Veterinary and they take a look. It's an Eastern Painted Turtle (native to NYS) , the injury is over a week old, it didn't need rehabilitating (turtles may carry salmonella but, he said, they have great immune systems) . Thus a happy ending.

Turtles may be slow but just for the record, that turtle didn't stop moving from the time I scooped it up with the shovel, put it into the cage, bumped it around on the drive to Irondequiot or even while the wildlife rehabilitator handled him - not once did it hide in it's shell.

If you find native turtles on the move in bizarre places between now and the middle of June, he said it's mating season. If you and your kids are visiting ponds and streams, keep your eyes open for turtles!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Revisting Children's Spirituality (The Brain -2)

If you look back to April 11th you'll see I started reading this chapter about a month ago. (It's only 14 pages. I get distracted.)

Food-for-thought from the 2nd half:

Scottie May and Donald Ratcliff (authors of this chapter) suggest that "brain research, as well as reflection upon the ways God expresses himself...suggest the need for a more holistic approach in which emotions and experience should be the result of educational and corporate worship, not mere words. (p 161) Children learn to speak being around speakers before they go to school and sit in a Language Arts class. Abraham Heschel is cited as saying, "We teach children how to measure, how to weigh. We do not teach them how to revere, how to sense wonder and awe."(p. 161)

What is essential? S. Cavalletti (Religious potential of the child 1992) tells us to "Watch the child's attitudes and actions to learn what is essential; then adjust accordingly...Encourage wonder, amazement, freedom, and appropriate independence. Create experiences so the child can relate to God; provide and promote a sense of belonging." (p. 161)

"By the very nature of congregational life, the faith comunity may be the best place for children to hear spiritual and biblical narratives...Children need settings where narratives are shared, as well as settings for personal reflection." (p. 162)

[given the research] " seems crucial to take seriously the possibility that children's experiences or encounters with God can be facilitated by preparing environments that allow connatural knowing [the way the youngest children learn to speak and understand language] and relational consciousness to emerge." The child's spirituality should influence the form children's ministry takes, not "cultural trend or cognitive theory." (p. 162)

Scottie May (2003) developed a chart of "core commonalities" for the spiritual formation of children. All lead from one to the other through the work of the Holy Spirit.
-Encounters with God is in the center.
-The five squares around this square all lead to Encountering God and from one to another:
Involvement in service and mission
Owning an identity as part of the people of God
Knowing and being formed in the character of God's people
Knowing His character and actions
Responding with a sense of awe and wonder

From my own perspective the traditional term "Children's Ministry" [ministering to children] can only survive if it's saturated with a focus on the spiritual formation of children that reaches much deeper, wider, higher and broader than the traditional notion of "being saved". Maybe it's as simple as seeing kids as significant and loved little people not just statistics. Though fairly academic and research based somehow Children's Spirituality: Christian Perspectives, Research, and Applications still communicates that. I'm almost halfway through it and, yes, I'm still reading . . . :)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Another detour: Education Options

About a month ago, I was WAY behind visiting blogs (and when I did, I probably overcompensated with my comments.) I almost missed an interesting discussion. Though I'd love to continue that discussion with the people involved I think it's probably a discussion that people in Children's Ministry and Pastoral Ministry need to have, not just among themselves but with ears to listen and hear the experiences of others and ears to hear the people they're caring for. It's important because it affects children, homes, families and their faith.

Let's call the discussion "education options." I'm grateful for the priviledge to have choices in this country. But priviledge brings the responsibility of stewardship.

Whatever educational option you choose, if you look hard enough you'll find mixed fruit. Sometimes your observations grow stereotypes, sometimes they break those stereotypes apart. My observations left me with broken stereotypes. Does this mean that every similar learning situation (urban/suburban/rural, public/parochial/homeschool) matches my observations? No. Are there patterns? Maybe, but be careful how you interpret your observations. Sometimes cause and effect get skewed. There are lots of reasons people have for making the choices that they make. Often the causes for good fruit and bad fruit aren't simple.

Families and those who care for families need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the various educational options available in your local area. It pays to know not just individual children and their needs, but the family, what kind of marriage holds that family together, how parents and children relate to each other, how they relate to the outside world as individuals and as a family. It pays to understand what matters to them and why those things matter. What are their educational goals and objectives? What are their life goals and objectives?

It's important to keep a close eye on the fruit that grows from the educational option you choose. (Not just cognitive/learning fruit but social fruit, values, faith, work ethic...) Those who succeed in business regularly inspect the fruit of their labor.

Every educational option has it's ups and downs. Every family has it's ups and downs. We have opportunity to choose the educational options that we believe best for our children. A wonderful priviledge! And most important, I believe, God will hold us accountable for the way that we steward it. Hard choices. Hard work.

Doubting Thomas

Sunday, the Pastor Brian did an engaging sleight-of-hand-trick for the kids and talked with adults about Thomas and his doubts. Because Thomas needed to touch Jesus to believe He was alive, I put a different object in each of 20 unmatched white socks, 10 for sanctuary and 10 for foyer. Seemed a reasonable alternative to noisy paper bags. (We won't ask why I have so many unmatched socks in my house.) Used clip art and primitive drawing skills to make a picture chart of the objects in the socks. The kids could point to what they felt in the sock, peak to see if they were right and put it back in the basket for another child. Should have made more sheets. Threes and fours in the Foyer and older kids in the sanctuary seemed to enjoy the activity. Some two's were curious to reach in the sock but most, not.

Need 3-piece familiar object or Bible puzzles for the foyer if you happen to see anything like that. Tried coloring and cutting puzzles out of past Bible story pictures this week. Not impressive.

In a world full of expensive toys and learning activities making things from nothing grows God-given creativity. Though the quality may not be master-craftsman caliber, kids can duplicate what they use at church when they get home. Seems appropriate for a place called Artisan Church, at least for now.