Tuesday, August 29, 2006


The thing that's so strongly implied, that I failed to draw attention to, is the wonderful relational element of Joselito's faith. That's pretty evangelical, don't you think? The relational element of "spirituality" is a theme that runs through most of the stories about children in these studies. For me that element is the difference between faith and religion.

Let me suggest that the relational elements of a child's faith, as revealed through these studies challenge our evangelical notions about when it's appropriate for a child to be baptized or "saved" or make a "commitment to Christ" or join the church. It re-enforces the Hebrew practice of including their children with them as those who are part of the covenant people of God knowing there awaits a non-negotiable coming of age/age of accountability for each child. Not sure if that's in scripture so much as part of Jewish culture today. I think the Orthodox use a similar model. This doesn't negate our making decisions, our being disciples, our chosing to follow. It doesn't negate God filling us and baptizing us in His Spirit, part of the New Testament model.

Father, Son, Holy Spirit, God is God but people of different ages and in different cultures express themselves and their relationships differently.

When you think of worship, when you think of all ages, men, women, social stations, nations, coming together the way it's described in Revelation, imagine. Imagine all those differences woven together into one amazing Love song.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Elizabeth Conde-Frazier exploring Latino spirituality 2

I first saw this as inspiration for a great "Immersed" event (see Artisan Church website to find out what I mean by an "Immersed" event).

But then I realized that there's more to ponder. Here is a little boy with a better "knowing" of what the word "altar" means than I have after more than half a century.

We're not talking about idolatry. The word "altar" is in the scriptures. It's a word in our Protestant Evangelical vocabulary.

Remember we talked about "concrete," "experience," "language," "kinesthetic," "multi-sensory," "engaged"? This story shows us all these things. It tells about grown-ups and children giving and receiving from one another. It tells of a child's role in a family, an extended family, a larger faith community. It talks about a child setting up his own meaningful "sacred" space. He's sharing his faith with those who come through his home. There are lots of observations to make here. There may be experiences like this in the lives of your own children and the children you work with - concrete times, places, things they use to process and make sense of their faith. Children grow and learn through play and play is real. This is real.

I think our fear of religiosity and idolatry probably kept us from considering the role of ritual, tradition, and the "concrete" in the spiritual development of our children. Maybe the fear that it would be just that, instead of just a step towards something invisible, more real, and more permanent.

In what ways do you show God how much you love Him in concrete ways that your child can see and touch and hear and experience with you while they're still thinking in concrete terms? How do you tell them God's stories? How do you tell them about the ways He answers your prayers?

Funny that children are so concrete and yet their faith fully embraces the mysteries of God in ways that we grown-ups often deem childish. Is an adult whose child-like faith still embraces the mysteries of God superstitious, or more faithful than we who deem ourselves materially satisfied and well "educated"? I wonder. . .

Elizabeth Conde-Frazier exploring Latino spirituality 1

I'm rushing a little. This week is really busy and I'll be gone.

Elizabeth Conde-Frazier also brings some wonderful stories about specific children and their faith. As I was listening to Lt. Col. Kickbusch as she shared so many stories about growing up Mexican-American and her experiences with education I was so impressed that her faith, family and community were integral to who she is - not easily dissected but part of the warp and woof of her life.

There are wonderful stories in this chapter. One little girl who came from a religious home and who cared for the homeless became a committee member making presentations when they recruited new members. One little boy, who didn't come from a religious home, began to observe and help his neighbor garden because they both wanted to bring something nice to their neighbors. Each of these children saw the face of God in the people they served.

The story that I found myself thinking about was the story of 4-year old Joselito. He watched his Catholic grandmother arrange the altar in her home and tell the stories of each item she placed there. She let him touch these things. She shared the ever-new answers to prayer that she received. Ms Conde-Frazier writes, "Every time he visited he would ask the same question and his abuelita [grandmother] would repeat the ritual; but her stories about answered prayers would change, providing him with a variety of faith stories related to prayer and the symbols on the altar." (CS p. 300)

His parents were Pentecostal. They had different things on their altar and used it in different ways. He watched his father pray and read here. His father held the little boy in his lap and read the Bible to him and annointed him with the oil, making the sign of the cross on his forehead and blessed him.

Joselito's response was this: One night while his mother was making dinner he was busy and humming a song that they sang in church. He put two place mats together, placed a Bible on them, a picture he'd colored, his mother's neckace (colored beads) some dandelions, and the new cap his uncle had given him. When his mother asked what he was doing, he told her that he was showing God how much he loved Him. He was sharing with God things that God had shared with him. "They are so pretty and I like them too." And here is the transfer of culture, he says, "When Abuelita and Papa and you and Tio[uncle] Mike and all the people who visit us come to this house, they share pretty things and this is one way of showing love. When you cook I want to share some food with God too because we always share food with the people we love. I have to bring God a present because when we visit someone we always bring a present. I am not sure what present he would like." He finally added a little truck as the thing God would like. (CS p. 300)

They left his altar on the table through dinner and he was able to share his story with everyone who came. Over the next years, the alter moved to his bedroom and "he continued to bring new things to say I love you to God." Everyone who visited would hear the stories of Joselito's answered prayers - "an integral part of his expression of faith and love for God. ..expressions of his spirituality." (CS p. 300)

"The altar is a very common expression of faith and connection with God in the Latino home. Each altar is personalized, representing the faith story of the person or family who sets it up. Joselito has access to the altar whenever he wants and can continue to use it to express himself to God. He can manipulate the symbols and confer meaning to them. He can tell his own faith stories to those who come to his altar. It changes as his own journey with God changes. It is the sacred space that he has for his own spirituality." (CS 300-1)

As Evangelical Protestants this may seem a bit hard to ponder but let's try.

Narrative inquiry

Most of this chapter is filled with longer narratives about some specific children and their parents.
Good stuff, but it's long and worth reading in its original form if you have the book.

I like Ms. Crozier's comments about the narrative inquiry: "...narrative inquiry allows for the researcher to be an active participant in the research process. My experiences and stories are allowed to enter into the research process in ways that are liberating and affirming for me as an African American, educated female, from a working class Christian family. I do not have to assume a neutral, 'objective' position in the process as if I am not affected by what I am observing, experiencing and hearing from the participant involved in the study. Nor is who I am or what I bring to the research process rendered invisible; I am able to reflect on my own experience and story in my social location without apology." (CS p. 288)

Isn't this true of all of us as we interact with children?

My new dog theory

I wasn't planning to give you a puppy break yet but they scared me! I couldn't find my Children's Spirituality book and my 60+ pound adolescent 14 month old puppies are on a chewing binge (crated at the moment). I thought we'd gotten past that. We were spoiled.

Someone warned me about this when they were still easily deterred by bitter apple spray. All the things you thought they'd learned when they were little, well...if you work really really hard, you might be able to find those well-learned skills again, or so I'm told. Ask me in a couple of years.

Carol Lea Benjamin compares adolescent puppies to adolescent children. She wrote a whole book about them. :) She said they need constructive adult (dog) work to keep them worn out and out of trouble, lots of practice respecting authority, lots of playtime to wear them out MORE (and playing with you keeps them motivated so they listen).

My latest puppy theory is that bored puppies look at our work and use their teeth in an attempt to work with us . . . They see someone sweeping up dog hair, find it in the small trash can (instead of the metal covered trash can) and strew it over the floor. They see someone eating a sub, find the wrapper in the small trash can and, "Hey, he liked it. Let's try it." They see someone taking off and putting on her shoes to go for a walk, "She's almost a peer. These things smell like the outside. She plays with us outside. We can chew on things outside ..." you get the idea.

I still have a keyboard. :)

Yes, we need to pick up the more tempting items and watch puppies or crate them but if this is the time they learn from the pack, I like my theory... We love our puppies. Considering all the trouble they could get into exponentially to the power of two, I still say they're very good puppies.

Reflecting on Crozier's stories 2

Crozier shares another situation: "... I recall a conversation ... with one of my second-grade students about Jesus. My student was adamant that Jesus was still on the cross. I told him that I believed Jesus rose from the dead and is no longer on the cross. But that did not convince him. When I asked why he thought Jesus was still on the cross, he replied that he saw Him on the cross at his church. I responded, 'Oh, I see.' I didn't try to convince my student otherwise because that symbol in his church was very significant to him. I did not want to impart my beliefs that were disconnected from my student's experience, so I remained silent. What good would a cognitive response do in response to a highly affective affirmation?" (CS p. 287)

I found her response to this child and the question she asks a significant act of caring. Some might challenge this, believing that a different (cognitive) response would have demonstrated more caring. What do you think?

I also found myself wondering, why crosses come either as a crucifix where Jesus remains fixed to the cross or empty like He was never there? Why don't we have a cross with a removable Jesus, for kids of course :) ? Why not have a removable model of Jesus on the cross Good Friday and have it removed for Easter Sunday? Are there churches that do that?

She goes on, "Even though I had made a rational decision not to respond to my student's conviction, emotionally I felt as if his disagreement with me was based on a literal, concrete observation of Jesus. Thus, on some level I understood his disagreement to be based upon what he had tangibly observed and experienced. Then on another level Iwondered about the church's reponsibilittiy in using symboolic representations of the divine that do not necessarily come from children. Did the icon of Jesus on the cross become a static representation to my student or was it something different? Could it have been both static and dynamic at the same time? What other symbols would be present if children were allowed to display their understanding of Jesus in the sanctuary? What contribution could children make to Christianity's understanding of Jesus and God?" (CS p. 287)

Reflecting on Crozier's stories 1

If you'd like to add these to your resources, Karen Crozier has another paper listed at childspirituality.org.

Elizabeth Conde-Frazier co-authored the book A Many-Colored Kingdom. I've not read either yet. In this chapter of Children's Spirituality, both researchers are using the narrative as their research method.

I'll try to do this as a series of short posts.

Crozier shares her own experience as a child: ". . . I said to my mother that I wished I had died as a baby or had never been born because then I knew I would be going to heaven..." Looking back on that experience as an adult, she says, "I was afraid that I would not make it to that place where I believed God abides. I did not know how I would be able to continue to live and please God in a way that would allow me into heaven. For some reason, I had made up my mind that babies had easier access into the heavenly realm than did adults. Consequesntly, if I had never been born, I would not have to deal with the possibility of living in hell without God. . . As a child in a Baptist church, my pastor went through great efforts to save people from eternal damnation... I believe I internalized the reality of hell, even though I was unsure of how to make it to heaven." (Children's Spirituality p. 286-7)

We often don't know what we're communicating to children unless we're listening when they share.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Children's Spirituality in African-American and Latino : Before I read

This is the beginning of Chapter 18 from Children's Spirituality: "A Narrative of Children's Spirituality: African American and Latino Theological Perspectives." (pp 284-306) by Karen Crozier and Elizabeth Cone-Frazier. Both of these women are speaking out of personal experience, not just as researchers. As I read the first page, my head is still back at the workshop so let me throw out some semi-related but random thoughts.

On Wednesday Ret Lt Col Kickbusch challenged parents with this - how do we make the public school PTA something other than a white middle class organization? The same challenge presents itself to churches and Christian Education if you live urban. The thing that she felt was most important is to go to the people you want to include, don't expect them to come to you. Go and be a part of the things they're doing. Jesus in the marketplace, Jesus eating and drinking with all kinds of people. She didn't say that, but we're about following Jesus, right?

Although I've had more interactions with a diverse group of people than my parents, I'm not actively participating in the activities of people in other cultures. Our kids did. When we were homeschooling we had a variety of people in and out of our home. The kids also participated in city activities with neighborhood kids (summer rec swimming, the YMCA, Little League, Drum Corps). Then they went to a public city high school and community college. I think each of them came away with friends (some of them close friends) in families and traditions different from their own. They had opportunities to build friendships and participate in the gatherings and festivities of other cultures.

Another thing Lt Col Kickbusch said was, "I don't know what I don't know that I don't know." She was talking about kids that are surrounded by one culture at home (or sub-culture) truly knowing what they know, then entering the world of public school (or any white middle class organization) only to discover that the rest of the world has very different understandings, values, social customs, perspectives, expectations, and assumptions. And they discover all the things that they didn't know that they didn't know.

Though I still feel personally very separated from other cultures, there's a multi-generational change happening. That change in our family's multi-generational spectrum came not only from choosing to live in the city but letting the kids build friendships and relate to the families of the people they cared about. Were I a more social/relational person, maybe this wouldn't be just about my children.

The glitch is that there seemed to be no bridge between the world of church and all these relationships. Respecting their friends, our church community at the time wasn't a place where their friends would feel comfortable. Some of it had to do with personalities, belief systems, some of it cultural differences, the faith community we were part of. The kids were better able to relate relationally to this diverse community than the faith communities they were part of at the time (although they still have good friends that they grew up with in church). If they read my blog, maybe they'd comment...and maybe they'd disagree. These are my observatons. Hind sight is nice, foresight is better. That's why I'm sharing this. But what strength of spirit and Biblical understandings does it take to thrive crossing back and forth across boundaries with others?

Whatever culture we come from it's human nature to gravitate towards those like us. If you're not like that, you find yourself in a very awkward place. Yet somehow, Jesus does it. Ok, He's God, he was also a man.

There are lots of issues here - personalities, families, relating (preferably without an agenda - a pet peeve of mine), cultural identity, individuals and faith communities building bridges, crossing boundaries, sharing life.

Chapter 18 probably isn't about any of this, but these are some of my initial thoughts going into it. I'm not African-American or Latino but this chapter is important. As we look at this chapter and you're willing to share, I'm curious to hear about the diversity of your faith communities and your experiences. This is the lens I'm reading through. How 'bout you?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Afternoon Workshops

This is mildly divergent but I think it's relevant. This week, I had the priviledge of attending a series of workshops sponsored by the Rochester City School District. It was especially designed for School-Based Planning Teams. A SBPT is a small team (9-12 people)of administrators, teachers, parents, students and BENTE (professional non-teaching staff, I believe) making school- based curriculum/student achievement strategy-type decisions for the 1-2000 students in their school buildings. Apparently Rochester is one of the most progressive districts in the country right now. They are looking to take a more holistic approach to teaching children, improve parent involvement, partner with community organizations. Interesting?

I went to two workshops. The first one targeted community partnerships - ways that schools can utilize other organizations in the community to help facilitate parent involvement and student success - higher educational institutions (not just for student teachers but for mentors and programs done in conjunction with colleges/universities), businesses (raffle items to get people to school sponsored events, food, building postive neighborhood relationships, etc), faith communities (to provide school supplies, warm clothes, connective care, etc for families who literally can't afford them). Mavis G. Sanders, who is doing a lot of this research, lead the workshop. She also wrote the book Building School-Community Partnerships: Collaboration for Student Success. We had two copies per table so there will be one at school but I haven't read it yet it definately gets you thinking about possibilities.

For the second workshop, I didn't go to Team Building, Essential Standards, or Technical Assistance. This is my last year as a high school parent. I went to hear Retired Lieutenant Colonel Kickbusch (Educational Achievement Services, Inc.): Creating a Culturally Responsive Environment. I believe there's a documentary of her life airing September 7th. Please watch it, if you can. If you work with kids and ever have opportunity to hear her speak or work with her, please go! I can't do her justice here but she shared lots of stories about growing up Mexican-American in a very poor part of a very poor city in Texas and about some of the conflicts of culture that cripple kids from non-English speaking households growing up surrounded by traditions that are different than those of our middle/upper middle class school system. Check out her website. Lots to process.

As Christian Education/Children's Ministry people we have to understand that for most kids, not only are successful reading, writing, and math skills key to their success in other areas of life (their physical state, home relations, and spiritual developement are key contributing factors) but I think we have to remember that their success or failure in these areas as a school-aged child affects them emotionally and socially. And this affects learning, whatever they're leaning.

It was neat to be among people recognizing the need to see and consider the whole child, the role of the larger community, and the need for all these forces to join and support families and learning success. Public education has it's upside and downside, but I don't believe our nation would be what it is today (by the grace of God), without it.

The next chapter of Children's Spirituality just happens to be Chapter 18, "A Narrative of Children's Spirituality: African American and Latino Theological Perspectives." How 'bout that.

(do the links work? :-)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

More technical difficulties

Maybe when the month changes the technical difficulties will work themselves out? Things are not as they appear. :-) There are new posts since August 18th and there are comments on some [Comments 0] links .

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Not sure why the entry page doesn't have new posts on it...oh! the refresh button!

Once you decide the purpose of your gathering and what matters, understand that no one said including children would be easy. Life gets a little more complicated when you include children. Including children may prove even
harder than having a separate children's program. It may not look or sound like your traditional adult service. And some days you'll wonder why you're doing what you're doing, which is why you ask that "why" question first. Hopefully you turn to the scriptures. :-) Remember the Promised Land? Caleb? The giants? The promise is real but there are giants.

If you're half-hearted about succeeding, your chances for success dwindle.Either you, and the people you're working with, believe that including kids is a biblical direction and you're willing to see it through or not.

The biggest challenge is to
engage children in what you're doing without dumbing down your service for adults. What's negotiable? What's non-negotiable (meaning kids need to rise to the challenge or sit quietly or take part in whatever way they can). You don't always need prescribed child-friendly learning activities.

Once you have your staff on board, how will you communicate your vision and purpose to parents? How can parents or caregivers learn to draw their children into what they're experiencing? What tools and direction do they need?

How will you communicate this vision with the rest of the congregation? They also have a role to play. You don't want to hear "I can't worship. I can't get anything out of the sermon anymore. Why come?" You want to hear, "God is really meeting
us here " (us meaning adults and children).

Hopefully, the CM will be very present and involved. Look at each part of your gathering and the way it's designed. Who will this engage? Who will this not engage? Why? Can we change the language? Can we tweek it a little this way or that to draw in a wider age range without losing heart and substance? If you go back far enough through the blog you'll find alot of brainstorming, and even a few specific ideas. And to tell you the truth, if you read Parenting in the Pew (parenting a child through a tradtional service) you'll see that perhaps most of the success hinges on the ability of your parents to draw their children in. The author loved to worship and shared that with her children and other parents.

But this isn't just about kids. You're including children as an integral part of the larger community. Every "special group" and individual is an integral part of the larger community. You're looking for ways to extend hospitality, to include someone who isn't included. You don't want to include kids and lose someone else. This is why the congregation and leadership, (not just parents) need opportunities to catch the vision. On the other hand, you'll never please everyone, that's not the goal, either.

We grow up as the Body of Christ through that which every joint supplies (Eph 4:15-16). You're including children because children were there when Jesus ministered to the multitudes and when the disciples tried to keep them away, Jesus said, "No, let the children come."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Getting ready for Fall

Getting Ready for Fall
This is from Rochester Kids Out and About - a nice resource for local parents.

...technical difficulties...


. . .ok you wonderful techie generation! You've graciously gotten me this far with technical stuff. :-)

(See how generations need each other? :-)

. . . how do you put a link in a comment?

. . and, the server didn't want to take us to Xenos . . . (sounds like a bad sci fi movie doesn't it?) but now it does...

. . . and how do you get that little symbol over the "n" like it's supposed to be in the word man~ana . . .

. . .hello? Gary, are you there?

...and why is this gray? hmm, it was gray. . .

. . .and my apologies if when I change the order of posts or change and delete comments they end up in your email anyway. ( blogline people get both copies? Scary.) I've been trying to put parts 1,2,3 in order by changing the dates but that isn't working.

If you're new, what usually happens at Emerging Kids when things get way too intense and we need to take a break - a puppy story - Ellie and her rabies shot, Nyah and the gaggle of bicyclists at the Garden Center . . . surely among the scary stories mother dogs tell their puppies but probably more fun than someone complaining about technical difficulties.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Observing . . .

Let your mind play alittle.

Yesterday, I was watching a toddler quietly wandering and smiling at people and, just curious, she pulled back the fabric that covered a bookcase.

Hmm, looking & finding definately ties into seeking God with all your heart. How many different quiet in-the-seat looking & finding activities can you come up with for babies and toddlers?

You can put something from your purse in an empty sock, glove or mitten. (But you can't find it for them. They can do it. They have all the time in the world!) If your gathering space has a carpet, you can bring nesting eggs or boxes with edible gold fish inside. Just keep replacing the gold fish. If you don't have carpet you could do the same thing with different sized cloth bags one inside the next or bring a cloth purse full of cloth toys to empty and fill. If you're really ambitious you can make a quiet cloth book with pockets and things inside the pockets or different fasteners (buttons, snaps, zippers, ties) on each page. Even a doll or stuffed animal and a scarf or blanket would work for a short period of time. In some ways, it's busy work. In other ways, it's seeking and finding. Quite Biblical.

Hmm... children and "church"... hmm. . . "my Father's house should be called a house of prayer". What would that look like through the eyes of a toddler or a pre-schooler or any child?

If you aren't doing a themed activity, what's something a child can grasp that's always true about worship or gathering as the people of God (like seeking & finding)? What quiet in-seat activities can you think of that would help to teach or reenforce the concept? What quiet activities do your kids do that they never seem to tire of?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

More Children's Spirituality: Intergenerational Learning pt. 3

How do children learn in an intergenerational group? Ms. Allen discusses Situative/Sociocultural Learning Theory. In this context, children learn through experience. Such learning requires a child to "socially negotiate [the meaning of concepts] in authentic, complex learning environments." I think our tendancy is to simplify learning and learning environments for children.

Citing different learning theorists, she says the mental tools that people use in order to learn are sociocultural symbols and gestures like art, writing, language. "...[C]ulture is mediated to the individual through these mental tools, particularly language . . . Just as persons use physical tools to expand their physical capabilities, persons use language and other mental tools to expand their mental capacities." She uses Deut. 6:6-9 as scripture revealing a similar understanding. (CS p. 271) God tells parents, this is the way to teach these things to your children. "God says talk, write, and tie symbols" (CS p. 272) Remember all earlier posts from CS about language?

Citing other authorities, Allen says that we grow and develop as we use these tools with other human beings. (CS p. 272) Notice these are social tools, tools for communication.

She said that if you look at (A) where a person actually is, (B) where that person could be and (C) what it takes to carry a person from A to B, (Vygotsky) most learning actually takes place during phase (C). This is "that phase in development in which the child has only partially mastered a task, but can participate in its execution with the assistance and supervision of an adult or more capable peer... a dynamic region of sensitivity in learning the skills of culture, in which children develop through participation in problem solving with more experienced members of the culture. [Wersch & Rogoff (1984) p. 1]" (CS p. 22) Encouraging children to serve with those younger and older, even if they don't quite "get it" is a valuable learning experience.

These social communities "define the types of learning that take place, and content alone does not determine what is learned." (CS p. 273) How interesting!

"Learning is a social matter . . . In intergenerational Christian education the goal is to grow persons of faith who identify with and participate fully in Christian community. When children experience intergenerational Christian education they learn from each other, younger children, older children, teen and adults the essence of Christian community. All benefit from each other..." (CS p. 273) They are not just learning about being God's people (CS p. 271), they are learning how to actually be and do. Notice you're growing more than individual identity here.

So, we learn to be the people of God by being the people of God with those who are both older and younger than we are. Is that spiritual formation? What's your experience?

The rest of the chapter describes her research. Interesting findings. I'll let you read that for yourself.

Friday, August 18, 2006

More Children's Spirituality: Intergenerational Settings/Scripture pt. 2

Some of her references to children in Israel's community:

"God's directives for the Israelites included many opportunities for families and the community to celebrate together, to worship together, to discuss theological matters. In the religion of Israel, children were not just included, they were drawn in, and absorbed into the whole community. They had a deep sense of belonging (Harkness, 1998, p. 436)" (CS p. 270)

. . . [T]he directives for feasts and celebrations illustrate this point best (Ratcliff, n.d.) . . . [T]he purpose of these festivals was to remind the Israelites who they were, who God was, and what God had done for his people in ages past. . .they [teens and children] came to know who they were and who they were to be. And their knowing would carry the sense of the Hebrew word yada ' which connotes more than intellectual information , but rather knowing by experiencing (Fretheim, 1997, p 410) (CS p. 271)

In these settings, God clearly expected the older generation to be available to the younger to answer questions and to explain the reasons for their confidence in God. . . (Exod 12:27)" (CS p. 272)

This perhaps ties more into special events - events commemorating what God has done. Beyond Christmas, Easter, Passover - it might be a church anniversary celebration. Any other times and places to celebrate (with our children) what God has done?

More Children's Spirituality: Intergenerational Settings pt. 1

Chapter 17: "Nurturing Children's Spirituality in Intergenerational Christian Settings" by Holly Catterton Allen. If you Google-search her name, you'll find more info than if I link it.

She says, "Something happened to me in the 1990's that forever changed the way I see children and the way I view Christian education...[M] y family became part of a small-groups-based church, and for the first time I was regularly with children in Christan intergenerational settings. The children had the opportunity to worship in small intimate settings with their parents and other adults, to hear their parents pray, and to see their parents minister to others in the group. The children themselves began to pray for one another, to minister to each another and even to adults. These experiances profoundly changed my understanding of children as well as my understanding of Christian education." (CS p. 266)

Her working definitions:

"spirituality" - "awareness of relationahisp with God." (CS p. 267)

"intergenerational" - "the socializing of two or more different age groups, interacting in learning, growing, and developing in the faith, through commmon experiences of fellowship, worship, sharing, and relationships" [Prest, 1993, p 15] (CS p. 267)

She notes, this "term ... is not typically used to describe the adult-as-teacher/children-as-learners model of education, nor a one-on-one mentoring relationship. " (CS p. 267)

She listed some intergenerational settings where different aged groups have opportunities to interact (CS p. 267-268):

1) Including children in worship service
2) Including children in special programs or services (baptism/baby dedications, all-church celebrations, parties...)
3) Intergenerational events where each generation helps with planning, prep, presentation. (Holiday presentations, musicals, drama...)
4) Family camps
5) Intergenerational Sunday school or Bible classes studying a topic for 4-6 weeks together.
6) Intergenerational small groups (children often spend the first half with mixed ages and second half with just children)

She listed some small group activities that include children (CS 268-269):

1) Icebreaker - a question that each person answers. The example given, "What are you afraid of?" or "What did you like most about [a holiday]"

2) Worship - Sometimes a child or a family chooses the songs or leads worship.

3) Lord's Supper - children partaking with adults with opportunities to share thoughts and feelings about what they were doing.

4) Prayer - shorter prayers when children are present. Prayers for families in transition. "It usually took about six months before a child was comfortable enough to be prayed for by the whole group."

5) Other small group activities - eating a meal or snack together, playing, serving someone together

She listed some benefits to children in these settings (CS p. 270):

1) Children gain an extended family
2) Visibility [and accessibility to] more role models and parenting models
3) Children are able to participate in the spiritual lives of their parents
4) Children learn spiritual disciplines by watching others and doing [or imitating. I think the implications of doing this as part of a larger family and a larger community engaged in the same practices may tie into personal and relational identity.]

Questions for you: [I'm intentionally not dividing "spiritual" from the rest of life here.] Can you think of any other times and places where adults and children can grow together? Can you think of other benefits that intergenerational activities might have for children? For adults? For the faith community? For the larger community?

Importance revisited

As groups, as parents, as individuals, the question of importance and priorities is a funny combination of "obvious" and "blind spot." How do I spend my time? How do I spend my money? What does a budget show me? The interesting thing is that somehow, even without all the tools, kids know what matters to the people around them.

The things that we invest ourselves in are important indicators. The things that are missing are indicators that are just as important. We can look at how we spend our time and with whom, to see what's important to us. We can engineer our time and relationships to prove or reenforce what's important to us. Then it helps to have people around you who might be looking or challenging you from a different angle or seeing things from the outside instead of from the inside.

At any point in our lives we can say, gee, this isn't really important to me. Why am I investing so much of myself here? Or I thought this mattered more to me but I'm not making time for it. What do I have to change? Is it really important? If so, what do I have to change?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

How do you measure important?

"robust" . . . great describing word for worship! Another potentially long comment that I'll turn into a post instead.

Here's the thing. Even if you have a different lay speaker every week, 10 minutes is 1/3 of a 30 minute service, 20 minutes is 1/3 of a one hour service and 30 minutes is 1/3 of a 90 minute service, etc. A Protestant service might spend a comparable amount of time on music but what other part of Worship fills up that much time*? And don't all the other parts of the service revolve around the sermon? If all these things are true aren't we saying this must be important; this must be "what worship is all about"?

I'm not neccessarily saying it's bad, I'm just asking a question. What is the heart of worship? That's the challenging question. Does time spent and focus reflect that? It's definately the part of service most challenging for children and their parents and I don't mean just intellectually.

We have to have a sense of what worship is and agree, if we want to tackle the challenge of intergenerational worship.

*Ok, when I was little, the pastoral prayer was right up there on the clock with the sermon. But if Father's house is a house of prayer, prayer is a non-negotiable. And for it to take that much time, it must have been important to our worship. How do we cross generations with things we deem important elements of worship? Is it enough just to make them kid friendly or to plan in a way that keeps the kids quiet or is there more?

The next chapter in Children's Spirituality is coming up fast.

The Sermon

This was going to be a comment but it got long and it's a little radical so let's start a new thread. Here's an example of an unspoken assumption. (I think there's a past post about this.)

I don't know if this is true of Catholic and Orthodox worship, but as Protestants we assume that the heart of worship (or at least a significant part of worship) is the message - the pastor's message.

Biblically, is that the heart of worship? Is that what our gathering to worship and adore God is all about?

I believe that hearing God's Word is one of the Biblical reasons we gather. Is God's Word the "sermon" or is it the scriptures? Are there ways for a multi-generational congregation to ponder a passage of scripture during Worship besides listening to an adult sermon?

One of the reasons kids are released during the sermon is for age-appropriate processing. But that takes me back to Jesus and His preaching to the multitudes. I assume He had a multi-generational audience. He was teaching, often handling the scriptures. They were in His presence. Was this "worship?"

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Kids in Worship Revisited

[If you go back through the archives you'll find earlier posts about worship.]

When you discuss whether or not to include children in the "adult" worship service the very first question to address is "What is Worship"? Don't assume that you agree. Children, teens, adults, are we spectators or active participants?

According to Ex. 7:17 God lead His people out of Egypt, a gathering of generations, so they could worship Him in the desert. It would be interesting to know at what point including children fell out of fashion.

Assuming that worship is about God, not about us or our children, does God want families to worship Him together or in separate spaces?

In Hebrew culture the individual drew his personal identity (heart, mind, soul, strength) not only from who he was as an individual (talents, skills, strengths), but who he was in relationship to those around him. If worship is about loving God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, how would this Hebrew concept of "self" influence the way we worship God?

If our service is designed for adults what must we change, not just to make the service meaningful to children, but to enable them to worship God with us in spirit and in truth? Just to expand our thinking alittle, flip that: What would the kids in a kids' service or a teen service have to change to enable adults to worship God with them?

Is worship intended to be a grown-up cognitive experience? A didactic experience? An age-appropriate experience? Is that the heart of worship? Is kids' worship intended to be simple, fun, happy, kinethestic and entertaining? Is that the heart of worship? Does worshipping God in spirit and in truth differ from generation to generation? Does it change as human beings grow and develop? If both groups are worshipping God in spirit and in truth, can they do it together?

There aren't lots of references to Jesus interacting with kids alone in the Gospels, yet in Matthew 21:15 it says that the chief priest saw the children shouting "Hosanna to the Son of David" in the temple and apparently it was upsetting. (Not to Jesus, to the high priest.) There's no mention of a children's minister or a choir director. How was it that these children responded to Christ Jesus this way with so little mention of His interaction with them in separate situations?

Is worshipping the-God-of-every-generation, generation-centered? Doesn't God deserve our worship no matter how old we are?

Do we consider the way children worship boring, trivial, and insignificant? Flip that around: Don't a lot of teens see adult worship that way? Why?

What does it look like for a gathering of generations to worship the Living God in spirit and in truth? What does it take to please God? Does it matter how old you are?

Sidebar: One reason the pastors at Artisan are including children is the hope that as they grow, the kids will always feel like they belong - that worship won't be just a grown-up service that they can't relate to - something designed for a different generation. The hope is that generations listening to one another will continually shape not only worship but "church" so it can keep growing and changing and thriving as the generations change without having to die and start over. Check back in 20-25 years. :-)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Keys to Success

"...Many of the congregational practices with children that we experienced, including those discussed above, take into account children's developmental proclivities toward impulsivity and physicality." (p.262)

"In other cases, these practices take children's impulsivity and physicality into account by allowing children to choose how they will participate in the community's activities from a variety of acceptable modes of participation...all within the range of what that community deems an acceptable norm for children's participation." (p. 262)

"One mark of a congregation's capacity to welcome and nurture the spirituality of children may be its creativity in constructing positive communal practices that make room for a variety of levels and types of engagement rather than prescribing a fixed type - such as listening with full cognitive comprehension to the sermon - as necessary for legitimate participation." (p. 262-3)

"...[T]hese congregations [the 3 congregations studied] do not limit the resources allocated to children's ministries to a single area, such as the purchase of Sunday school materials, but instead resource children's ministries throughout the life of the congregation. Nor are their resources monetary. In several instances, more tangible financial resources followed rather than preceded personal and communal commitments of time, skills, and energy..." (p. 263)

How do you take into account a child's impulsivity and physicality?
How do you engage your congregational creativity to welcome and include children?
How are you investing the congregational resources that you have in your children?
Does investing in children take away from other vital ministries in the church? Can they be done in a way that will bless and enrich the other ministries of the church so they're not competing?


"When practices with children are not subject to theological reflection, as is often the case with adults, such reflection may only emerge unintentionally and then infused with meaning after the fact. This is in part the nature of a practice and is not necessarily negative as it can be part of the transformative quality of practices." (p. 263)

Spiritual formation and any work with children (or adults for that matter) is a living work in progress and constantly in flux to be effective. But if we believe that our children matter to God and our stewardship in this area matters to God how can we not take time to prayerfully search the scriptures and regularly reflect on what we're doing (or not doing) with children, why we're doing it, and how we're doing it? Is this only the responsibility of the children's minister and parents? Do senior staff and congregation have roles to play?

Some would say that working with kids is specialized, it's not for everyone. On the other hand Biblically, historically, parenting wasn't a vocation of choice - it was expected of everyone or almost everyone. People who didn't have children probably had nieces, nephews, and younger siblings - not on the other side of the country but next door. Adults couldn't help but interact with kids and visa versa. For sanity's sake you hold kids to higher standards when you have to be around them all the time. Adults and children were constantly effecting/affecting one another. Community living was expected of everyone and children were born into that. They didn't have much choice and they didn't stay children forever. They were expected to grow up, be able to do what grown-ups do and do it well.

So what does that mean as we reflect? Putting all the needs and activities of a congregation in perspective, and I'm not saying that children are the only thing that matters, but is reflecting on children somewhere on the bottom of the pile? What happens when parents do that? Maybe I'm compartmentalizing again. Somehow I can't imagine God ever sticking anyone on the bottom of a pile. Maybe...

Anyway... Lots to think about. Happy reflecting. Only 6 chapters left :)

Inevitable Contradictions

We were out of town this weekend - yet another story. I want to go back to address a comment, but let's finish this chapter.

I'm going to divide this post up again.

"...in practices with children, inconsistency appears to be the norm for congregational life. The three congregations studied have pockets of amazing vitality and strength in one area of their practices with children, only to totally miss other seemingly obvious opportunitiese for vital ministry with children elsewhere in congregational life. " They go on to say that some of this may be because of "the difficulty congregations and their leeaders have in being intentional about keeping chilren in the foreground. In the absence of a consistent vision held by the entire congregation that prioritizes and advocates for children in all aspects of the congregation's life and ministry, practices in one area of ministry may be haphazard or not be linked to practices in other areas. " (p. 263)

"...[O]ne can not claim that just because a congregation 'intends' the inclusion of children in worship with its practices of children's sermons and activity books, children necessarily are more included than a congregation that does these things haphazardly."(p. 252)

In one case a church has a wonderfully effective Godly Play program into which the church pours large amounts of financial and people resources. The children are engaging their spiritual imaginations, learning about worship as a place to ponder the text and other things that the church values but the children are not visible. They are segregated from the rest of the congregation during worship. They are protected but isolated. "The congregation has little knowledge of what the children are doing and therefore little interest in receiving back from them what they have learned." (p.255)

"...each congregational context shapes and reshapes particular practices in relation to its own identity and culture, such that the same practice may look different and mean something quite different in two congregations." In one congregation an activity sheet may be busy work to keep kids quiet. In another an activity sheet may attempt to engage a child in meaningful thought as a way to process the text and engage their "spiritual imaginations" (p. 263) .

Pick one practice in your church that you see as particularly child-friendly or rethink a negative comment that someone made. Try to be objective and ask yourself, is this practice sending any message to a child (or the congregation) that might be undermining or contradicting the message that we think we're sending? If so, is there a simple way to tweek it and remedy the situation?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Christian Practices and Living Theology

I've been trying to think of practices unique to Christian faith communities. For instance, prayer, fasting, reading holy scriptures may be communal faith practices for spiritual formation but they aren't distinctly Christian. Crossing yourself is but Catholics and Orthodox do it differently. Protestants don't do it at all. Taking communion (I think) is distinctly Christian. Reading the New Testament? Wearing a cross? Prayer beads? Or maybe they don't have to be distinctly Christian so much as to carry meaning and our response to God in the world.

Ritual, tradition, icons, candles, crosses, robes aren't the substance of our faith but the question hovers whether these are important tools for imparting faith to children because they are "concrete", tangeable, and touchable. What do the scriptures say? The tabernacle, Passover, the Feast of Booths all had some very concrete (kid friendly) elements.

In our house, we didn't utilize religious tradition or ritual when our kids were growing up. A young 20's said it isn't ideologically lining up that's so difficult, it's seeing people she loves, knows and respects walking in deeply rooted faith (despite their short-comings); wanting what they have and feeling like it's always just out of reach that makes embracing the faith of her parents so hard. Her parent said, what do you say when you thought you kept all the stumbling blocks off the road? Did we miss something somewhere? But that's what they mean in this chapter about explicit and implicit. You think you're doing what you're doing to send [THIS] message but it may, in fact be sending the opposite message. Anyway...

"Children in Congregations"

Two thirds of the way through Children's Spirituality. This is probably the part most pertinent to our particular faith community and any community looking to better integrate children: Chapter 16 "Children in Congregations: Congregations as Contexts for Children's Spiritual Growth" by Joyce Ann Mercer, Deborah L. Matthews, and Scott Walz.

They say, most current discussion centers on the practices of individuals (parents, teachers) in the faith formation of children. They are looking for the influence of the larger community asking these questions and looking for some answers in three specific San Francisco Bay area churches. (p. 250)

What congregational practices support and nurture the faith of children?
(They broke this question down into these specific questions that we can ask ourselves)

-How do we welcome children to our faith community?
-How does our faith community contribute to their thriving [Interesting choice of words? My question: How do you know when children are thriving in your faith community?]
-How do we nurture them in the practices of Christian faith? [What are those practices?]

-How do children contribute to the vitality of our faith community?
-What impact does their presence have on the "lived theology" and practices of our faith community? [I love that: "lived theology"!]

These questions are almost verbatim but I turned them on you and me and our own faith communities. Without going into the social science, methodology, etc. these happened to be Presbyterian "evidencing some form of vitality in their ministries with children." The congregations were characterized by distinctly different size, socio-economics, demographics, and theology. The researchers are looking at where stated values and evidence were the same and where they were different. (p. 251)

"Christian practices" - "those activities done in community over periods of time that form persons into a community of faith and a people who make meaning in the world through their actions in response to God" (p. 250-253) specifically their "communal nature and their faith-forming capacities." It's worth reading how they see community as stretching across time.

I'll post what I'd consider interesting and random quotes and then see what we can do with their conclusions.

Until then, what do you think of the questions they're asking and how would you answer, not just in theory but in practice?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Fun site: Children's Illustrators

If you like picture books and art you might enjoy this site filled with children's illustrators

[The link worked when I tried it. :-) ]

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The other day...

Remember when we talked about Real Kids, Real Faith by Marie Yust? I thought of it in the fabric store the other day. A perky dark eyed, dark skinned, dark haired pre-schooler sat in a cart while her mom in Indian dress/pants/scarf was buying fabric. This little girl engaged a couple of older fair-skinned 8-10 year old girls in conversation.

"What's your name?" The American girls told her their names. "Mine is..." The American girls listened and looked at her without trying to pronounce her name. Then the little girl said in the same conversational voice, "We're Indian. We go to temple."

And I thought, a little girl in a foreign land, fearless and kind - what a wonderful sense of identify she has. And it reminded me of Yust's book and the things she said about our giving our own children that profound sense of faith culture and identity.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Consider a site meter

My newest technological discovery is this: I added a free site meter to the blog last week. A virtual gadget. My husband loves gadgets. It worked but was so camoflaged, I didn't see it. We've been hashing through some serious situations involving some people we care about lately and my husband expressed concerns about blogging safety, especially blogging about anything child-related. This is something serious to think about for anyone blogging about children. And I don't neccessarily know that having a site meter will help but maybe.

The advantage of a site meter, even a simple one, is that it gives you a limited ability to track your traffic. You can get a general idea of who keeps coming back and from where. Sometimes you can see the referral page they used or the search words they were using. There are places that I wouldn't want readers to back track to.

On the lighter side, a site meter gives you random information like where in the country or in the world your readers come from (even if they don't comment or have a profile) the page they come in on, the page they leave on, stuff like that. I suppose if you wanted to put a meter on each page you'd find out which pages draw the most readers even without comments.

[If you're an artist, by the way, people are looking for Bible coloring pages particularly for less frequently used passages] as I say, random information.

Monday, August 07, 2006

More from Children's Spirituality

In Chapter 15 Dana Kennamer Hood (Children's Spirituality, Donald Ratcliff ed. p.233-248) looks at "Six Children Seeking God: Exploring Childhood Spiritual Development In Context. " She looks at six kindergarteners (through interview and observation) in the context of family, faith community, larger community, still noting that they are processing life as unique individuals. They are not just absorbing, they are active participants. Children influence context as much as context influences them. She gathered information not only from the children but also from their parents, Bible school teachers, and the Children's minister.

[I love this:] "As reseachers have explored children's perceptions of God from a developmental perspective, they have often described the thinking of young children as magical in quality(Fowler, 1981; Harms, 1944; Steele, 1990). Rather than viewing this as a limitation, Levine (1999) asserts that it is precisely these 'cognitive capacities' - not limitations - of children to look beyond what is 'real' to what is imagined 'which are quintessential conditions for the experience of the spiritual. (p. 122). Berke (1999) also supports a respect for imagination, stating that God is 'unseen.' To imagine, she comments, is to form an image of something that is not seen. So, therefore, 'how could we form an image of God except through the faculty of the imagination?' (p. 10)

This isn't to imply that God is imaginary but rather unseen and (though we were once children) a child's ability to work with this surpasses that of most adults.

Hood also says "Susanne Johnson (1989) asserts that 'spiritual formation simply is not intelligible apart from the communal context and faith tradition in which people are formed.' (p. 19)...Westerhoff (1976) . . . states that children learn faith and theological concepts through 'participation in the life of tradition-bearing community. . ." Yet within this context according to Brofenbrenner (1979) developemental and personal characteristics also shape context.

Hood supports the idea that talking with children, not just at them give children opportunity to make sense of the ideas that they form as they participate in their family, faith community, and the larger world in which they live, (emphasizing a child's active participation).

She ends saying, "...my hope is that [this study] will be applied through the manner in which the reader listens to children's ideas about their most sacred beliefs. I would encourage the adults in children's lives to avoid dismissing a child's ideas as simple reflections of their immature thinking but urge them to listen with anticipation as children have something meaningful and personal to share."

In the context of your own faith community who listens to children?
How/when/where are you listening to children?
Do you hear them processing their faith and their ideas about God?
Are there opportunities for them to do this without ridicule - a time and place where they're not "put on the spot", where they don't feel self-conscious?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Blame and choices pt 2

Many of us believe that God is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient. Children have an uncanny ability to understand and grasp this in a way that adults sometimes forget. They can also understand that when you give them choices there are consequences: good, bad, or something in between. Are freedom of choice and God's omnipotence at odds with each other?

You can begin to let children grow "choice muscles" when you give them opportunity to chose between two acceptable possibilities. They'll quickly learn that the consequences are different depending on the choice they make. As a parent or teacher, you make the consequences suitable to the child's age and temperament. They learn to live with the consequences and you, the parent, aren't putting them in a situation that they can't handle. Though you can't back down, sometimes it's appropriate for a parent or teacher to intervene. Sometimes, you have the power to either lighten the consequence or make it harder. A parent or teacher can dictate choices, but it won't accomplish the same thing (in a supervised situation) as letting a child choose and live with the consequences. And it surely doesn't mean you stop loving them.

We establish rules and enforce them but if we don't allow kids opportunities to make choices and live with consequences when they're little, they won't grow the strong choosing muscles they'll need when they become teens and young adults. Even as adults, we can't control every situation or the choices other people make, but we're still responsible for the way we respond and the choices we make. I don't think this is inconsistant with the way God parents us. God looks out for us but I don't know that God always plays it safe with us. Sometimes God intervenes in ways we want Him to, sometimes not. He usually let's us live with the consequences of our actions. But faith says that either way He keeps loving us.

Blame and choices pt 1

This is another 2-part post. I've been trying to make it succinct but ...

With kids in mind, the other day I was wondering if believing "God can do anything" opens us up to blaming Him for everything (or blaming Him for not doing anything). One way that I can make peace with this tangle isn't so much holding a doctrine of original sin so much as my belief that God gave Man a free will. God may be the all-powerful, knowing, seeing designer and creator of the universe but we answer to God for our choices. Still, these ideas seem to be at odds (like a lot of things in scripture) unless you go back to the idea of different tent ropes pulling in opposite directions from a single standard to keep the tent up. Or the possibility of God-spoken opposites all being true because with God all things are possible, we just don't think the way He does.

Ponder with me a little. God put Adam and Eve in the garden. He grew a relationship with them and set boundaries. He said "Do this. Don't do that." He also gave them the freedom to choose. Overly simplistic, but stay with me. We assume Adam and Eve blew it. (The alternative would be that God blew it or He planned it that way. I have a hard time thinking that we're God's pawns - a separate discussion.)

Let's assume that God gave Man free choice, knowing full well that Man screwing up was a definate possibility. Why didn't God intervene? Why didn't He DO something? The consequences were eternal. I like to assume that it's because God gave them free-choice and He honored it, despite the ramifications. Do you blame Adam and Eve for messing up? Do you blame God for not intervening? Do you say, oh well, God will work it all out for good? What if all of these are true: They messed up, God didn't intervene, but He'll work all things together for good. He has a far-reaching purpose that we can screw up in the short run because we're people, not in the long run because He's God- except when the consequences are eternal.

Here are some of the ramifications: Adam didn't get to walk in the cool of the day with God in the garden, an uncooperative garden, pain, one son murdered by his brother, one son ostracized, one son growing up without his brothers. In fact, the very first sons that God gave the world were lost. Maybe "son" here is significant? Adam and Eve were probably grief-stricken, heart-broken, guilt-ridden. Maybe Adam and Eve cared less about the bigger, grander scale. Maybe they were just coping.

[Assuming all of these are Biblically sound assumptions.] Faith says that in the meantime God was busy working all this around for the greater good of all involved - not just for Adam and Eve but for generations. A powerful, present, knowing, just, but compassionate God who gives us boundaries but let's us make choices. Keep reading . . .

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

In the News

My daughter sent this CNN Article to me about a Missouri school district creating a home for homeless teens with the help of a church and a hospital.

Reading blogs and pondering justice

I'll feel bad if I talk about one blog more than another. I ask you, is that fair?

I'll go this far. Reading through commentor's blogs these jumped out at me because folks at Artisan have been talking about ways to develop their commitment to justice and these happened to be justice/service related. (I see justice and service related):

JadedCM has a post ("Kids in Ministry") about the service project his kids are doing this summer.

A few weeks ago at Artisan, kids brought an offering of things to give away. (Most of the Artisan kids are under 7 years.)

I think it was PoMoKidz that mentioned Pentecost 2006 - a trail that some of you might enjoy looking into :
"A key part of Pentecost 2006 is ensuring that these emerging leaders around the county – people of faith age 30 and under who wish to integrate their faith with their passion for social justice – are equipped and energized to do so." That's all I know.

So my mind is running on justice: My husband particularly likes the idea behind Life Water International. (There's a download to enter the website.) It would be easy to make something like this kid-friendly.

A number of years ago the Evangelical Covenant Church followed (I believe it was) a toy horse that a child put into an offering plate as it made it's way to various mission sights. I don't know if that resource is still available to Sunday Schools.

On the Emerging Kids post from Sunday, July 31, 2005 there are some films and books that touch on justice and other (Artisan) values for kids and families.

Missions and service are one avenue to justice for kids. Another: the topics that kids study in school (police, firemen, ambulance, doctor, judges & juries, government). Don't forget your local Humane Society or SPCA. You can also use history, biographies, fiction, non-fiction, the news as conversation starters. Alot of families and individuals express their sense of justice through the choice of stores and products they patronize. Some are politically involved at various levels. Many individuals advocate for "right" where they live, work, go to school, or in the lives of the people they care about but they don't talk about it (or maybe they rant about it) but they may not think about it as justice.

The harder task (or maybe it's the same task) is the opposite - dealing with the reality that "Life isn't fair." There are things we can't change. How do you know where to invest? How do you know which opportunities to grab? How do you know if, when, and how to get involved or whether to stick it out when it doesn't feel like you're making a difference? All of this is justice related when you're advocating that people and living things be treated right.

Did Jesus advocate justice? How? Don't do a word study on the word "justice," think about the stories.