Tuesday, October 31, 2006

And don't forget the ECC

And of course you can check out the ECC and the Resources for Children and Family Ministy on their website, too. If I remember correctly they have resources specifically for small churches and rural churches but I'm not sure, you'll have to check it out.

Children's Ministry in Small Churches

Someone was looking for Children's Ministry resources specific to a small church. I haven't read the books and I've not read each of these articles word for word but hopefully something in this list will inspire you! If you don't mind inspiration from this side of the ocean. :)

And ok, the links worked when I tried them. If they don't work tell me.

Help I'm a Small Church Youth Worker

Shepherding the Small Church

Scroll all the way down to the article on the bottom. “How
Smaller Churches Can Reach Children”

Article: “The Time Has Come”

Article: "Ideas for how to cope if your church is small"
(this one's from the UK)

Article: “Let the Children Come”

Article: “Small Churches Up to Big Things”

Article: “Life on the edge: a small church redefines its mission”
from (Christian Century, July 12, 2003 by Richard H. Bliese)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Dipping into newer material

I was browsing through information from the most recent children's spirituality conference. I found a couple of interesting articles the other day when I didn't have time to read them.

If you're exploring Jewish Holidays, this also looks interesting.

If you scroll down past the homeschooling stuff. Don Ratcliff has some other interesting material including Experiencing God and Spiritual Growth With Your Child. Apparently it's a free download.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Follow up Book

That's it, folks. There are some rich appendixes and a wrap-up chapter "Looking Back, Looking Ahead," but there's already been another conference and a whole new book's worth of reading material at their website on line.

From what I hear, Children Matter, is a good follow-up book for Children's Spirituality. It's written by some of the speakers from the first conference exploring ways to apply all of this to children's ministry. It will be interesting to see how this affects our implementation.

CS Chapter 23

Sorry, this went out the first time before I finished it.

Chapter 23 "Ministering to Unchurched,Urban, At-Risk Children by Gary C. Newton author of Growing Towards Spiritual Maturity. This is a chapter written by someone who's first-hand experience with these kids surely guided his research. Here are some of his thoughts:

The thinking that ". . . one of the best ways to begin an outreach ministry to a people group of another culture is through its children..." often drives ministry. It's interesting that the successful organizations that he surveyed didn't consider working with parents and families a primary goal. Although they looked for opportunities to interact with and build relationships with families they focused more on leader/child relationships.

For this project he asked, "What are the components of an effective ministry to such children that eventually results in their long-term spiritual growth and development and the establishment of stable families, churches, and communities?" He describes himself as "ministering to the needs of unchurched children and their families living in my neighborhood." (CS p. 383) It would be interesting to track these kids from the organizations he surveyed into adulthood.

To me, his concern with "long-term" and his experience reaching out "in my neighborhood" are significant. He's also been doing this for 34 years. (CS p. 383)

He looked at 15 programs that focus on unchurched, urban, at-risk children across the US and Canada (kids 8-12). He asked pastors and leaders what they considered to be "the most effective children's outreach ministries in each city that seem to have produced the most fruit in terms of changed lives, families, and communities." His students at Huntington College interviewed the leaders of these organizations by phone or questionaire. (CS p. 384)

When you're talking about Christian formation you can look inward or at individuals but when you're talking about long-term change in children that ultimately affects and effects a whole community of people, the way the work of the first apostles did, numbers become significant. Long-term changes in hundreds of people (hundreds of children) and the generations that follow - that's significant. (CS p. 385-388) But I guess that's the goal, isn't it. Or maybe not, but Jesus does that, doesn't he?

The details in this chapter make this is a valuable read for anyone serving or thinking about serving unchurched, urban, at-risk kids. Too many details to blog about, so I won't bore you, but definately worth reading.

Monday, October 16, 2006


After the last post (which doesn't seem to be showing on the first page of the blog) at least on my machine...

My husband and I were talking about stress and kids and he (bless him), as he's know to do, challenged the word nuances.

"cope" appropriate when you're talking about terminal illness but how about other stressful situations? Is it sufficient to help a child just cope? He said there's something called a coping saw that makes fine grooves so two different pieces fit together just right. I think of it as making peace, that kind of making peace. Helping someone make sense of a situation or at least come to some kind of peace.

"deal" we deal with situations. We deal with life. Is that an appropriate expression of faith?

"resilience" I actually like that describer as an outcome of faith

"overcome" Sometimes that's a more appropriate response. Maybe always? Is that what peace is?

What do you think?

More from Chapter 22: Helping Children Cope with Stress

The authors feel strongly that there's a lot more work to do before they can draw conclusions but they make suggestions about how caring adults can help children cope with stress. And I'm adding some of my own comments. Hopefully, I'm understanding what they're saying:

A child's worldview significantly affects how a child faces stress in life. It helps to know to what degree a child's religion or faith influences their view of the world. How does the child perceive God? Does the child see religious or spiritual implications to the crisis he/she is facing? If so what are they? In order to join a child and empathize, the adult also has to assess his/her own view of the situation, and identify ways that he/she is thinking the same and different. (CS pg 376-7)

What spiritual/religious resources are available to help a child cope? (CS pg 376-7)

-a child's religious/spiritual beliefs and activities (routines?). The concerned adult's spiritual beliefs and routines. I'm wondering if they're thinking activities like devotions and prayer as opposed to how-tos but any combination could potentially be helpful.

-the religious/spiritual people in a child's life, relevant religious institutions, their faith community, religious/spiritual texts. They also suggest that it's good to know how the child's developmental level, social influences and the supernatural elements of the situation are affecting the child's potential resources. (CS pg 376-7)

Here's the thing. If you have a terminally ill child, sometimes parents can help a child cope. Sometimes the affects of the child's situation on the parents make them less able to help, but maybe the faith community can help. If a crisis affects the whole faith community, they might not be a helpful resource to the child in this particular situation. If a child is going through parental divorce, the parents may not be the best resources to help them cope. If the faith community or extended family members disapprove of the situation or are otherwise unable to empathize with the child, they might not be a useful resource to help a child cope in that particular situation. If a resource is pulling out lots of negative passages from the scriptures as opposed to comforting, encouraging, empathetic passages about God or if the passages being used say the opposite of what a child is going through, the child might not see this as a useful resource. I think that's what they're implying. All of this will also depend on the age of the child, the spiritual social network around them and what God does supernaturally to intervene.

And when we're talking about outcome, what does positive or negative mean? What does "end result" mean? They will be different for the child who is dying than they would be for a child suffering from relational issues at home.

The key here, is probably growing the ability to see the situation through the eyes of the child and maybe, by the grace of God, through God's eyes, too. It's something multi-dimensional and very relational.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

There's an Emerging Women's blog?

For whatever virtual cyber reason, the most recent emergingkids post never seems to come up on the first page for me but other people seem to find it, because they comment. . .hmm. . .while I was trying to make sense of that, I found this Emerging Women Blog from the Pacific Northwest. I haven't read it yet.

Tomorrow - the promised chapter 22 about children coping with stress. It's almost done.

Blog Overhauls and Our Invisible God

The two are actually not related.

If you've ever commented here, you're probably on my blog list. Every once in a while I go through and try to catch up. Baby blogs first 'cause they're changing fast (ok, I'm a mom and I love the stories and the pictures!)

So this is my day to catch up. Artisan is in transition adding forums. I knew that. But today it seems like EVERYONE has changed their blogs. (Nice changes, I might add.) Maybe there's an unspoken rule that you overhaul every 3 years?

I think about changing the template and I almost posted my spider web photo. . .
ok, here it is. I remembered how to load photos. :-)

This is entitled, Spider Web (or why I don't clean my house) - also inspiration for a poem.

When I first saw this, I thought, no wonder people believed in fairies! (the poem is about fairy bridges)

Then I thought about what this delicate creation reveals about God. Do you ever think of God being capable of something so delicate?

Something to do with children. Pick something God has made and just sit and watch and use all your senses. What can you learn about God . . . think about some invisible attribute of God that you can see. . .

Saturday, October 14, 2006

from Chapter 22 Coping with Stress

Did I ever post this article about Children in Emerging Churches (2005) from Don Stott's blog. Scroll down his blog to 9.26.06 about children's biggest fears. That's probably enough of a post in itself. When you come back, here's Chapter 22 of Children's Spirituality - research about the spiritual influences that help children cope with stress.

This chapter is written by Sara Pendleton- a professor of pediatrics, Ethan Benore- a doctor in Clinical Psychology, Katherine Jonas - a counselor, Wendy Norwood- who also has a counseling degree, and Carol Herrmann who has conducted studies of missionaries and their children. Alot of this was more clinical than I was willing to wade through but here are some interesting thoughts:

"Children are not just 'little adults.'" (CS p 363) There are three things that often influence a child's coping strategies:

-religious/spiritual development which seems closely tied to cognitive development
-social influences (a child's family and faith community) which can be positive or negative
-supernatural influences - (surprisingly) acknowledged by these particular researchers as a significant factor

It appears that "Children [as opposed to adults?mh] are more likely to rely on God during times of stress rather than avoid God's help and cope autonomously." (CS p. 370)

Children having a model of resilience is an important influence. MK's (children of missionaries) in particular often face the stress of living and traveling between different societies, poor living conditions, adjusting to new people and environments, work-related separation from parents and siblings, political unrest. (CS p. 374) I'd venture to guess that any one of these would be stressors for children who aren't MK's. MK's probably face these stressors more than most. Research has shown the modeling of their parents a very significant influence.

This is an important observation in today's world even off the mission field - a time when both parents are often so committed to their careers, : "When MKs felt valued by their parents and integrated into their parents' mission, they demonstrated a positvie attitude toward their situation, their role as MKs, and their parents' work. . . when MKs felt their parents placed their work first, and spent a minimum amount of time or were minimally involved with them, they experienced and expressed negative attitudes with reference to growing up in a missionary environment." (CS p. 375) The second half of this is probably a good example of faith coping strategies back-firing.

Most of these researchers see children battling serious illness. This is the primary stressor used in the beginning of the chapter. When a child's worldview, the adults in their lives, and God's healing influence re-enforce God's unconditional love for them and His presence with them it leaves the child able to cope in what we would consider a positive way. If a child's worldview leaves him/her asking what he/she did wrong, why God is punishing him/her, or interceding with the expectation of divine intervention, as God's expression of love, only to get worse - this doesn't have a positive affect on the child's ability to cope. I hope I interpreted what they were saying correctly.

"...children who view God as ever-present, benevolent, and view themselves as personally responsible for maintaining a strong relationship with God and strong religious/spiritual life, may in the process develop a buffer against the impact of stressful events. [A worldview like this] along with child and family religious/spiritual behaviours, may foster the style of coping and use of specific coping strategies which are most beneficial to children." ( CS 375-376)

The next section- and a separate post- is particularly for those who work with kids .

Friday, October 13, 2006

Emerging from Merging Worlds Revisited

CS Chapter 22. How long is it taking me to get through this book? I feel like I'm in school again...but I enjoy it when I sit and read it. I have to confess, even though all this is truly worth reading, the primary reason I'm persisting is because I said I would ... If you weren't there to blog to, (I wouldn't be blogging. . .) and I would have never finished this book with all its treasures. Thank you!

I also have to say to all of you who keep coming back, that everytime I visit YOUR blogs I'm reminded that you're very special people.

Reading and thinking about all the things I've been blogging about and being part of a group of people who are mostly under 35, I forget that I'm not fighting the same battles you are. The ground here is soft, at least. You're breaking hard ground with hoes and picks and shovels. It isn't soft. It hasn't been plowed for you. That part of the work is a tough dirty job.

You probably welcome ideas for kids and situations but it sounds like you're crying out for encouragement and the tools to win older generations to new methods so you don't lose the generations you're working with. Trouble is, the older generations run things. They hold the purse strings. So you're caught in a gap with a job to do but, in order to do that job, you have to spend alot of that time building bridges between worlds across deep treacherous chasms. When I talk about generations giving to and learning from each other and working together you probably cringe. Every generation tries to bridge that gap when they're parents but maybe the gap is inevitable because young birds have to fly. If you can keep your friendship, it's a win.

Sometimes scripture is comforting and encouraging and sometimes the human who wields it misses the mark. I hope this is encouraging.

Isaiah 43 (NIV)
18 "Forget the things that happened in the past.
Do not keep on thinking about them.
19 I am about to do something new.
It is beginning to happen even now.
Don't you see it coming?
I am going to make a way for you to go through the desert.
I will make streams of water in the dry and empty land.

Isaiah 43 is full of encouraging passages (and some sharp words too).
But that's my hope for you, that there will be streams of living water for you and that you won't lose anyone.

You're advocating for Jesus. You're advocating for children. Not a popular place to be. You're advocating for using tools that children are familar with to bring them to the one and only Ancient-Yet-Living God who is there for every generation. You're trying to kick the debris out of the road but other people don't see it. They wonder if you're even on the right road.

I'm guessing that if you love Jesus and His Word and you encourage children to know Him and to walk in such a way that He knows them, you're on the right road. It's just a narrow road, a steep road (full of adventure) but steep and narrow. The Lord walk with you.

Check this out!

Check out CLPC Kids and their creative, thoughtful approach to the holiday coming the end of this month.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Assessing Spiritual Formation

In Chapter 21 of Children's Spirituality Joyce Ruppell talks about assessment.

Ms. Ruppell's methods are largely based on watching, listening, and recording. In the classroom this is used to adjust teaching methods or curriculum and to communicate with parents about a child's progress. It's also an active way to get to know our children, to make sure we're meeting needs, engaging them, and that the time spent is meaningful to them. Anytime you parent or teach a small group or a large group it's nice to know that what you're doing is working.

She talks about deliberately watching, listening, recording.

She suggests recording

- how a child feels about him/herself as revealed through a child's participation in planned activities. There are probably also other ways that this can be observed. (Self-Concept)
- (Attitudes towards others) a child's attitude towards others as revealed through a child's participation in group activities
- (Attitudes towards church) a child's attitude towards church as revealed through his/her response to corporate worship experiences
- (Attitudes towards Scripture, prayer, Jesus, God) a child's attitude towards Bible, prayer, Jesus, God as revealed through a child's dialogue and how that reflects a child's understanding

Asking a child questions about a story (is he/she recalling details, does he/she understand what it means, can he/she apply it to him/herself)

Examining drawings, listening to what a child says about his/her drawings or other creations and the stories behind what the child is expressing.

We could probably talk about whether you think these are good indicators or whether you think there are other indicators. Although I think these are really good tools to assess growth, skills, interests in young children I wonder if the way God assesses us is similar.

We call Him, "Teacher". How does He assess us? How well does He know us? What does He expect? How does He determine what we need, whether or not we're growing or "succeeding?" What does that look like?

Does He ever wonder whether or not He's succeeding and change His methods?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Developmentally -Appropriate in a Multigenerational Setting? 2

- a community of children and adults giving of their skills, interests, talents.

- community of children and adults helping one another in simple ways and more complex ways.

- keeping promises to children and to other adults and more - keeping our word. Calling one another on it when we don't. I fall short.

- children and adults learning to listen together.

- opportunities to use all the senses

- providing varying levels of age appropriate challenges

-giving children opportunity for age appropriate problem-solving and critical thinking

-being patient and creative with individual differences.

-displaying child artwork and other visuals at a child's eye level. Taking into consideration a child's eye level when an event is planned.

-considering simple vocabulary when an event is planned.

-look for opportunities to experience something more than an explanation or a moral.

-sharing experiences that a child or family can take home and repeat

-give children opportunities to role play, pretend, and manipulate their environment. This may be an activity for children to do at home or with other children or maybe a playtime after service.

-opportunities for active exploration and interaction. That would be hard unless it's intentionally made part of worship, maybe not weekly but on a regular basis.

-find ways to enable every child to succeed.

We'll look at her thoughts about assessment next time.

Developmentally -Appropriate in a Multigenerational Setting? 1

Again, from Joyce Ruppell's chapter Chapter 21 of Children's Spirituality

How do we implement developmentally appropriate elements in multi-generational gatherings? Looking at the list she gave for early childhood classrooms, I don't think this is impossible. But we may need to tweek our worship services a little here and there. :-) It might look a little bit like this:

-Leaders of multigenerational gatherings attentive to opportunities to draw in the littlest folk. Multi-layered experiences. If you're telling a story about someone drawing water from a well, or carrying water in a clay jar. Have a jar (preferably clay) to lift and touch. Have water to drink and touch.

-"Giving adequate support and resources to ensure high-quality developmentally appropriate practices for children." Layered learning experiences. Some educational publishers used what's called a "spiral curriculum." They start with basics at K-1 level and add depth and detail each year.

-"considering groups of children as communities of learners in which relationships among adults and children support development and learning." I would include older children and peers here. It's possible to teach a lesson during worship and divide into groups that engage in age appropriate experiences. Using stations as a learning tool during worship. Making time for individual and small group discussions. Some of these things will take more time than the traditional 10-20 minutes. (preferably not more than 40. :-)

-"Acknowledging the importance of meaningful curriculum" You could (possibly) consider a family workbook in sections that even include something specific for teens and adults. When you chose passages that are particularly kid friendly, have a separate handout for adults that will take them deeper into the material during the week. When you have a message more focused on the adults, children can do more with workbook and crafts.

- having a team of people sensitive to developmental differences and able to distract kids (and adults) who aren't engaged into meaningful options. Or better, yet, equipping parents.

- a safe environment

- trustworthy adults

- adults making/taking opportunity for children to make contributions and decisions that are meaningful to the child.

- adults taking opportunities to show a child that he/she matters.

- adults that take time to listen to any child's question.

- adults taking a child's questions, comments, and feelings seriously, (unless they're trying to be funny, then you'd better laugh. :-) We won't talk about the age when they discover "the joke book."

A profound comment

There was a speaker at school recently, Allan Johnson. He probably has a website. I'm not sure. Unfortunately I didn't go because of a previous commitment.

Last night, our principal told us that one of the most profound things he said was that if you're not modeling what you teach, you're teaching something else.

Developmentally -Appropriate

Initially, chapter 21 is one of my favorite chapters:

"In a world of adults, young children frequently confront situations that make them feel incapable, insecure, and sometimes unwanted." She illustrates this with the familiar comments we make to children: "Not now! When you're older." or "That's for grownups, not children." or "Don't touch that! You might break it! (CS p. 343)

"It is true that in the first five years of life children have different understandings, skills, and responsibilities than adults. However children are equipped with an amazing array of capacities that make thoughtful, loving ministry to them a necessity. " (CS p. 343) We don't think much about the responsibilities of young children. Something interesting to think about: your responsibilities when you're 1 or 2 or 3 years old.

Research confirms that a child's environment and the way people relate to the child affect a child's brain development. (CS p. 343)

"Children who are attracted to Jesus are never told they have to wait until they fully understand theological concepts before they can come to Him. He did not preach to them or reprimand them but instead 'laid hands on them' (Matthew 19:15) and told adults to 'turn and become like children' (Matthew 18:3)."(CS p. 343) In other words, he didn't moralize and continually correct them. Instead, He blessed them.

How often, she asks, are adults guilty of giving children misinformation about God that robs them of the desire to draw near to God to know how much He loves them and how much they matter to Him? The most critical element, she says - what kids need most - is "a relationship with caring adults who can lead them to contemplate God's intended plan for their lives. How often are Christian education practices keeping children away from Jesus? The developmental needs of children must be met if adults are to be supportive of their spiritual development and not become a hindrance." (CS p. 344-345)

She also makes some great comments about developmentally appropriate practices (p. 346), preparing teachers (CS p. 347) , giving resources to children instead of leftovers (CS p. 344, 356), developmentally appropriate curriculum (CS p. 350), developmentally appropriate assessment ( CS p. 350-352) , teachers and parents working together. (CS p. 354-356)

What challenges my thinking, what I want to ponder here, is how can we use this if we're not offering age-segregated Christian education but instead, we're gathering everyone together. How do we apply this?

Another bibliography and resources

Before I tell you about the next chapter in Children's Spirituality,if you like to read, this is Joyce Ruppell's bibliography. She wrote chapter 21: "Using Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Faith-Based Early Childhood Settings". I was going to list the couple books she mentioned but it turns out she's made available a much longer bibliography.

And, on the same page, you'll find a link for books that are specifically "research-based" if you prefer that approach. And notice the on-line book for families.

I really encourage you to take a look at this whole page and follow some of the links if you're looking for more to ponder about spiritual formation and children. Just looking at the titles of the papers and presentations I expect you'll be seeing some significant changes in your lifetime. Not sure if they have an e-forum. That would be interesting, wouldn't it!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Scripture with Sound Effects

Well, I forgot to ask which Bible translation the guys at Artisan are using in the family workbook . . .

Not to pick on Artisan but I have to blog about this. (First hand observations and all that. And Artisan is still really working this idea of including the kids.)

Tonight was rather unique. Pastor Brian usually does the moment for kids/families. He also had the sermon tonight. He tried something new. He spent the majority of his sermon time on the story complete with sound affects like last week. You'd be surprised at all the sounds you find in the story of Job. Check out the Artisan ipod download.

We've talked some about exploring faith and scripture with kids through the senses. I hadn't thought about this but the auditory (ok, maybe smell) is probably one of the senses that's given the least amount of attention (apart from music and listening to sermons), probably because it's not quiet and we tend to focus on meaningful activities for children during worship that are QUIET. :-

Interesting? So, he spent the majority of the time telling the story complete with audience generated sound effects and ended with some thought provoking comments for grown ups.

The thinking behind all my badgering about scripture as story is that the Living Word has the capability to tell it's own story complete with all the layers that the Holy Spirit can reveal. Now we get to find out if that's true. :-)

I always read this passage from Isaiah believing that the Word (or story) had to be verbatim (Holy scriptures). Ah, but which translation. I still believe we have to handle the Word with care but it isn't fragile. God's words (God's Word) created the heavens and the earth before it was written down (before He came to earth). This is one of my favorite passages.

Isaiah 55:10-12 (NIV)

10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Interesting that this is followed by:

12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.

Sounds like worship!

Saturday, October 07, 2006


I think the heart of the difference in focus expressed by the last two researchers is that they're saying a child's spirituality isn't just something internal. All of a child's relationships and the various environments they walk through every day play a significant role in a child's faith development. Is that support for Christian schools? Home school?

Thinking about scripture, if anyone could write a biography about someone from the inside out, God could do that. If I look at the stories of scripture I do see a weaving of environments and relationships. I don't read alot about the internal faith of the people that God uses. I hadn't really thought about it before. Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, are the exceptions - more of the internal workings of faith but apparently David and Solomon were writers - maybe not literally but enough that their thoughts and feelings were recorded. Maybe Paul in the New Testament, too.

The Conference that Children's Spirituality is based on is focused on "spirituality" as a relatively new dimension of humanness to explore in the realm of social science research but let's call it faith. I think the hope is that this research will help us better lead and nurture our children in faith.

If we're talking about faith I don't think we can separate the inside from the outside. I don't think God does. Does He? We can't always control a child's environment or a child's relationships. Some will disagree but I like to think God can, but He doesn't always do it the way we'd like Him too. Maybe it takes us back to giving kids the faith tools and the skills to process life. What are they?

What do you think? Would these realizations change how you minister to children? If so, how?

Friday, October 06, 2006

CS on "Social Dynamics"

The second half of chapter 20 talks about the Social Dynamics of Childhood Spiritual Formation (James Riley Estep, Jr.).

Backtracking a little:
In the first half of this chapter, in my futile attempt to keep it short, I didn't tell you their take on the negatives of using the concept of "spiritual formation" in ministry. They list 4 considerations:
1) It implies a responsibility of people to form spirituality in other people [mh: as opposed to God accomplishing this?].
2) It's often based on a linear model "suggesting that if certain experiences or activities are planned, then specific desired spiritual outcomes will be achieved."[mh: as opposed to growth that may not be based on cause-and- effect?]
3) if you use it as an objective you assume it can be measured and often people who set goals and objectives assume that any goals or objectives that can't be measured are less than adequate [mh: or not important?].
4) it's usually seen as a progressive process in which higher levels of achievement can be clearly identified [mh: which may not necessarily be the case?].

Random notes:
Apparently, social scientists over the past decades haven't paid much attention to social, cultural and historical influences on human learning and development. Researchers are beginning to accept that these influences are just as important as genetics, biology, and environment. (L. Vygotsky) (CS p. 334)

Another different way of thinking (L. Vygotsky) is that the ability to learn isn't based on developmental level but the process of learning facilitates cognitive development. Learning requires that the child process the socio-cultural context in which he/she lives. (CS p. 334)

"[intentional] teaching facilitates learning that in turn advances the process of cognitive development" which comes as a child appropriates his/her socio-cultural context. (CS p. 334)

"The community of faith is an essential and primary element for spiritual formation. Spiritual formation is dependent on conducive relationships that help advance faith. . .Childhood faith is a dependent faith, dependent not only on individuals as care-givers and spiritual role models, but on the community of faith as a preservative of the corporate tradition of spirituality it embraces and embodies." (CS p. 337)

"Spiritual formation is not simply an internal process, but begins with the process of acquiring the spiritual tradition of the community of faith in which the individual engages."(CS p. 337)

"...spiritual formation in the child is not simply to be seen as an age-related, staged and sequenced phonomenon, but as an individual journey taken in the company of others that may or may not be strictly tied to age." (CS p. 337)

It is holistic. It is "not linear or unidirectional." They prefer to use zones, as opposed to steps or stages. Spiritual growth occurs or faith growth occurs when the community communicates the message and when the child experiences the message of faith in ways that are social, psycho-motor and behavioural. (CS p. 338)

They see acquiring spiritual vocabulary as an essential tool for spiritual formation, definately for talking about it. (CS p. 339)

"More-mature-others and deliberate instruction are essential for spiritual formation" particularly in the cognitive realm. This includes older children working with younger children and other forms of mentoring. (CS p. 339)

"Spiritual maturity is a life-long process." It's seen more as a spiral than as a line with a beginning and end. The hope is to transform instinct and lower thought - process to higher, spiritual, Christ-like thinking. (CS p. 340)

The focus is more on spiritual formation (application), less on defining "spirituality." Not neccessarily new to our experiences but apparently a new approach to Learning Theory as applied to spirituality and spiritual formation. I tend to say, that if we look at the scriptures, much of this is there. Interesting?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

CS: the Ecology of Childhood Spirituality

More from Children's Spirituality. Chapter 20. "The Ecology and Social Dynamics of Childhood Spirituality" by James Riley Estep, Jr. and Lillian Breckenridge. I'll try to keep it short. Bits and pieces from the first part from An Ecological Perspective-Lillian Breckenridge. I hope this makes sense:

The author says we must understand the spiritual growth or "spiritual formation" of children not only in terms of what is going on inside that child but the individual child in the context of his environment. The environment that affects a child's spiritual growth isn't just home, school, church, etc but also the way these influences affect each other and the ways they're connected. Example: the child's experience at school (a child's ability to read) influences his/her experience at church (having to read and write to learn about Jesus.) (CS p. 325)

"...development never takes place in a vacuum but it is always expressed through behaviour in a particular environmental context." [Brofenbrenner, 1979] (CS p. 329)

"If spiritual formation is viewed as permeating every aspect of the individual, it should be understood in a way that is consistent with general principles of human development...at the same time there is a basic difference. One's spirituality is greater than the sum of the other areas of development...fundamental to human experience.. ...all of one's humanity and more...it eludes measurement. . . (CS p. 329)

As children deal with life and grow in spirit, they adapt and change. This affects every part of the child's life. If life is the context for spiritual development, the process of spiritual formation as seen in Sunday school is "development-out-of-context." True spiritual development takes place where all the systems interact in context. (CS p. 331)

"Spiritual formation is experienced in terms of ability to adapt spiritually to increasingly complex life experiences as one ages." Our spiritual development is part of our identity. As life gets more complex our identity grows and develops. (CS p. 331) Breckenridge suggests that maturity is the ability to be self-directed and self-supporting while staying connected with others and God. (CS p. 332)

It takes some vigilence to notice how different experiences affect a child and it takes wisdom from above when they need help to process these things as they relate to God through these experiences. The comment that our spirit and the Spirit of Christ in us doesn't exist in a vacume - I think "vacume" but I didn't realize that I think that way. But, of course, Jesus didn't come to earth and live in a vacume or a monastery even as a child. Does recognizing the multi-system context of a child's life and it's affect on that child's faith affect how parents, teachers and Christian educators lead, guide, and nurture them? If so, how? What's different? What's new about this kind of thinking? Some interesting things to think about.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Artisan Moves

Artisan moved to the German House, an old party house. Very cool, if you like old buildings. And it's close to downtown.

We were able to have all ages in the same room, a corral for walkers and round tables where the kids could work and parents could listen and watch toddlers all at the same time. Putting the kids under the balcony helped send the noise down instead of out and to tell you the truth the kids were really good. Most of the sounds were barely noticable.

Before Jason preached from Esther, the kids stayed at their tables and Brian dressed up with a cape and mask and told the story of Purim and invited kids and adults to boo and hiss and use noisemakers when he mentioned the name of the villain. He told the story. Yay! Then they ate three-cornered cookies. Quite fun!

The kids made masks at the table.Each table has a green plastic table cloth, a reserved-for-families-with-kids sign and a plastic shoe box full of supplies. It worked nicely. (The adults got chairs and tall bar tables on the side but no craft supplies :-) It's a building full of nooks and crannies on a city street, no green space, so we have to watch our little ones more closely but they're still little and less apt to explore the wide open spaces. It's great to have everyone together and there's lots of grow room. It worked nicely.


Bible Gateway has the NIrV now. Maybe it's been there and I just noticed it.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


"For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations." Psalm 100:5 (NIV)

". . .To all generations I will make known Your faithfulness with my mouth."
Psalm 89:1 (NAS)

"The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
The plans of His heart from generation to generation." Psalm 33:11 (NAS)

". . .But tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD,
And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.
For He established a testimony in Jacob
And appointed a law in Israel,
Which He commanded our fathers
That they should teach them to their children,
That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born,
That they may arise and tell them to their children,
That they should put their confidence in God
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments,
And not be like their fathers,
A stubborn and rebellious generation,
A generation that did not prepare its heart
And whose spirit was not faithful to God." Psalm 78:4b (NAS)

After I published the last post, I went looking for the word "generation" at Bible Gateway (can you tell?) NAS has a couple more passages than NIV. And there are some passages that surprised me that I should go back to.

It's pretty amazing that the scriptures continue to cross generations, that His story endures, that the God of our faith remains faithful through all the technological and cultural changes that our parents and grandparents faced and that our children and their children have yet to face. It probably helps keep generational differences in perspective. We all have the potential to become a stubborn, rebellious, unfaithful generation. But as every generation passes away, God stays and he doesn't change. His Word remains and He stays faithful. Amazing and comforting!