Spiritual formation is both an opportunity and a challenge for educators in Christian colleges and seminaries. How can students be nurtured and guided in developing spiritually within the curriculum? Drawing on a number of educators, studies, and arguments, this article develops a rationale for engaging in spiritual formation and for the use of practical assignments or "soul projects." A selection of such projects is grouped into genres, followed by a brief exploration of best practices and an evaluation of such assignments.
Sociology and anthropology have not often been the focus of attention for insight into Christian education. A survey of the first 25 years of the Christian Education Journal found the term sociology was used in 61 articles, while anthropology was found in 36 articles-about half of those refer to the discipline of anthropology, in contrast with a subcategory of theology or philosophy. Only three authors include sociology as part of their qualifications (an author of the present article was one of them), while only one includes anthropology in their qualifications. Usually sociology or anthropology is in the title of a cited reference, yet when mentioned in the body of an article they are mentioned without positive or negative comment. Positive comments were increasingly common, most frequently found in the last few years, while negative comments were fairly rare. Perhaps the most vivid example of a negative reaction is Kenneth Gangel's (2004) heading titled "Enemies of Spiritual Values" under which he lists sociology and may imply anthropology should be included.1
Children's spirituality has roots in more than a century of research conducted around the world. An overview of some of this research is provided, reflecting four phases that emerged over time, each with its distinctive emphasis. Tracing children's religious and faith development research through holistic periods, declining interest, cognitive phases, and the recent spiritual emphasis lends a textured understanding to current research and generated stimilating possibilities for the future.
The reviewers are:
Holly Catterton Allen, Children and Family Ministries, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR
Dean G. Blevins, Christian Ministry, Trevecca Nazarene University, Nashville, TN
Cynthia L. Brown, Christian Education, East Texas Baptist University, Marshall, TX
Patricia D. Brown, Christian Formation and Educational Ministries, Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, WA
Cheryl Fawcett, Christian Education, Christian Heritage College, El Cajon, CA
Marcia McQuitty, Children Ministries, South Western Baptist Seminary, Fort Worth, TX
Catherine Stonehouse, Christian Education, Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, KY
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Dawn, Marva J. (1997). Is it a lost cause? Having the heart of God for the church’s children. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. 256 pp.
Elkind, David. (1998). Reinventing childhood. Cambridge, MA: Modern Learning Press. 188 pp.
Keefer, Mikal. (2002). Children’s ministry that works! (Rev. ed.). Loveland, CO: Group Publishing. 254 pp.
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Krych, Margaret A. (2004). The ministry of children’s education: Foundations, contexts, and practices. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. 274 pp.
Maynard, Morlee, & Aldridge, Jerry. (2001). Understanding today’s preschoolers: Developing tomorrow’s leaders today. Nashville TN: Lifeway. 92 pp.
Miller-McLemore, Bonnie J. (2003). Let the children come: Reimagining childhood from a Christian perspective. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass. 220 pp.
Pritchard, Gretchen Wolff. (1992). Offering the gospel to children. Boston. MA: Cowley. 219 pp.
Stonehouse, Catherine. (1998). Joining children on the spiritual journey: Nurturing a life of faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. 239 pp.
Trent, John, Osborne, Rick, & Bruner, Kurt. (2000). Spiritual growth of children. Colorado Springs, CO: Focus on the Family. 448 pp.
Yust, Karen Marie. (2004). Real kids real faith: Practices for nurturing children’s spiritual lives. San Francisco,CA: Jossey Bass. 210 pp.
This paper is based upon secondary analysis by several Toccoa Falls College undergraduates using samples from 116 hours of video data, originally filmed for Donald Ratcliff's dissertation at the University of Georgia (he also conducted multiple interviews with fifty-two children for the study). The original dissertation research was an ethnographic study of a public school hallway.
What is it like to be a child, to experience daily life as a child? The author spent four months observing and interviewing children in the hallways of a public elementary school of over six hundred students. The article makes careful differentiation between school culture (controlled by teachers ) and peer culture (controlled by students). After presenting the findings, the article discusses the implication of awareness of peer culture and student culture for educational ministries. Because there is conflict between the culture imposed by the institution and the culture of the children within the institution, teachers and those responsible for children in the church must be aware of the differences in the cultures because these differences are important to children.
A model of spiritual development is proposed as a common paradigm for both Wesleyan-Arminian and Reformed Christians. Wesley's two-crisis theology is examined and contrasted with Reformed perspectives. Harold Darling, a pioneer of psychological/theological study, has suggested a four-stage developmental model, which has considerable biblical as well as experiential support. Potential contributions of Darling's model to a mutual understanding of spiritual growth are assessed.
Studies related to child development and religious education are surveyed, concentrating on the topic of how children developmentally understand the Bible. Strengths and weaknesses of the research are considered. The development of a general theory of religious cognitive development is suggested, as well as the need for research on specific applications of the theory.
This article reports on the possible use of play in Christian education at a preschool level. Following a review of the literature, an application of play-training utilizing church roles in described, and the data resulting is analyzed. Results suggest that preschoolers tend to improve in their performance of church roles through such intervention, particularly when an adult enacts the roles during training. Further application, such as acting out Bible stories, is described.
The mentally retarded are, by definition, different from average people. This difference should have an important effect upon the methods of teaching and curriculum utilized in religious education. By examining the characteristics of the retarded, church workers are more likely to adapt appropriate methodologies in communicating with these individuals.