Children's spirituality is the child's development of a conscious relationship with God, in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, within the context of a community of believers that fosters that relationship, as well as the child's understanding of--and response to--that relationship.
This first mini-theme issue of CEJ (Series 3) focuses on children’s spirituality. Children’s spiritual development is currently a hot topic not only in Christian education circles but in the broader world of the social sciences as well. Robert Coles’ publication of The Spiritual Life of Children (1990, Houghton Mifflin) heralded a new interest in the area of children and faith across a variety of fields and disciplines—educational and developmental psychology, ministry, medicine, world religion, sociology, education, theology, even church history.
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.
Rather than forbidding the participation of children in various spiritual life practices and pursuits, the Christian Celts were careful to encourage and nurture the spiritual gifts of their children. Celtic Christian beliefs and practices regarding children's spirituality yield perceptive insights into the contemporary nurture of children and the spiritual wholeness of families and communities. Studying the spirituality of children in the context of this unique Christian tradition offers relevant implications for understanding the spiritual, emotional, and relational formation of today's children.
The Noise--technology and electronic media--is undeniably integrated into the fabric of American life. The enchantment with the Noise begins at an early age as parents of children ages 6 months to 6 years report that 83% of their young children spent an average of 117 minutes per day using all screen media. Students ages 8-18 report 8-1/2 hours of exposure to the media each day with only 43 minutes spent reading. Youth who use the media as their frame of reference often ignore their spirituality, and experience emptiness and alienation. The author offers a variety of ways that reading to and with chidren can counter the influence of the media on children and foster their spirituality.
The teachers of Northminster Learning Center, a faith-based early childhood education program, are adept at documenting and sharing children's learning. They photograph children involved in Godly Play and religious activities, record what children say and do, and engage children in conversation about spiritual issues. When they combined a study group on children's spirituality with increased documentation they were surprised at the depth of children's thoughts. A documentation display of what they learned not only communicated how Christian formation occurs in the program but also significantly changed viewers ideas about the importance of spirituality in the early years.
Many church members believe that churches are places of support and acceptance to all families. Most would be surprised to find that families of children with disabilities have difficulty establishing and maintaining church relationships. As a general rule, faith communities struggle in their response to this growing population. This article addresses the spiritual implications for families of children with disabilities and how faith communities can provide support to them.
The fact that the Bible transforms lives, or rather, the engagement with scripture transforms lives, begs the question: How? This article addresses this question by first considering two prior questions: For whom was the Bible written? Why was the Bible written? How we answer these two questions will influence what we believe about, and therefore how we teach the Bible for transformation.
To the first question, I suggest the Bible was written for an elect community, the people of God and therefore how it transforms will have something to do with that community, more particularly, where we teach the Bible. To the second question, I suggest that the Bible was written to make God known. Most of the rest of the article addresses what this means and how we can teach in ways where
God is known in loving, experiential and obedient relationships. Therefore, the article concludes, not with a method for teaching, but with suggestions for teaching to encounter the Living God.
In the effort of suggesting a holistic paradigm of Christian nurture, this paper examines the relationship between congition and faith. The author relies on and expresses the epistemic frameworks of Piaget (1969, 1970) and Vygotsky (1962) particularly as they related to faith formation. The purpose of this paper is twofold: first, to explain the theoretical underpinning of the two perspectives of faith formation; and second, to set forth a broader framework within which to think about the interface between cognition and faith. The paper is not by any means an exhaustive or a definitive study of faith development. It offers a limited theoretical reflection on two distinct modes of cognition that contribute to the preliminary conception and validation of faith, hence the word formation rather than development will be used.
Jesus, in his teaching from the Gospels, conveys important truths about children and their value, yet sometimes alludes to them in a figurative way to illustrate important truths about the kingdom and challenge adults to faith and spiritual growth. In a few key passages--this study will primarily focus on those from Matthew--the child is held up in Jesus' teaching as a radical new model for understanding God and the kingdom of heaven. An understanding of children and childlikeness appears to be more important in a basic understanding of the gospel and the way of the disciple than those of Jesus' day--as well as many in the current day--have conceived. These truths have important implications for changing Christian education ministry to both children and adults.
The "Notes Section" of the Christian Education Journal provides an oportunity for people in the field of Christian education to provide responses to articles in previous issues of the journal and to share more personal reflective articles that provide stimulating ideas for readers to think about.
If we take William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience as the first “psychology of religion,” we could say that the academic study of spirituality is just over one hundred years old (Gillespie, 2003). During most of that time, scholarly inquiry has been content to focus mainly on the spiritual experience of adults (Shea, 2003). With a few notable exceptions, researchers began to
show serious interest in children’s spirituality only after 1960 (Hyde, 1990 p. 15–34). Typically, studies done after that pivotal time attend to what children say about feeling close to God when praying, enjoying the beauty of creation, learning Bible stories, receiving moral guidance from God, having escaped from danger, sensing God’s presence through liturgy and hymns, and being
converted or saved (Coles, 1990; Tamminen, 1994; Lawson, 2006). Others have been interested in the way children deal with religious pluralism as they learn to navigate through different social contexts, such as family, church, and school (May, 1988).
In the field of Christian education, deferred conceptual maintenance has resulted in fragmentation and enervation. This article considers some of the limitations in the Christian education movement, the recent popularity of spiritual formation as a way forward, and suggestions for a comprehensive approach under the banner of Christian formation which might invigorate and give a basis for integrating educational ministries. Earlier version of this were published in Covenant Quarterly 59, no. 4 (2001): 27-38 and given in a NAPCE workshop.
CEJ has chosen to discuss a book on leadership for the 2007 annual symposium. Leadership Can Be Taught: A Bold Approach for a Complex World by Sharon Daloz Parks (2005) is written by a religious educator and published by a major secular publishing house, Harvard Business School Press, so it brings the opportunity for interesting dialog that may be of relevance to CEJ readers. The teaching methodology of Ronald Heifetz, senior lecturer at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, is the focus of the book. Heifetz’s innovative approach to leadership education—called case-in-point teaching—uses both past student experience and the immediate social context of the classroom itself. Relying on personal observation and interview, Parks demonstrates and evaluates Heifetz’s method.
Review by Kenneth O. Gangel, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Christian Education
Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, TX
Review by Patrick A. Blewett, Academic Dean of the College
Columbia International University, Columbia, SC
Review by Robert J. Radcliffe, Retired Professor of Educational Ministry
Western Seminary, Portland, OR
Reviewed by Chuck Tompkins, Life Coach, Former Pastor
Bethel Grove Bible Church, Ithaca, NY
Review by Judith Lingenfelter, Professor Emerita
School of Intercultural Studies, Biola University, La Mirada, CA
Review by Linda Pyun,
Professor of Christian Education
The King’s College and Seminary, Van Nuys, CA
Worldviews: Think for yourself about how we see God. By John M. Yeats and John Blase. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress. 2006.
Review by Blake O’Dell, School of Christian Studies, Howard Payne University, Brownwood, TX.
This incomplete one; words occasioned by the death of a young person. Edited by Michael D. Bush. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. 2006.
Review by Carol Anne Janzen, Educational Ministries, Acadia Divinity College, Wolfville, NS Canada.
Perspectives on children’s spiritual formation—four views. Edited by Michael J. Anthony. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman. 2006.
Review by Gary C. Newton, Discipling Ministries, Huntington University Graduate School of Christian Ministries
Ambassador families: Equipping your kids to engage popular culture. By Mitali Perkins. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press. 2005.
Review by Michael R. Mitchell, Christian Leadership and Children’s Ministry, Liberty Theological Seminary, Lynchburg, VA.
Running in circles: How false spirituality traps us in unhealthy relationships. By Kim V. Engelmann. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 2007.
Review by Donald Ratcliff, Christian Formation and Ministry, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL
Necessary dreams: Ambition in women’s changing lives. By Anna Fels. New York: Anchor Books. 2004.
Review by Woo Min R. Song, Christian Education, BaekSeok (White Stone) University, Seoul, Korea.
Erikson on development in adulthood: New insights from the unpublished papers. By Carol Hren Hoare. New York: Oxford University Press. 2002.
Review by Chris Kiesling, School of Practical Theology, Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, KY.
The portable seminary: A master’s level overview in one volume. Edited by David Horton. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers. 2006.
Review by W. Kenneth Phillips, Christian Ministries, Northwestern College, Saint Paul, MN.
Rock solid teacher. By Gregory C. Carlson. Ventura, CA: Gospel Light. 2006.
Reviewed by Len Kageler, Youth Ministries and Christian Education, Nyack College, Nyack, NY.
Ministering to today’s adults: A complete manual for organizing and developing adults’ ministries in local congregations. By Kenneth O. Gangel. Eugene,
OR: Wipf & Stock, 2006 [reprint, Word, 1999].
Review by W. Kenneth Phillips, Christian Ministries Department, Northwestern College, Saint Paul, MN.
God’s potters: Pastoral leadership and the shaping of congregations. By Jackson W. Carroll. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2006.
Review by Stephen Overton, Pastor, Christian Chapel Foursquare Church, Moreno Valley, CA
The contrarian’s guide to leadership. By Stephen B. Sample. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 2003.
Reviewed by Mickey Becker, Leadership development consultant, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA
Social intelligence: The new science of human relationships. By Daniel Goleman. New York: Bantam Dell. 2006.
Review by Halee Gray Scott, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and University Libraries, Azusa Pacific University, Azusa, CA.
Christ plays in ten thousand places: A conversation in spiritual theology. By Eugene H. Peterson. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. 2005.
Review by Tom Schwanda, Christian Formation and Ministry, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL.