For a long time the Church has shared Bible stories with children that have included someone else’s moral or theological interpretation. In truth, the Bible has always been used to teach children right from wrong and the Golden Rule. In some part, this has lead to a generation of children (and adults) who are really moralistic therapeutic deists. Thankfully there are other opportunities to engage children IN the biblical story without adding our own interpretation or the “correct” answers as to why God did this or that. We the advent of Godly Play and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, we know the importance of open-ended questions, wondering, and allowing children to experience the stories of God with their heart before their head.Continue reading Biblical Story Making
A workshop I was to present in the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia in early March 2020 was moved to an online webinar using Zoom, of which we are all now so familiar with. Here is a diocese that has been very nimble in taking what would have been their day-long, in-person annual event for Christian formation practitioners called Better Together. They are now calling this “shelter-at-home continuing education,” in which I gave my keynote as a Zoom webinar-styled presentation in the first installment, called Faith Formation in a Changing Church.
I recently offered my two workshops, Children’s Presence in Worship: Full Participation or Brief Appearance and Texting God: The Spirituality of Youth via Zoom meeting for more interaction. Valerie Reinke, Canon Missioner for Faith Formation: 35 & Under and her team recorded them and are making them available for others to view.Continue reading Children’s Presence in Worship
You are never too young to pray. For many parents, as well as many adults, prayer does not come easily. Growing up, my parents regularly helped me learn prayers at bedtime, starting with the simple “Now I lay me down to sleep” until I knew The Lord’s Prayer and could say it on my own before bed overnight. We said grace at meals, and I learned “Be present at our table, Lord . . .” As an Episcopalian, I grew up with the Book of Common Prayer and as time went on, I learned where to find other prayers to assist me in my own prayer life. Now I don’t need a prayer book to help me pray, but is sure is nice to have a book of prayers handy with the words just don’t seem to come. After all, prayer is simply a conversation with God: Help! Thanks! Wow!
But now there is a new book out just for children and the parents, teachers, and adults who care for them so much that they want to teach them prayers and share in the experience of talking to God at all times and in all places. Jenifer Gamber and Timothy J.S. Seamans have put together a beautiful compilation of prayers (originally and familiar) that are accompanied by delightful line drawings by Perry Hodgkins Jones.
Divided into six “parts,” Common Prayer for Children and Families offers The Lord’s Prayer (in many versions) and Mealtime Prayers (new and traditional) as well as ways to pray through the day for every day of the week. There are prayers for each of the seasons of the church year as well as the ordinary events of life for one’s self, at home, at school, and at camp. There are prayers for saints past and present, as well as for the needs of the world. With a thematic index as well as a scripture index, finding just the right prayer to share with your child is now just a page away.Continue reading Praying with Children
Last week I took two days off to spend time with my just-turned-four-year-old granddaughter. The best I can describe it was two days of wild imagination. We decorated an Easter tree with tiny bunnies, eggs, and chicks that I got out of storage, spent an afternoon at a playground followed by ice cream, visited Grampa at work, read books, and pretended a whole lot. Tea parties, colorful scarves, hide and seek, and discussing all the Disney princesses filled our days.
While she had some quiet time (aka nap without sleeping), I also took a breather and opened the latest Christian Century. Jerome Berryman’s article “Holy story, sacred play: Helping children become fluent in faith” brought a smile to my face. Having had the privilege of sitting on the floor with Jerome going back 25+ years, his article about Godly Play spoke to my time with Mackenzie. And having worked with the Godly Play Foundation to bring the revised and expanded Complete Guide to Godly Play (Vol. 2, 3, 4) to publication as well as offering Godly Play at my parish, Jerome’s words:
“The leader does not offer answers but offers space for children to wonder”
resonated with me in a new way. He describes Godly Play as a
“face-to-face and intimate art”
and while we are
“all designed to create meaning, . . . the art of wondering is forgotten.”
As a grandmother (and editor of faith formation resources), I hope our churches (and families) continue to wonder with children. By giving children a safe space to explore creation, God, and our sacred stories, we are helping them enter the mystery of all that God intended for us – we are beloved children. By giving myself real time off to just “be” with Mackenzie, I too was renewed and reopened to the possibilities that only our imaginations and wonder can give.
Note: This first appeared as “Mondays with the Editor” on the Church Publishing Incorporated Facebook page.
This article first appeared in “Giving: Growing Joyful Stewards in Your Congregation” magazine which is published annually by the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. The full magazine (chock-full of great ideas) is available for purchase on their website.
Today’s culture can be toxic for children and other living things. If we build our values on the “put-downs” and sound bites of social media and incidences of daily violence that permeate the news, we might lose hope in what the future could hold for our children. How do we nurture a generous spirit in children when it would seem the world is about self-aggrandizement, winning, and having the most toys?
While we may think children are born as empty vessels waiting for family, teachers, and (yes) the church to fill them with love, knowledge, dreams, values, and a purpose, we know that they are already born with a capacity to know God and experience love. As caretakers of our children, it is our responsibility to nurture that which already exists, by providing an environment where their desire to be loved and part of a community is openly welcomed, acting as role models in what it means to be a generous, loving person made in the image of God.
We are born for sympathy and compassion. In a University of Oregon study, economist Bill Harbaugh and psychologist Ulrich Mayr found that charitable generosity activated the reward center of the brain, indicating that our brains are naturally made for kindness. Furthering this research are studies on compassionate meditation such as the one conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which illustrated that through the repeated practice of mindful generosity, we can increase empathetic responses to others.