Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Spiritual Formation for Children

Beckwith.jpgMany of us today went to church; many of us, whether we paid attention or not, passed by children’s ministry in our churches. Many of these ministries are called Sunday School. There was a day when SS class was about going to church, sitting at a table with other little kids, getting a sheet of paper, coloring and writing and listening, hearing a lesson and going home. No one would dispute that such an approach to children’s ministry accomplished good things. But with all the developments in:

Educational theory and
Spiritual formation
Is there any book that guides us into new ideas in children’s ministry? I have one to recommend to you: Ivy Beckwith’s Formational Children’s Ministry: Shaping Children Using Story, Ritual, and Relationship (emersion: Emergent Village resources for communities of faith)
What are the most influential elements of your local church’s and family’s spiritual formation program for children?
There’s much to talk about in this book — that she focuses on some very solid ideas for us today: story, ritual and relationships.
She has a good grip on educational theory and the important distinction between formal and information education; she wants us to incorporate the Bible’s story, the Church’s story, and our local community/church’s story. What I liked most is that she encourages teachers to slow down enough to let children — in their formative educational experiences — to “do” and to “pray” and to “experience” instead of just hearing about and being informed about such things.
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posted January 17, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Looks like a great book. I’m part of a house church network affiliated with the Anglican Mission in the Americas. Incorporating the children is a special challenge in this setting — it’s intergenerational with little structure. In our group I am currently taking the lead in spiritual formation for the children. During Epiphany we’re focusing on prayer. (In fact, last week I taught them about the Lord’s Prayer using your teaching at Mars Hill a few weeks ago as a jumping off point, Scot.)
I recently started a blog about it for other house churches and small groups. I try to describe how the children and adults come together each week to learn about God, practice spiritual disciplines, experience different aspects of our faith, memorize scripture, pray, etc. The link is above. I never saw myself as a “children’s minister,” but more and more I’m finding the spiritual formation of children a top priority for myself, and for the Church as a whole.

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Henry Zonio

posted January 17, 2010 at 1:15 pm

I am really excited to read this book. In fact, I will be reviewing it at my site at the beginning of February. I will be a part of a book blog tour that Ivy is putting together. So glad to see this highlighted at Jesus Creed! We’ve been needing a book like this in children’s ministry for a while.
There’s also another book that has come out for parents called ChildFaith by Don and Brenda Ratcliff that looks really good, too.

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posted January 17, 2010 at 1:43 pm

When I was young, I taught this one ss class with kids and after the bible story we’d have them draw a picture of it. So, for example, we’d have noah’s ark in water then in the sky would be fighter jets firing at each other. I thought and still think that was so funny! Talk about letting kids soak in the lesson in their own way. lol!

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Tara Owens

posted January 17, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Another great book on spiritual formation for children is Habits of a Child’s Heart: Raising Your Kids with the Spiritual Disciplines by Valerie Hess ( Although it’s not a book specifically focused on corporate formation, it draws an important and beautiful parallel between the habits of a parent’s heart and the habits of a child’s heart?which I believe is the same parallel between the habits of a church’s heart and the habits of the hearts of the children in the congregation.

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posted January 17, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Some 12 years ago I taught the kindergarten class. There were two boys (cousins) in the class who were into things military. I gave a picture of Jesus with the little children – when they were done all were in camouflage and usually there was a tank coming over the hill.
The raven feeding Elijah was accompanied by fighter jets.
No matter what … the theme was always the same. I got a kick out of how they would adapt the picture week after week.
Fast forward … they are two excellent high school seniors – still in the same church today, but no longer obsessed with things military.

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The Charismanglican

posted January 17, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Thank you so much for the recommendation. We home school and help out with our little Episcopal parish.
Ever since I ventured outside the bounds of my native evangelicalism I’ve wondered if there were any decent children’s ministry resources that I could use that wouldn’t make me feel guilty or ill.
Your recommendation means a lot. Can’t wait to check it out.

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posted January 17, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Another resource is a collection of essays by various people edited by Dr. Holly Allen called “Nurturing Children’s Spirituality: Christian Perspectives and Best Practices” (Cascade Books).
Allen is a professor at John Brown University, and her own doctoral work focused on spiritual formation and intergenerational settings (particularly small groups). Her research indicates that intergenerational settings foster spiritual development more than those segregated from the adult members.
Though we have Sunday school divided along age lines, my own church does little else that is segregated by age. It may be more a result of our small size than a theological decision, but I love the fact that my children have a host of moms, dad, and grandparents in the faith.

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posted January 18, 2010 at 10:18 am

I had no knowledge of this book prior to this post, but I did read Beckwith’s Post Modern Children’s Ministry. In that book, she shows a good understanding of how children learn but writes with a liturgically high church bias. It will be interesting to see if my low church bias finds good compatibility with her use of rituals.

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Thomas B. Grosh IV

posted March 26, 2010 at 2:18 pm

I find the above materials/stories of great interest. Our family of 6 (4 girls: 10 year old twins, 5 year old, nearly 2 year old, 2 30-something parents) have particularly enjoyed dinner devotions based upon “the Jesus Storybook Bible” (Written by Sally Lloyd Jones, illustrated by Jago), “My First Message: A Devotional Bible for Kids (Written by Eugene Peterson, illustrated by Rob Corley & Tom Bancroft), Thomas Nelson’s “Bible World” Series (John Drane). These materials could also be used in local congregations.
I have Gary A. Parrett & S. Steve Kang’s “Teaching the Faith, Forming the Faithful: A Biblical Vision for Education in the Church” on my to read shelf. Has anyone dug into this resource?
I’m interested in seeing more local congregations provide training/resources for familial based spiritual formation for children. A few books I’ve explored include: “Children Matter: Celebrating Their Place in the Church, Family, and Community” (May, Posterski, Stonehouse, Cannell), “Is It a Lost Cause: Having the Heart of God for the Church’s Children?” (Marva Dawn), “Joining Children in the Spiritual Journey” (Catherine Stonehouse), “The Family Worship Book” (T.L. Johnson).
Any additional suggestions of books/conferences on this theme?

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