Speed Bumps and Jet Packs
“We are not human beings on a spiritual journey, but spiritual beings on a human journey.” ~Pierre de Chardin
I spend a lot of my time thinking about kids and how they learn. Coming from a career in education, my knee-jerk philosophy leads me to develop curriculum as the primary means of “teaching” faith to children. I am sure in many ways, it is a good process to follow. But over the last six months, my reading time has been devoted to the theology of children and what some of the current thinking says we should be doing with kids to better serve their spiritual formation while also growing the church.
In a nutshell, I have learned that we tend to get in the way of our kid’s spiritual formation more often than not. Now, let me be crystal clear on this one. I am not suggesting we, the adults in the church, don’t have an important role nor am I saying kids can do faith entirely on their own. Research shows very clearly that children need many different adults to nurture their faith. Neither parents nor church alone can bring a child as far along the path as when we all work together. However, I am suggesting that maybe, sometimes, we try too hard and rely on old habits rather than discerning God’s call for and call to each child.
I believe that we are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and that every child is a gift from God (Psalm 127:3) formed and consecrated by God before birth (Jeremiah 1:5). Perhaps de Chardin’s thinking brings some congruence to the conversation. We are all born as spiritual individuals, created by and innately connected to God. I fear that over time as we mature, our world has the potential to separate us from this faith. We become cynical, selfish, and sometimes too intellectual and structured in our pursuits with children (if not even our own pursuits!). We become unintentional speed bumps on an otherwise divinely prescribed pathway that draws children closer and closer to the Creator.
So, I am reframing my philosophy in terms of what ALL of us do for kids and their faith. I feel strongly that we should create programmed and meaningful space for kids. We should seek more ways to connect with our church body through common ground and a communal response to God’s calling upon us regarding our children. Two things will start to happen as we do this. The first, more obvious, step results in our fueling the flames of faith in our children, putting jet-packs on their spiritual formation rather than placing speed bumps in their way. Just like we need to create space for the Spirit to move in us, we also need to give children the space and time to quench the God-given thirst they all come prewired to quench. This means letting go of the things that may feel comfortable to us and the mentality that we do things a certain way because “that’s how they did it when we were kids.” The second thing that happens is simple. When we engage with children and see the world through their eyes; when we develop relationships across generations; when we feel the energy and faith from our youngest counterparts we, too, become more curious, inspired and, especially, more faith-full. Isn’t that what Christ call us to do in Mark 10:15? Be more like children so we can play a role in the kingdom come?