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Ministering to Children: Spirituality Development

Andy de Feu, from Moorlands College is leading this seminar.

Pets don’t last long and so they give us a chance to talk about death. Child lost her hamster, came with a ppt with all the stages of life, sisters share their experience, dad share his bit. This was a significant moment but we could have missed it as we deemed it not important. As Amy shared it she felt secure in asking, and she was validated in her experience.

Get asked a lot of questions. How do you explain the Trinity to a seven year old:

  • Water, ice and steam but it can’t be all 3 states at the same time
  • Egg – yolk, white, shell all egg but need all 3 to be completely egg – but what does the shell represent
  • 3 piece suit – one item clothing, but three items, also made up of the same material.

Why use abstract models to children who need concrete models?

Bryn Hughes: “believe your children into greatness”, don’t ask how can I teach the bible more effectively etc., but ask what do you want the children to become.

When asked what is the biggest decision teenagers have made a lot in Andy’s group talked not about being Christian but living out a Christian faith in front of their friends.  What would we want to see in a group of children and young people with a mature faith:

  • Caring
  • Confident in themselves, in others, in faith
  • Be secure in self-esteem
  • Identity in Christ
  • Have faith
  • Right choices
  • Positive view of church

Your vision will give you permission to stop doing things you are doing, are the Duggy Dug Dug songs helpful or just entertaining, just because I have fun doesn’t mean it contributes to the faith development of children.

Kanon Tipton, the four year old preaching, gained over 4 million hits on YouTube. He started at 21 months, he is mimicking but there is also a calling according to his dad.

Development theories
What stages of faith do we all go through, Fowler believes not many people get to the universal faith – stage 6 e.g. Mother Theresa and Mahatma Gandhi. Imagine if you exposed Santa to your children’s work! Children get confused as parents had said Father Christmas and Tooth Fairy don’t exist so as they haven’t seen God they think he doesn’t exist either.

Aged 8-11 they see ideas as concrete so tell them that God exists as they trust authority figures. Synthetical Conventional encourage them to lie down and look at the stars, what if there were two of me and the other one is in parallel family looking at us but we can’t see them.

Can children achieve a mature faith?

Westerhoff says look at content development. It implies owned faith can’t happen until later, but equally you can add rings to the tree, you can re examine issues of faith. Asking questions, having crises of faith is fine, everyone has a belief system even if it is an atheistic structure.

Christmas crackers can show difference between faith development and Christian spiritual development. We know what is there a bang, hat, joke, present but we don’t know exactly what they are.

Need to pray and seek what God is doing in this child?

“Children are like sponges. They absorb so much, not just from what you teach, but who you are.” James 3 teachers will be judged more seriously, we can distort and confuse the teaching. Children aren’t a blank piece of paper, but a wrinkled ripped broken piece of paper they have issues, scars, hurt and so on. Spiritual development is messy.

The Greeks did us no favours
Dualism of higher sacred and lower secular has been bought into and we have 1 in 168 hours a week to do spiritual development. Did an analysis of children’s and youth work we spent 5 minutes quality time one-on-one as so much of what we do is in big groups. We hope by osmosis they learn about faith and connect with God. How can you develop the soul in five minutes.

Biblical worldview says that God can input across all areas as can Satan and it is seeing who operates the influence.

Creative Spirituality
The least effective way is to teach through purely verbal speech, was 10% probably less now. Visual symbols and simulated experiences by adding in actions and sounds to the bible story. Direct experience are likely to remember 90% of what they are taught, want them to be generous in Spirit, asked them two guys to help clear rubbish to help stewards, chief steward says thanks, they felt amazing. The next night did it again but no chief steward, challenged them to serve but not to be served, to be praised or not, but God knew, it is for the audience of one. That’s spiritual development.

The concrete principle – don’t get abstract, but do relate, e.g. we don’t keep sheep or camels but we know cars so feel free to reinterpret, the important thing isn’t the metaphor but the message.

The Travel Agent Principle – allow Tweens to influence the topics you study, and become more issue based, find the crises in their life and speak from there

The Rotation Principle: a proportion of every module has to be taught outside as boys learn best outside. Pray on the hill outside the village for it, or create an atmosphere of awe and wonder.

Final question
Simon Peter do you love me, do you love me, do you truly love me, Simon is hurt, and Jesus says to feed the sheep (children). Do I love enough to go beyond our norms, for what we are doing, wrestle with John 21:15.

Above all pray for the children, young people and understanding.

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About The Author

Married to the wonderful Hannah, dad to the amazing Daniel and Josh! Work for a parish on the edge of the New Forest, passionate about Jesus, children's & youth work & sport.

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