Daron Pratt is administrator for Children’s Ministries and Family Ministries for the North NSW Conference of the Adventist Church. In June 2016, Daron attended and presented at the fifth Children’s Spirituality Conference at Lipscomb University, Tennessee, USA. In this guest post, Daron shares some of the key terms/themes he heard from a variety of presentations from academics, researchers and ministry practitioners.
So much has been written and discussed especially in the last ten years when it comes to children and faith. In my opinion these are the key terms/themes that all the academics, researchers and practitioners largely agreed on.
The Sticky Faith research found that intergenerational church worship was the closest they came in their research to the “silver bullet” for developing a faith that sticks. (Even the researchers themselves were surprised by this outcome.)
Children are more likely to work out their theology/faith in conversation and relationship with their faith community than in deductional, doctrinal classes. They need the space to ask the hard questions and to also be given the space to wrestle with their faith.
Having significant others in their lives beside their parents is key. Three-to-five adults besides their parents who invest in and journey along the way with children will make a huge difference.
Storying and testimony is key. Children will not believe their faith until they have a opportunity to testify to their belief/faith/journey. Children need a grand narrative to which they can belong. They need to know the story so that they can be a part of it. Saying really is believing.
Rites/ritual/mystery of God:
Children need to participate in rituals of the faith, see them modelled and experience/find God through them. This happens best when children are immersed in the faith community as a whole.
Children need to feel like they belong not just to the children’s ministry but to the whole church.
Immersion in community service:
Shutting our children in a “Christian Ghetto” stunts and stagnates spiritual growth. They need to be involved in intergenerational acts of service, preferably with their family.
Children are more likely to adopt the faith of their parents. Longitudinal, generational studies prove that adults get what they are – children are likely to be as faithful (or faithless) as their parents are.
Parenting in the pew:
Worshipping alongside their parents is significant for our children’s long term spiritual growth. Children belong to and in the faith community/village and we need them as much as they need us to understand God’s Kingdom.
Identity – beliefs and values are generally abstract and make much more sense when they are lived out in an intergenerational community. A worldview, ideology, or grand story shapes a person not simply because he or she knows the story, rationally understands the beliefs, or affirms a set of fundamentals. Children “get” the meaning and significance of beliefs when they are lived out in the lives of people that they care for, respect, and trust. Children locate their identity – their place in the world as they experience a tradition faithfully practiced and modelled in an intergenerational community.
How to develop and integrate these terms/themes is up to each church/family … but if we can tick most of the boxes above we will be well on the way to launching lifelong faith in our children. Balance is key for discipleship/spirituality/faith to grow, but so too is intentionality and intergenerationality!