Monday, August 27, 2012

Where are the children?

I met with Karen Warner my Baptist colleague this week.  We had lots to catch up on.  She wanted to hear all about my sabbatical research and I about the children’s ministry course led by Scottie May at Carey Baptist College.  Karen is a great resource to me as she  always has a pile of good books to recommend and this time gave me a copy of her current favourite article “Where are the children?  As we shared our last few months we were intrigued to find that we had both been exploring the same topics, namely, how our (and our churches’) ministry with children grows lifelong disciples for Christ.
So armed with a list of “must have” books to buy, I headed home to catch the last rays of afternoon sun and read the recommended article with highlighter poised.  The number of highlights on any article is a good indicator of success in my view and this essay exploring the emerging church’s spiritual formation of children is now almost completely fluorescent yellow!  The renowned authors (McLaren, Csinos, Jennings and Yust) challenge the “emerging faith communities” for forgetting about the children when it comes to spiritual formation.
“While adults are being spiritually formed and transformed according to the values and theology of the emerging church, children within the same faith communities continue to receive instruction from curricula and resources that espouse and promote the old paradigm of modernistic Christianity.”  They suggest that while many adults in the emerging movement feel they have to unlearn much of what they were taught as children, they persist in teaching their children the same things.
Their suggestions for addressing this pull together much of what I’ve read from favourite writers Ivy Beckwith (Formational Children’s Ministry), John Westerhoff (Will our Children have Faith?) and Thomas Groome (Sharing Faith), but it’s great to have one article that presents “practices and approaches to ministry that we believe to be foundational in nurturing the spirituality of children.”
I like their holistic approach to children’s ministry and their recognition that no one movement holds the key.  “While liturgical churches have typically used a gradual-socialisation model of spiritual formation, conversional churches have typically used a decision/follow-up model.  It is becoming more clear to us that gradual-socialisation churches need to call children and young adults to intentional commitment and conversional churches need to attend to the gradual identity formation of disciple-making as modelled in Jesus’ three years with his disciples.”  Spot on in my view!
Have a read.  It’s well worth it.

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