Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Bringing Faith To Life

I'm currently reading a book called Postmodern Children's Ministry by Ivy Beckwith. My intention was to gain more insight into ministering effectively to children in this day and age because I am part of the leadership team for children's ministries at our church. Little did I know that I would gain some insight about my own children as well through this book.

I went out for breakfast with my girlfriend yesterday. We chatted about the usual --- husband, children, church, home, work, life! We discussed our observation of how it is 'by nature' that children are selfish (some more than others) and that children today feel a sense of entitlement, therefore, they often don't see the need to be thankful to God for the 'luxuries' in life --- because these things are seen as a normal part of life by society. Some examples --- having steak for dinner, having their own bedroom, having birthday parties, having summer vacations, having their own computers!

I came home from breakfast and started to read my book some more --- and I come to Chapter 3: Bringing Faith to Life. A whole section on school-age children (ages 6-12), the ages that my children fall under, jumped out at me and I will share it here.

"Spiritually forming children means we help them see that in the economy of the kingdom of God being successful is loving others, showing mercy, fighting for justice, and walking humbly with God. And this is not an easy task. I work every day with what I call 'children of privilege'. These children are good kids. There's not really a discipline problem among them. They're bright and fun and winsome. But they can't imagine a world without the things they have. They can't imagine a world where they don't go to a cabin on the lake in the summer or a Caribbean vacation in the winter. What I want them to know and to practice is not that it is wrong or sinful to go on a Caribbean vacation but that because they have that privilege, they also have great responsibility to use that privilege to further the kingdom of God on earth.

During the school years (ages 6-12) a child's thinking and reasoning ability move from the fanciful and illogical thinking of the preschool child to what is called concrete, operational thinking. While they still cannot necessarily reason abstractly, they are beginning to understand and order their worlds in a logical fashion.

This shift in the way a child processes and understands her world also impacts her faith. The symbol, ritual, and story of the child's faith community are integrated into the child's personality, and the child takes these on as her own. This does not mean the child has critically evaluated the beliefs of the community and chosen them because they make sense. The school-age child does not have the reasoning abilities to do this. Instead because the chld is immersed in the community, she wraps herself in what she knows best. She emulates the people she knows best - her parents and those in the community who know her and care for her. She begins to identify with the place that provides her with comfort, safety, friends, and belonging.

This is the stage where children make active choices between right and wrong. They are now able to understand that there are acceptable ways to treat people, to make decisions, to live in communities. They get that there are rules and expectations. As caregivers, then, we need to pay particular attention to the desire these children have to do what's right. We need to show them what it means to live with integrity even when life doesn't seem fair. We need to explain to them why we act with kindness even when others are unkind. These are the years when a child's sense of morality kicks into gear. If we miss this opportunity to help children figure out how to choose good when the stakes are relatively low, we will have a tremendous challenge on our hands as the elementary years turn into the teen years and the stakes become much, much higher."

Wow! This book, which started out to be quite boring, is starting to really make sense to me. I'm looking forward to reading some more of it today. By the way, I love how the author ended the chapter --- "God wants us to be faithful in the soul care of our children, and God will take care of the rest."

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