Anglican Children and Youth Ministries Commission
Developing Children’s Spirituality
Developing Children’s Spirituality
The Revd Linda Pilton, Chaplain, Perth College and member of the Anglican Children and Youth Ministries Commission
As most of us are probably aware by now, the most recent census has recorded a decline in religious adherence in Australia. Many of the students in our schools might describe themselves as open to the possibility of God, but not quite sure how this could be relevant to their lives.
Equally, many students in our schools come from diverse religious backgrounds. Much of my work involves sharing the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that is both hospitable and meaningful. It often means acknowledging the inherent spirituality that each individual has and exploring how their story might connect with the story of Jesus.
There are many different definitions of spirituality, one that I like to work with comes from Brené Brown1, “Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose to our lives.”
One framework that I have found useful to nurture children’s spirituality is outlined by Rebecca Nye2. Nye offers six criteria for supporting childrens’ ability to connect with God and with each other in loving and compassionate ways. She also develops a handy acronym:
The way we shape space, demonstrates what is valued. Is the physical space a welcoming, safe and sacred area that suggests that God is here? Emotional space is also important. Is the space one where a child can both be themselves as an individual and feel part of a community? Nye also suggests that we pay attention to auditory space that both takes silence seriously and gives an opportunity for a child to be heard.
The author suggests that the spiritual life is about process rather than an end product. This might mean worrying less about a set outcome and more about enjoying the thoughts, feelings and relationships we develop as part of the journey. This could mean being open to flexibility about how we structure our time with children.
Imagination and creativity can help us go deeper into our spiritual journey Christian art, literature and drama are useful tools here. Encouraging a sense of awe and wonder, as well as playfulness are useful skills that help us and our children navigate the complex world of meaning.
When we prioritise our relationships we enhance our sense of connection with each other and with God. This doesn’t mean that we need to be in deep relationship with every person around us, but it might mean we value each person and their perspective.
Nye suggests the central factor for intimacy is feeling safe. This is a long term venture, requiring patience, which can too easily be broken. Becoming closer to God and to each other is a central aspect of spirituality but must be worked at carefully.
Trust is central to our spirituality. We need to be comfortable with different kinds of knowing. We also often need to draw on our trust reserves when life is not going to plan. Trusting in God, is something that we ourselves need to be comfortable with if we are going to teach this to our children.
I wonder how your childrens’ ministry might use these guidelines to assist the flourishing of their spirituality.
1. Brown, Brené, brenebrown.com/articles/2018/03/27/defining-spirituality^
2. Nye, Rebecca, Children’s Spirituality: What it is and Why it Matters, Church House Publishing, London, 2009^
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