My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book as a collection of thirteen (13) essays on different aspects of Children’s ministry within the Christian Church. Each chapter has a different author, making the quality of the whole inconsistent while maintaining a very broad over all theme. These essays are organized into four (4) sections that cover a specific sub theme, starting with an introduction of what spirituality looks like for a child and ending with three (3) essays dealing with childhood trauma (ACE), including the impacts and underlying aggravating factions of the abuse of children by clergy and other trusted adults in positions of authority within the Church. Between these are essays on how children are (or can be) interpreted within the faithful community, modeled by the family, along with one essay that deals with race issues that can impact efforts to talk openly with children about the real struggles they encounter within their own life. Most of the essays reinforce what seems like common sense (although I recognize that it is helpful to actually call them out for attention so that they aren’t ignored), with a couple of break out topics that held a few gems and a couple of essays that I felt were much too short to treat the topic well. In addition, for a practical guide, many of the essays where short on practical steps or advise that could actually be implemented.
The chapters and sections in this work are:
Introduction: The Story Continues
Section 1: The Inner Spiritual Life of the Child
1. Begin with Listening
2. From Faith Transmission to Faith Recognition
3. Cultivating Curiosity
4. Kids Today Just Can’t
Section 2: Spiritual Nurture as Family Life
5. Abbotts and Ammas
6. Listening to Children
7. Neighborly Advice
Section 3: Communal Spirituality in Church Life
8. Discerning Congregational Change through a Nonanxious Intergenerational Model
9. Why Spiritual Nature of Young Children Matters
10. (Un)Divided Worship
Section 4: Coming Alongside Children in Challenging Contexts
11. The God of the Child
12. Theology and Abuse
13. Accompanying Children and Teens through loss
Conclusion: Practical Guidelines for Implementing Best Practices in Real-Life Ministry
Some of the other points that really got my attention are:
Children are bombarded with voices that tell them what to think, how to feel, and what to do. So much so that their own inner voices can become dim and unheard.
When you are fully present to the child in front of you, you will change. Their experiences of God will touch your own; you will be invited to stretch the boundaries of what you thought about God, yourself, and others.
In those studies, a child who attends Sunday school four times a month because their parents require them will have the same “religiosity” as a child who attends Sunday school four times a month because they find it meaningful
In Oliver O’Donovan’s book Common Objects of Love,5 he writes that the basic sense of what it means to love something is to give it your attention, which then reinforces the love. He is drawing on the work of Saint Augustine. If I say I love my wife, it means I give her the focus of my attention (the thoughts, affections, and resources of my being). And as I give her the focus of my attention, I am also participating in the act of learning how to love: loving reinforces the act of loving.
Scazzero ponders the neglect of emotional health within Christian thinking on discipleship. It’s not uncommon for churches to have pious, committed Christians with significant Bible knowledge who, sadly, act emotionally immature most of their lives.
Young children are naturally contemplative and simply enjoy God. This sense of wonder and delight manifests in prayers of thanksgiving and praise. Specifically, “the prayer of children up to the age of seven or eight is almost exclusively prayer of thanksgiving and praise.
A George Barna poll showed that “attendance at worship services is, by their admission, generally the only time they think about worshiping God, eight out of ten church goers do not feel they have entered into the presence of God, or experienced a connection with Him, during a worship service—in the past year—only one out of every four churched believers says that when they worship God, they expect Him to be the primary beneficiary of their worship.
Sharing the whole story enables children to see themselves and their stories within God’s story. The Bible has much to say about injustice, abuse, deprivation, and violence. It explores the full range of human emotions: love, joy, peace, and kindness as well as anger, depression, bitterness, and hurt.
However, when considering the spiritual lives and development of children, we cannot ignore the horrific juxtaposition of two truths: the church, which has a deep and continued commitment to the care and well-being of children, has also been an environment that puts children in harm’s way.
Clericalism also motivates religious institutions to prioritize the protection of the status and reputation of the church and religious leaders over the welfare of the child.
The idea of total depravity, which relates closely to the idea of “original sin,” has also influenced the way children think about themselves in relation to God.
When stories of loss are being told, it is the adult’s job to be present and listen but not interfere. We certainly are praying internally and listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In our listening, we will feel the tug to make things better for this little one who is suffering, as if we could. It’s important for us to know that our platitudes and “fix it” phrases—like “God just needed your mama in heaven” or “Aren’t you happy that . . .”—do not help.
I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
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