If last week’s session was a workout for our bodies (well, at least got us thinking about working out), this week was a workout for our brains! Marla Langelotz, pastor at Sargent Ave Mennonite Church, talked to us about encouraging faith in our children and how faith develops. Using the works of James Fowler and Karen Marie Yust, she described the process by which faith develops in young children.
- From 0 to 2 or 3, their entire faith experience is based on trust and a sense of being cared-for and safe. Therefore it is a great time to teach them that church is a safe place.
- God is a person who lives in a building or in heaven and provides comfort and care.
- They interpret biblical stories based on their own experience, identifying with an aspect of the story that is common with something that’s happened to them.
- From ages 3-6, children’s faith is very much a reflection of their parents, and they particularly pick up on emotions.
- Repetition and ritual are very important to them at this age.
- They’re trying to “figure it out” – asking questions for information, asking why. Try turning the questions around to get their ideas.
- Honour their experience rather than trying to have them fit into our grown-up definitions.
- Cultivate our own spirituality so we have something to share.
She discussed the idea of four spiritual learning styles, because our children will have a preference and it may be different from our own:
- Word – stories
- Emotion – music
- Symbol – visual, art
- Action – do something
She finished by giving some tips for nurturing faith in family situations:
- Worship and prayer – done as a family
- Caring conversation – as they get older, it’s harder to make this happen, but it is no less important
- Family service – helping neighbours, volunteering, giving them the sense that faith has a body and requires action
- Family ritual and tradition – meals, bedtimes, learning prayers and making up prayers, traditions for the seasons of the year like Christmas and Lent
Also, she mentioned a tool for encouraging faith conversation called Faith Talk – making use of my librarian heritage, I did the legwork for you. It’s available at the MC Canada Resource centre here, and the adult version is available here.