“A very simple definition of children’s spirituality might be God’s ways of being with children and children’s ways of being with God.” Rebecca Nye’s book Children’s Spirituality (London: Church House Publishing, 2009) is a brief but excellent introduction. She begins by reminding us that first and foremost, the spiritual life of a child begins (and ends) with God. It isn’t something that we create or manufacture for them. God made us all for relationship, in the image of God, to know, love and serve God. Perhaps the best place to start is to attend to the child and what is going on for them and in them. They are not empty vessels to be filled, nor putty to be moulded. Perhaps a seed growing to fruit is a better metaphor, yet even that can cause us to focus on the coming harvest and not on the seedling itself.

Both James Fowler and John Westerhoff have written about the faith development of children. Fowler’s stages and Westerhoff’s styles/pathways remind us that the faith of young children is experiential. Children experience the faith of those around them, through relationship, senses, symbols, stories, rituals and language. It is good to ask ourselves about when children are with other people who pray (other than in worship). By the way, if children leave worship to go out to Sunday School, they probably never hear a congregation praying for others.

Rebecca Nye offers a simple “SPIRIT” acronym for thinking about fostering the spiritual lives of children:

  • Space – crafting special places and times for prayer, including symbols, and providing suitable emotional space and listening space
  • Process – exploring what happens when we pray and honouring the child’s own prayer processes
  • Imagination – moving beyond rote prayers to wondering, creating, imagining, openness
  • Relationship – exhibiting and modelling respectful, caring relationships with all ages
  • Intimacy – creating and supporting the opportunity for children to be close to God in their own ways
  • Trust – stepping back and trusting in both God and the child, not manipulating prayer

SPIRIT-CARDSSPIRIT-CARDS2I have expanded the above into a set of twelve cards for discussion in groups. Images are from Shutterstock, iStockPhoto and myself.

Childrens-Spirituality-Cards Download 2.6mb PDF

People are invited to discuss the following in relation to cards of their choice.

  • What aspect of the spiritual life of a child might this describe?
  • Tell a story or give an example of this aspect of children’s spirituality.
  • What are some ways of supporting, resourcing or guiding children in this aspect?
  • What questions do you have about this aspect of children’s spirituality?

See my original post about these cards, Childrens Faith and Cyberspace , at my Growing Disciples blog.