Monday, August 29, 2011

Response from David Csinos

Yesterday I wrote a post about Children's Ministry that Fits by David Csinos and shared the link with him on his blog, Such as These.  He wrote a thoughtful response my observation / question about his research excluding children from sacramental Christian traditions and shed some light on how this happened. Thought you might like to read it here!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Summer Reading Update: Children's Ministry that Fits

I'm slowly getting back into the rhythm of teaching school, so here is a new blog post about some of my summer reading!

Children's Ministry that Fits: Beyond One Size Fits All Approach to Nurturing Children's Spirituality by David Csinos has some good points that make it a worthwhile read for anyone involved in mentoring children on their spiritual journey.  The basic premise cuts right at the heart of what my husband terms the "Big Mac Gospel" approach to spiritual mentorship that has dominated many corners of Christianity in the western world for the last few decades.  That is, Christians have often sought to find a formula, an easily-digestable way to package the Gospel of Jesus Christ and mass distribute it. Despite good intentions, the Big Mac Gospel forces square pegs into round holes and doesn't leave much room for exploration of God outside of the "formula".  This philosophy has also played a large role in children's ministry.  (Lest I sound too judgemental, I have certainly been guilty of it as well!) Csinos' research seeks to show that children as well as adults have different spiritual styles or ways that they encounter God.  When our spiritual mentorship offers only one or two ways to relate to God, we run the risk of isolating children who relate to God in a different way and stunting their spiritual growth.  I also believe this is a reason why many children grow into young adults who then stop attending church.

Through focus groups with 13 children from three different faith communities, Csinos identifies four specific styles of spirituality in children: 1) Word-centered; 2) Emotion-centered; 3) Symbol-centered; and 4) Action-centered.  Many faith communities tend to lean heavily on one particular style and this can cause children (as well as adults) to intuitively sense that something is missing. Of the three churches that Csinos pooled from to do his research, only one of them seemed to have enough variety in its worship styles to be meeting the needs of the children.  This was a Presbyterian church that offered options from all four styles in the general life of the church.  The other churches, one that focused mainly on teaching and another that heavily emphasized contemporary worship music, seemed to leave their children lacking. As spiritual mentors, we are challenged to think beyond what inspires us personally and provide a broader spiritual spectrum to the children we pastor.

Another important point is that children have to be intricately involved in the life of the church and not tucked away into some corner for Sunday services.  For example, a child in one focus group that was action-centered found that her church's free meals to the homeless helped her feel particularly close to God.  Even though she was a child, she had been fully invited to be a part of this activity outside of Sunday morning worship and this made her feel valued as well as allowing her to engage her spiritual style.

My biggest criticism of the book lies in the limited choice of churches for the research.  Though Csinos identifies three dominant traditions in Christianity - sacramental, covenantal, conversional - he does not include children from sacramental traditions (Roman Catholic, Anglican or Orthodox) in his research.  I do not want to be too judgemental since I do not know his reasons for this, but I do wonder how having children from this tradition might have altered his research results.

The book also confirmed for me that concepts like Godly Play and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd are on the right track in providing children with healthy variety in how they help children to know the Father, Son and Holy Spirit without going in the direction of extreme individualism.

Have you read any good books on children's spirituality lately?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Where we've been . . .

In case you wondered if we dropped off the face of the earth the past three weeks, here's what we've been up to and where we've been:

In Vienna at Schönbrunn Palace

At Schönbrunn Palace, there is a wonderful Children's Museum about the lives of the Hapsburgs, the last ruling family of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Much of it is focused on the life of "Sissi", or Kaiserin Elisabeth, who was the next-to-last empress of the Austrian-Hungarian empire. A beautiful, but tragic figure, she was the Princess Diana of her day and is still a pop icon within the German-speaking world.

There is a costume section where the whole family can dress up like the kaisers. 
Here my daughter practices royal hair-dos with a mannequin of Sissi in the background. 
The Royal Siblings 
My son wasn't too crazy about the princess stuff and preferred
the zoo at Schönbrunn. He also loved the Prater,
an amusement park, in north Vienna. 
At a castle in Hungary

From Vienna we moved on to Hungary where Mom and Dad attended a very fun and refreshing conference while the kids played, swam and made new friends.

We watched Hungarian folk dances and held a live falcon
at a castle near Lake Balaton.

Celebrating a Dino-riffic Birthday

My son turned eight the day after we returned from Hungary and we celebrated his birthday at the the Naturkunde Museum (Natural History Museum) here in Berlin.

The children got to visit a pile of fossils that the paleontology students at
Humboldt University had inspected and thrown away.
Each child got to pick out 2 fossils to take home.

As part of the birthday package, the museum prepares a huge box
full of sand and bones for the kids to "excavate".
They get to dress up like they are in the desert and then
discuss their finds with the dosent. 

Starting School

And then we started school!  Both I and my son have been so busy with our new classes, that I haven't been able to do much blogging.: ) As soon as I get back into the rhythm of things, I'll post a few more things.
This a traditional German "Schultüte" or School Cone that each
new first grader receives at a welcoming ceremony.
It is filled with school supplies, candy and toys!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sensorimotor Worship: Caring for Others

Sensorimotor Worship can be defined as a spiritual lesson or experience that involves all of the five senses and incorporates visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning styles.

Inspired by reading David Csinos' book, Children's Ministry that Fits, which has a chapter about seeking to further children in their spiritual formation by providing experiences that speak to all spiritual styles (as opposed to heavily leaning on one), I have been considering how to give my children more "action-oriented" or "missional" ways to worship God in the course of everyday life.  Social projects with children are very much on my heart (See this post on a social project that I did with primary school students), but they are sometimes few and far between.

One very doable way to introduce younger children to social justice and taking care of the poor is to sponsor a child in another country. When each of our children turned five years old, they were allowed to choose a child to sponsor through World Vision.  My son chose a little boy from Ghana and my daughter chose a little girl from Bolivia.  Though we regularly pray for these children together, I have not always done a very good job of corresponding with them. So, during our summer break when we our schedule was more relaxed, we decided to write letters to our children that we sponsor and actually send a package to the three children that we befriended in Uganda in 2009.

First, I set out our photo album of Uganda, pictures of our sponsored children,
and two continent pieces from our Montessori world map to
give the kids some geographical bearings.
We also found each country on the globe. And then,
the kids began to draw pictures for their friends.
My son, the dino expert, wrote about his favorite subject.
My daughter, who is into bugs, drew her favorite subject. 
One of my son's letters. He is, of course, trying to learn two languages
at once and left-handed, so that accounts for the creative spelling!
My sweet 5-year-old ran out of energy after the second picture and didn't want to dictate a letter for me to write.  But that is completely normal for young children.  We prayed for our friends at the end, even though the kids were a little worn out.  That led to a teacheable moment to communicate that doing things for others will often cost us something. : )

I find that activities like this help children to identify with the needs of others who may live far away.  They can also be important steps in helping children learn to be proactive when they see needs around them.

If your children have participated in social projects, I'd be very interested to hear about them! 

(Linked to Raising Memories)

Quote of the Day

"Each child brings to the table the gifts of his or her unique perspectives and insights."
- David Csinos in Children's Ministry that Fits

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Kunstwoche: Volcanoes!

Auch am Dinotag der Kustwoche hat meine Kollegin, Melinda, eine spannende Geschichte vom Buch, Mammutgeschichten, gelesen. Die Kinder haben total gemocht und wir haben fast keine Kunst machen können, weil sie mehr Geschichten zuhören wollten.: ) Es ist gut, dass Melinda da war, weil ich 2 Projekten vorgestellt habe, und statt eins durchzumachen und das andere danach anzufangen, haben wir sie gleichzeitig gemacht. Part 2 of Dinosaur Day: my friend and colleague, Melinda, read the kids a story from Mammutgeschichten, a very cute book about the adventures of wooly mammoths.  We almost didn't get to the art part, because the kids wanted to hear more! And it was really good that Melinda was there, because I would have been in over my head without her. I really must learn not to have two complicated projects going at the same time . . . 

Melinda half mit den Fossilien-Medallionen und ich habe die anderen 2 Kinder das zweite Projekt vorgestellt. Natürlich gab es zur Dinozeit Vulkane und ich habe ein tolles Vulkanprojekt von Malschule mit Kinder von Karsten Habighorst gefunden. Dies ist ein tolles Buch, in dem Kinder eine Reihe von Techniken kennenlernen dürfen. Melinda helped with the Fossil Casts and I introduced the second project of the day. Where there are dinosaurs, there are also volcanoes and I found a great idea for a volcano painting in the book, Malschule für Kinder, by Kartsen Habighorst. 

Schritt 1: Male einen Hintergrund mit verdünnter Deckfarbe.
Schritt 2: Male einen schwarzen Kreis für die Vulkankrone und dann den Körper des Vulkans.
Step 1: Paint a background with thinned watercolor or acrylic paint.  
Step 2: Paint a black oval for the volcano's crater, leaving a lot of space at the top for the fumes. 

Schritt 3: Male rot und gelbe Streifen, die aus den Vulkan strömen.
Schritt 4: Mache eine Pfotze von gelber und roter Farbe und hebe das Papier von unten auf, damit die Farbe nach oben läuft. Dann sieht es so wie Asche und Rauch aus.
Schritt 5:  Nimm 2 Pinseln und tauche sie in etwa verdünnte rote und gelbe Farbe. Schlage sie gegen einander, dass die Farbe sich überall streut. 
Step 3: Paint red and yellows curved lines coming out the volcano to represent flames.
Step 4: Make two puddles of read and yellow paint just above the crater with very thin paint.  Then, pick up the picture from the bottom and tilt it forwards so that the paint runs to the top of the picture and all over. This looks like smoke and ash. 
Step 5: Take 2 thin brushes and dip them again in thinned red and yellow paint. Hit them against one another like drumsticks in order to splatter the paint all over the picture.  This creates a nice effect. 

Hier sind die Bilder von den Kindern:
Here are the pictures from the children:

Die fleißige Kinder beim Malen! The children hard at work.
Und noch ein Dinobild! And one more dino drawing!
Noch Tag der Kunstwoche kommt!  There's one more day of Art Week to go!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

On the Language of Silence in Godly Play

In June I wrote a post on the various genres in Godly Play.  My fellow blogger, Storyteller, reminded me in the conversation that ensued that there is actually a fourth genre called the "Language of Silence" that is very important to the holistic concept of Godly Play.  I replied to her that I might have subconsciously left it out, because this area is a week spot in my ministry with the children.  Sometimes I don't allow enough time for this language to come through in telling the stories, because I struggle with impatience. Also, because we are often in either small spaces (like my kitchen) or wide open spaces (like the park), the children banter with one another rather than being fully engrossed in their own work.  I haven't yet found the key to helping them solely concentrate on their own individual work.  

I was then rather surprised a couple of weeks ago to find a kind and encouraging e-mail from Jerome Berryman, whom I have never met, in my inbox about this particular post.  (You never know who is reading your blog!)  He had this to say about the language of silence, and with his permission I would like to pass it on to you:

"The genre of contemplative silence is very important.  It appears between the words as the lesson is spoken in a measured, energy-filled, and mindful presentation.  It is in the movements of the materials.  It is when the children are concentrating.  It is in the room, woven among the materials, which do not speak.  It is in the children who can speak but choose not to.  It is in the awareness, even when speaking, that there is more about God's presence than can be said.  There is even a lesson, "The Greatest Parable," which has a movement that involves only shapes, colors and movements.  (The words come later.)  This kind of silence is fullness rather than absence."

The world we live in often overcrowded with words and ideas.  So many things compete for our attention and the attention of our children. Making room to just "be" and hear God's "still, small voice" is an art and an invaluable, necessary thing to learn. Many times we think of silence as being passive, but as Jerome Berryman points out, it is indeed active.  It is choosing not to speak and knowing when to listen. It is acknowledging that we have a greater need beyond our own words and thoughts. 

I am reminded of Brother Lawrence, the 17th century French monk, who wrote Practicing the Presence of God, a book about this sort of stillness. He uses the term "practice", because we don't usually get it right the first time. I, for one, know that I need a lot more practice learning and teaching the language of silence. 

If you have any thoughts on how you cultivate the language of silence in your own life or in your Godly Play practice, please share them!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Kunstwoche: Dinos!

Am nächsten Tag der Kunstwoche gab es richtig Donnerwetter draußen und wir haben uns überraschungsweise NICHT im Park getroffen.  Es gibt zwar ein paar Farbspiele, die man im Regen machen kann, aber leider nicht die, die ich geplannt habe. Mein Sohn wollte unbedingt Dinosaurier als Thema machen und ich hab's so geplannt. On the second day of our art camp, it rained cats and dogs. As you can guess, we decided not to meet in the park. There are a few paint techniques that you can do in the rain, but alas not the ones that I prepared.  My son wanted to do a Dinosaur-themed day really badly, so I planned accordingly.

Es gab wieder Geschichtenkreis mit "Danny and the Dinosaur" von Syd Hoff. Ich habe jede Seite auf Englisch and dann ins Deutsche übersetzt.  (Ich bin Englischlehrerin!) Meine Kollegin, Melinda, hat mir an dem Tag geholfen und auch eine Geschichte gelesen, aber ich erzähle davon in der nächsten Post.  We started again with a book and this time it was "Danny and the Dinosaur" by Syd Hoff. I read each page in English and then translated it into German.  (Always the English teacher, I have to figure out a way to get it in there somehow!) My colleague, Melinda, was there to help me and also read a story, but I'll tell about that in the next post.

Das erste Angebot war "Fossilien-Medallion" aus Salzteig. Ich hatte dieses geniale Projekt von Gail beim That Artist Woman.  Ihr könnt ihr originales Beispiel und die Rezept für den Teig hier finden. The first project was to make "Fossil Casts" out of salt dough clay from Gail at That Artist Woman . You can find her original project instructions and the recipe for the salt dough clay here.

Zuerst rollt man den Teig mit dem Küchennudel aus und steckt einen Kreis mit einer Kaffeedose aus. Wir haben eigentlich ein paar Probleme mit dem Teig gehabt, weil er zu klebrig war und wir mussten mehr Mehl dazu hinfügen.  (Es war dann gut, dass wir nicht im Park waren, sonst hätten wir einfach Pech gehabt!) Das ist warum, man soll immer ein Projekt vorher ausprobieren, aber ich hatte leider keine Zeit gehabt. The first thing you do is roll out the dough with a rolling pin. Then, you cut out a circle with a coffee can. We actually had a few problems with the dough. It was too sticky and wouldn't hold its shape, so we had to add more flour.  (Actually it was a mixed blessing that it rained and we had to meet inside.  If we had been in the park without flour, we would have been up the proverbial creek!) That's why you should always test your art materials before you give them to the kids, but I just didn't get around to it this time. 

Um die "Fossilien" zu drücken habe ich Plastikdinos, Urwaldbäume aus Kunststoff und echtes Naturmaterial zur Verfügung gestellt. In order to make the fossil prints, I laid out a basket with an assortment of plastic dinos and prehistoric trees as well as things from nature with interesting textures like shells and pine cones. 

Man drückt die Gegenstände leicht in den Teig und legt auf ein Backblech.  Die Fossilien-Medallionen kommen 2 Stunden bei 175 Grad in den Backofen. Danach sind sie so hart wie Stein.  You make a light imprint in the salt dough clay with the different objects and lay them on a baking sheet. Then you bake them for 2 hours at 350 degrees.  Afterwards they are as hard as rock. 

Am nächsten Tag um die Medallions zu verfeinern haben die Kinder sie mit verdünnter Wasserfarbe angemalt und danach lackiert. The next day the kids painted them with a coat of thinned watercolor and then a coat of varnish as a finishing touch. 

Das zweite Dino-Projekt kommt in der nächsten Post! Stay tuned for the second dino project in the next post!

Kunstwoche: Bugs!

Meine Kinder waren gerade drei Wochen in den Sommerferien zu Hause. Ich hatte vorher überlegt, wie ich sie beschäftigen könnte, dass es mir auch Spass machen würde. Ich kam auf die Idee eine Kunstwoche zu veranstalten und lud ein paar andere Kinder ein.  Wir hatten's vor uns in einem Park zu treffen. My children were recently at home for three weeks during our preschool's summer break. I tried to come up with some things to entertain them that would be fun for me as well, so I decided to do an Art Camp in a local park and invite a couple of other children along.  

Ich verbinde gerne Kunstprojekten mit schöner Kinderliteratur. Ich wollte das Thema "Insekten" machen und habe den Kindern Stücke von "Kuckuck, Krake, Kakerlake" als Anregung vorgelesen. Dieses herrliche Buch erzählt witzige Geschichten von den seltsamen Aktivitäten mancher Tiere.  Wir haben davon erfahren, dass man einen Mistkäfe mit einem Lakritze-Bon-bon leicht verwechseln kann, und wenn die Monarchfalter millionfach im Baum hängen, sieht's aus als hätte der niederlandische Nationalelf ein Auswärtsspiel. Es ist lustig, dass ich jetzt so eine Vorliebe für Insekten habe, da ich als Kind sie nie angefasst hätte und sogar die "I" Band von der Enzyklopädie nicht aufschlagen wollte aus Angst die Insektenbilder zu treffen.: ) I love to combine art projects with beautiful children's literature. In planning a project on bugs, I chose a book called "Kuckuck, Krake, Kakerlake: Das etwa andere Tierbuch" (translates literally as "Cuckoo, Squid, and Cockroach: a different kind of Animal Book") that has hysterical stories about animals and their strange habits.  It's such a shame that this book is not available in English. We heard about why you should not confuse a dung beetle with a piece of licorice, and how when the Monarch Butterflies hang in millions on trees together, it looks like the Dutch national soccer team is playing an away game. It's funny that I love insects now, because I avoided them like the plague as a kid. I went as far as to not ever open the "I" volume of our encyclopedias so as not to happen upon the close-up insect pictures!

Ich habe dann zwei Collage-Projekten vorgestellt, die die Kinder machen könnten.  (Sie haben auch natürlich die Option gehabt etwas ganz Anderes zu machen, wenn sie wollten.)  Hier sind meine Beispiele. I prepared two collage projects for the children to choose from. (Or not to choose from in case they had a completely different idea! There are no "have to's in my art classes.) Here are my examples below.

Ich finde Kunstprojekten, die mit Natürpädagogik zu haben, besonders wertvoll.  Um das Collage-Papier zu schaffen, haben wir eine Idee von "Mein allererster Naturführer" genommen.  Man stellt das Blatt Papier an einer Baumrinde und rubbelt darauf mit Ölkreide.  I find art projects that involve nature to be especially valuable for children.  In order to make our collage paper for the insects, I used an idea that I found in the German version of the book Poppy and Sam's Nature Book. You take a sheet of thicker paper, put it against the bark of a tree, and make a rubbing with an oil pastel.

Dann soll das Kind mit Wasserfarbe eines anderen Farbtons den Abdrück von Baumrinde übermalen. Die Ölkreide und Wasserfarbe mischen sich natürlich nicht und man hat eine schönes Bild. Then, the child should paint over the tree bark rubbing with watercolor of a different shade.  The oil pastel and watercolor do not mix and produce a beautiful picture.

Dann haben wir das schöne Papier geschnitten um die Insekten zu gestalten.  Für den Spinnennetz im ersten Bild haben wir die selbe Technik benutzt: erstmal den Spinnenetz mit weißen Ölkreide malen und danach mit Wasserfarbe übermalen.  Then we cut our beautiful collage paper into the shapes of favorite insects. (We brainstormed after the story and before I showed them my project ideas which insects the children knew and thought were interesting.) For the spider web in the first picture we used the same technique as with the tree bark rubbing: we first drew it with oil pastel on a blank sheet and then painted over it with watercolor. 

Die Sonne im zweiten Bild bei den fliegenden Insekten würde auch so gemacht. Für den Himmel haben wir einen Schwamm in verdünnter blauen Farbe eingetaucht und aufs Papier leicht gedrückt.  The sun in the second picture was made using the same technique. For the sky we used a small sponge dipped in thinned blue watercolor and pressed it onto the paper. 

Die Ergebnisse sind unten.  Für meine 5-jährige Tochter war dieser Prozess zu lang und den Baumrindemuster hat gereicht.  Die drei großen aber waren fast 2 Stunden fleißig an die Arbeit gewesen!  The children's pictures are below. The process was a little too long for my 5-year-old daughter and she was finished after the tree bark rubbing.  But the older children (2nd and 3rd graders) worked almost two hours on their pictures!  

Danach tobten wir auf dem Spielplatz und aßen einen Snack. Kunst im Park - einfach herrlich! At the end we tumbled on the playground and had a snack. Art in a park - simply awesome!

Linked to The Magic Onions and Raising Memories