Friday, August 3, 2012

Spiritual Styles in Children

I've alluded to this topic before, but never written a post devoted exclusively to it. So here goes . . .

The field of children's spirituality is producing some fascinating new research. Last year, I read a book by David Csinos, Children's Ministry that Fits, that has profoundly affected how I seek to mentor children on their spiritual journey. 

It seems that children, like adults, have preferred "styles" or avenues of connecting with God. Csinos identifies four of these in his book:

1. Word-based: Children who express their spirituality best in words. They like to verbally process what they are thinking, love learning Bible verses, respond to stories and mini-sermonettes.

2. Emotion-based: These children connect with God through their feelings. Music and the arts help them to do this. Laughing, crying and outward expression of emotions are important to their spiritual expressions.

3. Symbol-oriented: These children love the mystery involved with worship. They love to stare at candles and figure out what things on the walls of churches mean.

4. Action-oriented: Children who want to do something for and with God. They are the movers and shakers who want to feed the homeless, do trash pick-up, and raise money for a good cause.

Perhaps there are even more spiritual styles in children and I would add to the list:

 - Nature-oriented: I have encountered several children who feel closest God when surrounded by His creation.

I think it is important to recognize that children are diverse individuals. What helps one child connect with God may not work for the next. And sometimes children grow up feeling like they don't fit it at church, because the church speaks mainly to one or two styles.

Learning about all of this has convinced me even more of concepts like Godly Play and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. These types of spiritual mentoring are holistic and address more than one style. They can also help a child learn to worship in ways that are not geared toward their main style.

Are you aware of or able to discern the spiritual styles in the children you mentor? How do you meet diverse needs within your group?

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