Childhood spiritual styles: Sharing Style

Childhood spiritual styles: Sharing Style

Has anyone ever asked you about your personal spiritual style? Has anyone ever offered to support you in exactly that area, the area of your strongest receptiveness for the divine? Or has it been your experience that most [people] are so focused on their own approach to God that they believe it is the right one, or at least the best one, for everyone else?

Researcher Christian Schwarz posed these questions as he explained why he considers his study identifying spiritual styles to be important in understanding how both adults and children seek and find God. In recent posts, we discussed Sensory, Rational and Bold Idealistic styles. Here we add another.

sharing by helping my sisterThe Sharing Style: A child passes on the grace of God through service.

Note the statements that apply to children in your life to help identify whether they may possess a sharing style of spirituality.

  1. The child strongly senses God’s presence whenever they show grace and forgiveness to others.
  2. Often the child’s prayers are for people who aren’t experiencing love from other people and/or God.
  3. The child is drawn to service projects and other ways to share with others.
  4. The child notices and comments when people do random acts of kindness in everyday life.
  5. The child expresses a desire to respond to the hurts and needs of people.
  6. The child looks for ways to include everyone.
  7. You can see the child’s faith grow when he experiences God in his interactions with people.

Discovery questions for sharing children:

If you can identify four or more of the statements above you can probably recall several times when the child connected with God through sharing.

young child is sharing by helpingThe following questions may be useful as you seek to strengthen the area of their strongest receptiveness for the divine.

  • How did you experience God by giving?
  • How did you see God in other people’s kind actions?
  • What does this show you about God?
  • How were you feeling when someone shared with you?
  • How does that connect with who God is?
  • When were you able to forgive someone who wronged you?

Coming up: The Enthusiastic style

Adapted from The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality, by Christian A. Schwarz.

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Childhood spiritual styles: Bold Idealistic Style

Childhood spiritual styles: Bold Idealistic Style

A child’s spiritual style is not the same as personality or character. Rather, it describes the way the child most naturally connects with God. Our aim here is to give adults some tools for leading children to discover and experience further growth in their faith in a way that connects to them most effectively.

Previously we discussed sensory style and rational style. Now we look at a third way children express their individual style.

bold idealistic kids seek truthThe Bold Idealistic Style:  A child thinks correctly about God through doctrines and truth.

Note the items below that apply to the children in your life to assess their inclination toward this style. .

  1. A theological system that reflects God’s truth helps the child in her spirituality.
  2. The child possesses unwavering belief that this theological system is correct.
  3. The accuracy of the child’s beliefs is of utmost importance.
  4. The child demonstrates a strong sense of justice.
  5. It is important to the child that his faith does not depend on emotion.
  6. The child feels close to God when she takes a stand for a cause even at great personal expense.

Discovery questions for bold idealistic children

bold idealistic kids need sacred writingsIf you notice four or more of the above characteristics, the child probably has a natural pattern of taking unwavering stands for his or her convictions. The following questions may be useful as you seek to help children mature in their style.

  • How did you express your beliefs and convictions today?
  • What attitude did you have?
  • When is your anger triggered by an injustice?
  • What kind of courage will you need to stand up for truth and justice?
  • How do you defend the needs, worth and convictions of a person, an animal or a cause?

Adapted from Christian A. Schwarz, The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality.

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Childhood spiritual styles: Rational Style

Childhood spiritual styles: Rational Style

In what environment does your child feel particularly close to God? It’s not that God is objectively closer to them in those situations, but that they feel God’s closeness more, they sense God to be closer to them.

These “locations” reveal a child’s spiritual style.

Spiritual style is the way we receive the never-ending stream of communication God sends out to humankind.–Christian A. Schwarz

rational high school studentsThe Rational Style: A child understands the nature of God through logic and science.

Note the items that apply to children in your life to determine whether they likely possess a rational style of spirituality.

  1. The child’s views the study of science as a wonderful way to learn more about God.
  2. You would say that the child loves God with her mind.
  3. The child is curious to find truth wherever it may appear.
  4. Intellectually learning something new about God is a deep spiritual experience for the child.
  5. The child considers it positive to have a critical mindset toward spiritual questions.
  6. The child is skeptical toward a faith that constantly offers “easy solutions.”
  7. It is important for the child’s faith that his mind is regularly stimulated.

Discovery questions for rational children

rational middle school studentIf you notice five or more of these characteristics, the child probably has a well-established pattern of expressing spirituality with their mind.

The following questions may be useful as you seek to strengthen their connection with God:

  • What questions about God does this raise?
  • What is puzzling about it?
  • Where is God’s truth in it?
  • How are your doubts causing your own faith to gain power and depth?
  • What do you want to explore further?

Coming up: The Bold Idealistic Style

Adapted from The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality, by Christian A. Schwarz

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Childhood spiritual styles: Sensory Style

Childhood spiritual styles: Sensory Style

“A spiritual style is a God-given antenna for the divine.” German philosopher Christian Schwarz’ research into how people connect with God gives insight into the way each child most naturally experiences God.

Many years ago I adapted Mr. Schwarz’ findings for my own personal use with the children in my life and I will pass this along in the next several posts.

sensory surfers love the big waveThe Sensory Style:  A child enjoys the works of God through beauty and perception.

Note the items that apply to children in your life to determine whether they likely possess a sensory style of spirituality.

  1. The child’s awareness of God is very much influenced by artistic or natural beauty.
  2. You would say that the child is very perceptive to what is happening around him.
  3. The child’s faith grows with her ability to enjoy nature more fully.
  4. Art has a high spiritual impact on the child.
  5. The child frequently perceives God’s presence in the everyday aspects of life where other people see nothing spiritual.
  6. The child likes to use touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing to encounter God.
  7. The child enjoys being surrounded by physical objects that have spiritual meaning.

cherries on a tree sensory treatDiscovery questions for sensory children

If you notice five or more of these characteristics, the child probably has a well-established pattern of expressing spirituality through their senses.

The following questions may be useful as you seek to strengthen their connection with God:

  • What does this show you about God?
  • What characteristics of God do you see?
  • What do you like about that?
  • How does that connect with who God is?
  • What thoughts and feelings come up?
  • How does that relate to God?
  • How do you experience God in this?

Coming up: The Rational Style

Adapted from The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality, by Christian A. Schwarz.

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Kids ask, “How can I let God know I love God?”

Kids ask, “How can I let God know I love God?”

Hopefully these sample answers, which you can adapt to your specific beliefs, provide some seed ideas for conversation. They are written at a child’s vocabulary level. What you are saying and doing now will help lay crucial groundwork for their exploration of God later in life.

You can use any way you want to let God know you love God.

It’s just like you have different ways of letting your family and friends know how you feel. Some kids like to write a letter to God. Most tell God in words they say out loud or keep in their thoughts (this is called prayer). Others draw something that expresses their love, write a poem or a song.

One important way to express your love for God is to love yourself.

Take very good care of yourself. You know many ways to do that, like giving your body enough sleep and healthy food, staying safe by listening to wise adults, and paying attention to your relationship with God. You love God when you admire and care for yourself.

Another way is to love people.

An equally important way to express your love for God is to love people by being as good to them as you are to yourself. That can mean sacrificing your comfort or happiness in order to treat someone well. A lot of trouble would vanish if everyone were as good to other people as they are to themselves.

Spend time with others who love God as much or more than you do.

Your family can help you find a youth group, a church, synagogue, or other place with kids your age who have a connection with God. You can find a sense of belonging. You might learn different ways they use to let God know how much they love God.

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Activities to increase a child’s empathy

Activities to increase a child’s empathy

Unstructured summer days lie ahead. What activities can we use to enrich kids’ lives while having fun at the same time?

Strengthen a child’s empathy this summer and you may see these results in the upcoming school year*:

  • more relaxed physically, with lower levels of stress hormones
  • pay attention better and learn more effectively
  • fewer behavior problems, such as aggressiveness

Children learn empathy very well by doing acts of service.

For example, you make a donation to a food pantry and you discuss with your children about how others are hungry. Sheila Sjolseth shares her experience.

The service acts where I see the most distinctive difference in my boys are when we interact with others in our community—those acts where they helped someone in a completely different situation than their own.  By far, the acts of service that have been the most profound were when we helped:

  • the elderly in nursing homes
  • those who are experiencing homelessness
  • those who have great medical need
  • animals in shelters

Beyond taking in a neighbor’s trash cans or holding the door for someone–

–good as these are, empathy building means finding experiences where kids will see the needs of others and choose to meet them.

  • Prepare and take healthy treats to the fire department or police station.
  • Write a thank-you note or picture for the trash truck driver.
  • Make a chemo care package for a family friend.
  • Do an internet search for more ideas….

Here’s how:

  1. Get ready. Brainstorm who we want to help. Talk about how the person’s life is different from the child’s. What can we expect?
  2. Keep it short. Think 10 minutes (not counting prep time).
  3. Show them how. Model the behavior you’d like to see them copy.
  4. Let them help. Even let them take the lead as they get ideas and want to initiate service.
  5. Reflect and debrief. Sheila asks her kids: “Was it what you expected?  Why or why not?  How did your service help the other person?”  And I add, “How did you like doing it? What did the other person say or do to show how they felt?”

 Try it once and see if it’s worth the effort.

*Harris, P.L.  Children and Emotion: The Development of Psychological Understanding, 1989.

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