Put a child’s spiritual curiosity to work for you!

During my marriage, my ex and I discussed taking our kids to various houses of worship. They were curious about—envious of?—their churchgoing peers. Though we viewed organized religion with suspicion, we still wondered, How would our kids know what they believed about everything if they’d never been exposed to anything?” (Amanda Avutu)

Amanda’s own curiosity guided her response to her kids.

  • “What did a spirituality built on the tenets of love and hope look like?curiosity love
  • If I could separate faith from organized religion, could I become a believer?
  • What could I gain from contemplating everything I’d summarily dismissed in my youth?
  • What did I want to practice—cynicism? Judgment?
  • What if—through charitable work, acts of kindness, the lessons I was teaching my children—I had been practicing all along? Maybe I hadn’t forsaken religion; I had just reimagined it.”

Amanda’s way with her children

Recently, I drove the kids to Ebenezer Baptist Church, here in Atlanta, for Sunday service. Save weddings, they’d never been inside a place of worship. We listened to a descendant of Robert E. Lee preach at the pulpit of Martin Luther King, Jr., and I thought, We are all capable of so much more change than we realize.

My children and I now have plans to visit Buddhist, Hindu, and Jewish temples; a mosque; and at least one more church. Not as voyeurs, or converts, but out of openhearted curiosity and respect.

Ideas for your family

  1. curiosity teenRespond actively when children express curiosity or envy over their friends religious/spiritual beliefs.
  2. Work out an age-appropriate plan to explore spirituality with the child. Any combination of these resources is possible:
    1. Attend houses of worship
    2. Internet search of faith traditions or ethical systems
    3. Read together children’s books based upon sacred writings
  3. Keep your focus on listening to the child’s thoughts; ask follow-up questions to help the child process more deeply; allow the child to lead next steps; give priority to those next steps.

(In an old issue of O magazine, I ran across an article that featured the words of author Amanda Avutu. They struck a chord.)

Tweetable: How #Martin Luther King’s pulpit still enlightens a modern-day family searching for their spiritual identity.  Click to Tweet

Sample questions to build childhood spiritual development

I get to drive one of the children in my extended family (age 6) to her weekly ballet class. It’s fun to have a few minutes each week of one-on-one time with her. I try to think of one question that might lend itself to a spiritual—or heart—conversation, amid the funny or imaginative chatter in the car.

This afternoon I think I’ll ask her, “What did you do to help someone today?”

Several years ago, the Barna Group published an incredible statistic. It found that less than 10% of families have spiritual conversations in the home. This includes families who are a regular part of a faith community!

One real practical action

Here’s a practical action we adults can take to contribute to childhood spiritual development. Ask a question that makes them think, and search themselves for an answer. “What do you think heaven looks like?” (or “If there’s such a thing as heaven, what do you think it looks like?”) With a question like this, Glennon Doyle says:

“[Kids] are looking inside to see what they’ll find and as soon as they find it: there it is – their hands fly up and they say: “I know I know!!” And then they pull something out of themselves that they didn’t even know was there. Look! Look what I found inside of me! And we smile or nod, and either way we are saying: wow, that is so cool. I didn’t even know [you imagined] that. I didn’t know that about you!”

Sometimes the reason we don’t know what’s going on in each other’s lives is that we don’t ask.

Possible questions:

  • Who helped you today?
  • If you could change anything about me, what would it be?
  • Who in your class seems lonely?
  • What is something you know how to do that you could teach others?
  • If you could switch places with one friend for a day, who would it be?
  • What is something you’ve always wanted to ask me?

 Tweetable: Step up your efforts to strengthen a child’s spiritual development this year. It takes planning, but not much planning, and an opportunity for 1 and only 1 thoughtful question. More here. Click to Tweet