A milestone occurs when children enter school and their relationship pool increases and deepens. They look for ways to connect with others and with God in new ways.
In grade school, you are still the one they most want to hear from about spirituality and the one they most watch to learn what it looks like to live with faith as part of daily life.
But now they act in a way that reveals their need to widen the circle to include their friends’ families and a faith community.
For some parents this seems like the right time to affiliate with a religion or faith community.
Community involvement has to do with how children practice their spirituality, as expressed through various beliefs, practices and rituals. It is an attractive option for millions of families for addressing the longing in children’s hearts for spiritual understanding.
A faith community links up with a child’s needs for attachment and for trust.
It moves them forward to explore the other relational issue of importance to them: how a connection forms between God and a person.
One woman remembers when she looked for this.
“Just because I was raised in a home in which God was never talked about, doesn’t mean that I never thought about God.
It is true that this influenced me to think that God was not a relevant part of how I go about living my life. And true that being raised in a home where relationship was deeply stunted influenced me to feel that God is distant, even non-existent.
However, these ideas about God being not relevant, non-existent or distant did not form a foundational belief in my core, even though my upbringing should have prescribed it. Deep down inside I had formed a belief that God is real. When I was in middle school, this belief helped me to dig out of my spiritual isolation and ask my parents’ permission to go with my friend to her church. The youth group addressed the longing in my heart for spiritual understanding.'”
A faith community is an attractive option for millions of families for addressing the longing in their children’s hearts for spiritual understanding.
Children believe in what they cannot see. They seek God. “It’s like there’s a homing device in each of my children,” a mother told me, “God looking to connect with my child as my child looks for God.” When we talk to a child early about God there is an automatic responsiveness.
By contrast, some adults have had negative experiences.
Religion was drilled into us and we want to avoid doing that to others. Some of us feel that spirituality is deeply personal, so children should find their own way. Some of us have no firsthand experience with God and don’t really know what to say. I would argue that…….
…..It is far better to tell children about God, even if you have doubts of your own.
Something simple, like: You can’t see God but he can see you, and he loves you. He is very good and he wants you to have a good life. He hears you when you talk to him. That is called prayer.
Understand that a child’s vantage point is different, like in photography.
A mother describes the morning her daughter held the camera, moving through the house clicking at everything she saw.
“Can you show them back to me now?” She holds the camera out to me. Her arm around my neck, we scroll through her photos on the glowing screen.
Frame of a table. A doorknob. A bookshelf skewed on a tilt. Yet her photos surprise, every single one. Why? It takes me a moment to make sense of it.
It’s the vantage point. At 36 inches, her angle is unfamiliar to me and utterly captivating–the ceiling arches like a dome, her bed a floating barge. The stairs plunge like a gorge. She’s Alice in Wonderland, all the world grown Everest-like around and above her.” (Ann Voskamp)
Emphasize what God thinks of the child.
- C.S. Lewis advocated that the most fundamental thing is not how we think of God but rather what God thinks of us–this relentlessly pursuing love, so bold.
- Describe God’s nature. This blog’s Resource page has a resource page of what I tell children about God. What can you say about God?