Young children like to discover God’s secrets

God's secrets“Perhaps the most valuable explorations come when children learn that each person is created in the image of God, deserving respect and caring. When children know that they are created in God’s image, their own self-worth is bolstered, and it is safer, and easier, to ask questions about God and the rest of their world,” observed Maxine Handelman. This morning I was reading Handelman’s book, Jewish Every Day, where I found an idea to share.

Making it fun to discover God’s secrets

God's secretsHave children collect leaves that, at first glance, seem to be exactly alike. As children examine the leaves they will discover that, indeed, no two leaves are identical. Then show children a sheet of postage stamps or a stack of paper plates. The children will discover that these person-made things are all identical.

They have just discovered one of God’s secrets. When people make things using machines, the objects all come out the same. When God makes things in nature, no two things are the same. The question then becomes, “Why did God do that?”

Making it comfortable to talk about God

The easiest–and also the hardest–way to help children explore their questions about God is to make “God-talk” a regular, normal part of our conversation. When [family members] refer to God in a comfortable, regular manner, then children will know it is safe for them to talk about God and safe for them to explore their own understandings of God.

“God may come into the home whether or not a family consciously invites God in,” Marvel Ginsberg notes. “It’s often the children who bring God in through their discoveries and with their questions. If we do not support exploration and wonder with warmth and respect, then eventually God is likely to be conspicuously absent.”

How does your family make God-talk a regular part of daily life?

Tweetable: It’s often the children who bring God into the home through their questions. Make it normal to do so. Click to Tweet 

 

Childhood spiritual styles: Enthusiastic Style

The different ways children experience God can be called their spiritual style. With their mind and heart they form a positive relationship with God in the best, most natural way for each of them.

Many styles within the same spiritual tradition

Typically you and the children in your life share a family spiritual tradition but we do not necessarily live out our faith or our ethics in the same ways.   Adults will be more effective in helping children make their own discoveries about God and life when we understand their natural impulses (and our own).

The Enthusiastic Style: The child celebrates the power and presence of God through excitement.

Note the items that apply to children in your life to determine whether they posses an enthusiastic style of spirituality.

  1. For this child, being excited about God is an important aspect of faith.
  2. The God of this child’s understanding is a God of action.
  3. It is important to the child to experience coincidences where he believes God is alive and active in the world.
  4. The child doesn’t want to be bored.
  5. The child desires to join in on God’s work in the world.
  6. It is important for the child to feel the presence of God.
  7. The child likes to pray for things we would call miracles.

Discovery questions for enthusiastic children

  • Where did you find yourself laughing, crying, joyful or inspired by something God did?
  • What needs do you see that you’d jump at the chance to meet?
  • What have you done in your life that you’d love to do more of?
  • What experiences do you want to have in your lifetime? How do they relate to God?
  • What do you see God is doing all around you?
  • Where did you feel God’s powerful presence in a situation?

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

Tweetable:  Enthusiastic children feel God’s power and presence even when we do not, so don’t discourage them. Click to Tweet

 

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.

Tweetable: A child’s spiritual style is important in understanding how they seek and find God. More here. Click to Tweet

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

“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.

Tweetable:  A sensory child enjoys the works of God through beauty and perception. Read more here. Click to Tweet