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Children's Spirituality Summit | Paper Presentations

Please note that your Children's Spirituality Summit registration fee also includes access to presentations from InterGenerate Conference.

                                                      (link HERE for list of InterGenerate Paper presentations)

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Heather Ingersoll, PhD

Executive Director Godly Play Foundation, Wilsonville OR

Monday, May 24 @ 2 pm 

Exploring Predictors of Children’s Relationship with God in the Christian Church

In a rapidly shifting world, we are learning more and more about the depth of children’s spiritual lives and the value of spiritual well-being for strengthening one’s ability to manage those changing realities. The question remains, what components are most important for nurturing the spiritual well-being of children? This paper outlines a quantitative study guided by self-determination theory to explore if the variables of perceived relatedness or perceived autonomy is Sunday school predicted children’s relationships with God. The presentation will explore the findings and practical implications of the research.


Karin Middleton MAT, MEd

Leader, Novo TCK/MK and Parenting Ministries, Conifer, CO

Monday, May 24 @ 2 pm 

Advocating the Value of Young Children’s Spiritual Nurture

IThis presentation is designed to equip practitioners to convey why nurturing young children spiritually is paramount to both church leaders and those who direct children’s ministries. This presentation spans the biblical mandate to nurture faith, the Church Fathers’ teaching, an early Celtic Christian model, Sophia Cavalletti’s research resulting in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, Holly Allen’s intergenerational worship, Maria Bunge’s complex view of children and more.

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Sandra Ludlow, MEd, Karyn Cameron,MEd

& Bev Christian, MEd

Avondale University College, NSW, Australia

Monday, May 24 @ 2 pm 

The “Ugly Pumpkin” and Other Lessons for Nurturing Children’s Emergent Spirituality in a Garden Setting

This presentation explores and harnesses the opportunities inherent in one school’s garden project, for scaffolding, nurturing, and sustaining children’s emergent spirituality and faith formation. Participants will explore the efficacy of social constructivist pedagogies, using vignettes of practice from this research project. This presentation will resonate with all who seek to scaffold children’s relationship with God and His creation.

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JP Conway, DMin

Lead Minister, Acklen Avenue Church of Christ, Nashville, TN

Tuesday, May 25 @ 2 pm 

An Evaluation of a Congregation’s Pursuit of a Non-Anxious Intergenerational Discernment of Change

Recently, the church I lead considered moving from a complementarian to egalitarian framework. To cultivate a non-anxious, intergenerational environment for congregational discernment, we took deliberate steps. We involved children and teens in both church classes and home gatherings. Specifically, we took the church through an intergenerational study of anxiety, with a focus on systems theory. This paper focuses on the process of our discernment of change. The paper seeks to demonstrate our congregational system, the steps of our process, and the learned outcomes of a non-anxious intergenerational discernment process.


Amy Lindeman Allen, PhD

Assistant Professor of New Testament, Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, IN

Tuesday, May 25 @ 2 pm 

Eutychus: A Case Study of the Role of Youth and Children in Acts Koinonia


In contrast to numerous stories of Jesus blessing and healing children in the gospel accounts, children are relatively absent from accounts of the early church’s ministry in Acts. The story of Eutychus’ near-deadly fall in Acts 20:7-12 stands as a surprising and startling exception. Nevertheless, situated within the breaking of the bread and preaching of the Word, this episode places Eutychus at the center of emerging Christian community. By discerning Eutychus’ place within this community, this essay brings children out from the shadows of the Acts text and suggests a model of Christian community that supports more integrated inclusion of children in worship today.


Edwin Willmington, DMA

Director, Brehm Music: A Fred Bock Initiative- Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts, Pasadena, CA

Tuesday, May 25 @ 2 pm 

Divided Worship: The Little Children Suffer (and the Big People, too!)

Separation of children from the larger worship life of churches has become the normative practice in most American churches. While age-appropriate worship gatherings are important for children with other children, worship practices that include children in homes as well as the larger church worship gathering should be considered in order to establish a true and complete community of faith. A heightened awareness of the centrality of worship, and important cooperation between pastoral, children’s ministry, and worship leadership positions will provide a conduit for present and future formation in the life of the entire church community.

Wednesday, May 26 @ 2 pm 

Dana Kennamer, PhD

Associate Dean, College of Education and Human Resources; Professor and Chair of Teacher Education, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX

Missing Church? Children's Perceptions Before, In and Beyond COVID​

The guiding question for this qualitative study was, “How has the pandemic affected children’s perceptions of church in my faith community?” For children in Christian contexts, participation in church is an important aspect of their spiritual journey. In earlier research, I completed a qualitative study of children’s perceptions of God using Urie Bronfenbrenner’s (1981) Ecological Systems Theory for the conceptual framework. The five- and six-year-old participants of that study shared ideas that reflected their multi-layered, ecological context, including the broader context of the time in which they were living—Bronfenbrenner’s chronosystem. We are living in a significant chronosystem event, an unprecedented time. Churches are responding in a variety of ways during the pandemic to the needs of the faith community, including the children. How will this time, this chronosystem context, influence the spiritual journey of children as they make sense of “church” in new ways? Through interviews with children ages 6-10, I explored their experiences with and perceptions of church before the pandemic, during pandemic, and hopes for after the pandemic.

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Wednesday, May 26 @ 2 pm 

Esther Zimmerman, PhD

Associate Professor, Church and Ministry Leadership Department, Director of Children and Family Ministry Program, Lancaster, PA

Trauma and Children’s Spirituality

Extensive research has demonstrated the devastating impact of trauma on children’s development. However, there has been comparatively little discussion in the church of how trauma may shape a child’s developing understanding and experience of God. This paper will review literature at the intersection of trauma and children’s spirituality and explore how ministry leaders might more effectively join children from hard places on the spiritual journey.

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Wednesday, May 26 @ 2 pm 

Stacey Wilson

Intergenerational Ministry Development, Intergen, Melbourne, Australia

Theology and Child Abuse: Child Safety and Vulnerability in the Midst of Religious Institutions

This paper will explore the role hierarchical theology, Augustine hamartiology, and penal substitutionary atonement played in the increased risk of the abuse of children within religious institutions. It is based on a qualitative research study examining the theological and doctrinal beliefs and practices which victims and survivors identify as increasing the risk of abuse taking place, inhibit disclosure and promote poor responses by religious institutions as revealed in Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse final report. This paper calls practitioners and theologians to engage with vulnerable theological perspectives and practices through the lens of child safety and spiritual formation.


Both the InterGenerate Conference and the Children's Spirituality Summit bring together lay leaders, pastors, teachers, children's ministers, youth ministers, sociologists, parents, and theologians from a broad spectrum of Christian traditions to collectively explore the best ways to approach spiritual formation with all ages and stages.

This joint conference offers dozens of informative and inspiring workshops and papers presented by participants like you! We're excited to see new faces and hear fresh ideas.

Register HERE!

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