We're pleased to have Melissa Deelstra - Christian Education Coordinator at Zion Presbyterian Church in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada - share with us how reading the 2018 Summit book: Bridging Theory and Practice in Children’s Spirituality: New Directions for Education,Ministry and Discipleship has equipped her for ministry beyond this time of pandemic.
Bridging Theory and Practice in Children’s Spirituality: New Directions for Education,
Ministry and Discipleship could not have come at a better time. Published just weeks after the spread of COVID-19 began to prompt governments to close churches, schools and non-essential businesses, Larson and Keeley’s book equips me, as a Christian Education Coordinator, with the story of where we’ve been in children’s ministry and a
practical map of where we should be going.
In the recently published article, “How Your Children’s Ministry Can Emerge Stronger and Better After COVID-19”
“As we shelter in place, we have been given a unique opportunity to hit the
restart button on our ministries and make sure we are on the best path for our
congregation and community. ...don’t be afraid... Rarely do we get the time and
space in ministry to dream. Asking, “What if…?” can open up all kinds of creative
While adapting our church’s children’s ministry to an online platform, our church began
- What is the ultimate purpose of our children’s ministry?
- How are we fulfilling that purpose now?
- What will our ministry look like when public health restrictions are lifted?
- Can we use this opportunity to learn and grow?
- Can we implement some of the practical suggestions for education, ministry and discipleship as described in this book?
Two chapters from Bridging Theory and Practice in Children’s Spirituality have already
begun shaping our next steps. Firstly, in his chapter, “Faith-Forming Environments for
Children”, John Roberto (Lifelongfaith.com) describes the importance of addressing Gen Z’s need for authentic and meaningful experiences.
“We engage Gen Z in immersive faith-forming experiences that are hands-on,
relational, participatory, visual, and multi-sensory, using methods such as
project-based learning, and activities that utilize Gen Z’s creativity, such as
artwork, video presentation, and more.”
This perfectly describes how our children and young people prefer to engage in ministry
in our church! We’ve been retelling the parables of Jesus with our children using LEGO
stop motion and zoom video recordings. These projects result in a finished product that
we’re able to share with an authentic audience, our congregation and community.
We’ve also invited older members of our congregation to participate in our
videos, incorporating Roberto’s emphasis on intergenerational faith forming
experiences. So far, in addition to our children and teens being engaged in Jesus’
parables and the project process, we’re also having a lot of fun together!
The second idea that I cannot wait to explore, is described in Chapter 15: The Sacred
Playground. In this chapter, Mimi Larson (Wheaton College) and Shirley Morgenthaler (Concordia University of Chicago) describe the significance of play as a process of meaning making for children.
- Can we tell a Bible story and then invite children to respond to the story with play?
- Can we offer a variety of ways for children to retell the story through dress-up, drama, blocks, books, and crafts? What would that look like in our church?
- Could we create a place where children could touch and play with some of the objects and rituals used in church?
I know that my own children already love to dress up and “play church”. Can we create a space for this in our church? We’ve only just started to see how we can use what we’ve learned.
I’m especially grateful for this book during this unexpected period of change. I’ll
definitely be reading it again and allowing it to shape how we think and practice
children’s ministry now and in the future.