by Dr. Mimi L. Larson;
Children's Spirituality Summit, chair
One year ago, we gathered together, over 900 people from 15 nations and approximately 40 Christian faith traditions, to passionately discuss and explore what it means to nurture children’s spirituality. Since then, a global pandemic continues, racial tension persists, and war and conflicts remain throughout the world. This week in the United States, a report was released that highlighted sexual abuses by ministers and others in the church. And just three days ago, a teenager entered an elementary school in Texas and shot nineteen students and two teachers.
As someone who has committed my life to children and their spirituality, I stand here devastated with all that children are experiencing in their lives and world. I am filled with grief, wondering how long will violence against children be acceptable, knowing that mass shootings in school is only one of the dangers children face in this world. I am angry at the jockeying of politicians with empty words and no real help to protect and care for children. Here at the Children’s Spirituality Summit, we are people who are concerned about children and their spirituality. How is this world shaping children and their understanding of God, others, and themselves? In the midst of this chaos and tragedy, does anyone else want to cry with me as the Psalmist does, “how long, O Lord?” How long will this all continue?
As I try to make meaning of all this, I am reminded of our joint experience a year ago when we gathered to learn, share stories, and cast vision on how to nurture the spirituality of children. We are from different ethnicities, denominations, countries, and gender, all passionate about children and their spirituality. This community of ministry leaders reminds me that children are not alone in this world. God is doing something for his children, and we have the honor to be a part of it.
I am also reminded that there is a community who surrounds us and our children, and this community is essential for our formation. Discipleship is not an activity, it is relational. Last year, Doug Powe reminded us that the idea of presence is critical. In our work with children, how are we present to the child in our life – as he or she wrestles with questions and wonders, as they jump for joy with excitement, and as they cry out for help and are in pain? In a technological world where the child is bombarded by media and virtual worlds, how are we present and listening to children, being mindful of the eternal in the midst of the temporary?
Jesus tells us to let the children come to him. To nurture a child’s spirituality means that we open pathways for children to engage with God. We envelop them into a community that lives authentically with the child in the midst. As Jared Boyd said, “The spiritual formation of our children has less to do with what curriculum we use or developmental strategy that we adopt than it has to do with our own willingness to live our own life with God in vulnerable ways on display in front of them.”
As we face this broken world, I have hope. God is working among us and through us for his glory. May the children in our midst become a mighty generation that knows and loves their God.