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Play & a Child's Faith

 by: Trevecca Okholm, CSS board member

First things first, when you register for the Children’s Spirituality Summit this May 21-23 one of the exciting experiences you’ll get to engage with is our Wednesday evening Play Experience. We’re offering a unique opportunity for you to do some hands-on, experiential learning about how children grow in faith by doing what they just naturally love to do . . . PLAY! (…with purpose!)

But before I give you that exciting list of experiences you can participate in on the second evening of the Summit, (see list below) I would love to share a few comments  with you about recent research on how children learn through, you guessed it, play.


In their chapter, "The Sacred Playground" from the 2018 Summit book Bridging Theory and Practice in Children’s Spirituality (Zondervan, 2020), Larson and Morgenthaler write that “within religious education, play is often undervalued as a serious means of learning.” (pg. 227).


In the chapter, they go on to present recent research saying that “the intentional yet patient process of play is a key ingredient for spiritual transformation. Transformation is not the accumulation of information, but a purposeful process of changes in ideas, behaviors, and understandings, and it requires time and a sacred space.” (pg. 240). If you want to read more, I encourage you to read their chapter on "The Sacred Playground."  


Earlier this week, I was in a book discussion when someone asked why so many church leaders look at children’s play as a time filler, not as a serious means of faith formation. That's a good question. In response, I’ll leave you with this challenge, again from Larson & Morgenthaler . . . "although we too often see play as a time filler or a recreational activity, a child’s spiritual play must have the support of the leaders in charge. The key here is to make sure that parents, teachers, and ministry leaders all understand that play is an intentional activity for learning!" (pg. 236).

So friends, I am looking forward to playing with many of you in a few weeks as we participate in some serious conversations on play, faith formation, and best practices for engaging with children in our communities.


Come play with me! Here’s the line-up for “Play Experience” Wednesday evening at the Summit.


·      Cheryl Minor – Sampling a Story from a Parable Box :: A Godly Play experience of worship and wonder.


·      Joy Wendling - Created to Play :: A hands-on exploration of the many unique ways God designed us to play.


·      Lindsay Goetz & Mimi Larson – Playful Prayers :: Explore prayer through a variety of play experiences curated by the Center for Faith and Children team.


·      Kirsten Hitchcock – Adaptive Spiritual Practices with Children :: How can we teach contemplative practices that are right for our kids and incorporate play? Experience how to make spiritual practices approachable.


·      Dana Kennamer – Playful Rituals :: Explore how rituals of welcome, birthdays, sharing time, and even celebrating lost teeth can connect all ages in community with God and with each other.


·      Artist Joel Schoon-Tanis – Scribbles and Doodles and More :: I’ll help your BRAIN do some STORMING with some simple drawing games. No art skills required!

If you haven't yet registered to join us, there's still time! Register by May 1 for our regular rate of $275.


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