Respecting early faith

We seem to live in a very child centered culture in North America. However, some sociologists suggest that our culture, that values strength and self-sufficiency and that rejects human weakness and vulnerability, is one that fosters indifference or contempt for children. Bunge, (in The Child in Christian Thought), suggests that our popular literature “tends to depict infants and young children as pure and innocent beings whom we adore and teenagers as hidden and dark creatures whom we must fear.” I would suggest that we, as participants in this culture, also underestimate the significance of children’s spiritual experiences. What do I mean?

Spiritual development seems to parallel language development in some ways. We know that children’s early nonsense sounds and imitations of the language they hear around them is a necessary step on the path to speaking coherently in words at first, then sentences. I believe that children’s spiritual development is similar to language development – much more is happening than we can know. If we only base our judgments of children’s spiritual development on what they verbalize back to us, then we are missing a complete picture of the child’s faith life. While we cannot have the kinds of discussions around conceptual and abstract worldview issues with younger children that we can have with teens or college age students, that fact does not mean that the development of worldview is not happening in younger children. They, like babies with speech development, simply cannot cognitize or articulate what they perceive, but worldview is being formed nonetheless. The fact remains that those, who over the course of history have studied when children are spiritually formed, recognize that by age 14 most of the work has been completed, i.e. children’s spiritual identities have been largely formed by this point in their lives.

Children often have a more limited range of foods that are acceptable to their taste buds. We might say their sense of taste is more acute – as we age we eat a wider variety of foods, possibly due to the dulling of our taste buds. I wonder if the same isn’t true with children’s and adult’s spiritual “taste buds”? Jesus suggests that we need an innocent and wholly dependent “living in this moment” faith like little children – unhindered by the skepticism that life has imposed, a complete dependence born of a lack of self sufficiency, and a complete sense of trust in the Father. Those of us who have worked with children are aware of the blessing of clarity and sense of the kind of “seeing” that young children can bring – stopping us in our tracks to wonder about God. Their spiritual sensitivity is a gift to us, part of our being “reborn” to see the beauty of Christ in all things.

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17 Comments

Filed under Biblical worldview, early faith, kids/culture

17 responses to “Respecting early faith

  1. Jennifer Tosch

    Matthew 19:14 reads, But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” I believe children have more clarity of faith than adults do. They are just not able to tear it apart for discussion and questioning. They believe absolutely.

  2. Larissa Post

    Children are more complex than most people give them credit. They have the information but they are not able to articulate their ideas. This is why teachers need to treat their students with the upmost respect and help them develop the skills to express their ideas.

    In addition, I believe that children have a strong spiritual foundation. In fact, I have had conversations with children that have strengthened and challenged my spiritual faith.

  3. Mandi Horinga

    I agree that children may have a much deeper faith than what they can verbalize to us. Sometimes putting words to what you believe is hard for adults today as well. Everyday God reaches out to us and shows us more of himself, so why wouldn’t He want to provide that same kind of opportunity to children as well?

  4. Kelly McKinney

    Although children may not be able to speak intellectually about their worldview does not mean it is not being shaped. Children are shaped by those around them; they are molding clay, and as teachers we have the opportunity to shape them. It’s important for teachers, as well as family and friends of children to encourage their development of faith and understanding of God. It’s true what the bible says, we need to have a child-like faith, and trust wholeheartedly in our Father.

  5. Regina Hrad

    I can remember back to being young and how strong my faith was. It was the trust that comes to mind the most. As adults, we like to take our will back and do as we please because God doesn’t answer in the time we allocate. Children trust no matter what because they are dependent and know no other way. So the challenge is to continue building the faith in small people and to take that same faith as adults. Trusting without conditions…having f.a.i.t.h…feeling as if there’s hope…

  6. Kevin O'Donovan

    When men and women are older and we look at children and we their innocence in this world. We see the beauty and magnificence that they bring to us and everybody around. You hear people say that they wish they were that young again and you ask yourself, who made this beautiful child the way she is? The only answer is God. God lets the adults take a step back from life and reflect on the way to live.

  7. Meagan Scartozzi

    Children can have a strong spiritual foundation and have a deep understanding of what it means to believe in a faith. When children are young they tend to ask a lot of questions and this can be understood by adults as children either not fully understanding something which leads them to ask more questions, but in some cases it’s the adults who seem to fully understand what is going on. Children challenge adults constantly helping adults make more sense of things themselves. A spiritual foundation is something that you have early on in life and you keep building off of it in order to confirm your beliefs.

  8. Megan Casasanto

    Developing faith of young children is one of the most important aspect you as a teacher can instill in your students. Even though a child may be young at heart they still need a strong faith they can rely on all through their life as young children and young adults. If children learn to follow their faith and have strong beliefs at a young age they are more likely to keep that strong faith and develope a loving relationship with God as well as themselves as a person throughout their lives.

  9. Sarah Herrera

    I agree with what this article has to say. Children are constantly growing. As children grow, they are learning and developing. They learn through listening and taking in what they see around. They are forming the language they are hearing and at the same time, forming a world view. This worldview that they are formign often determines what they will be like when they get older.

  10. I feel that this article has a lot of good things to say. I agree that it is very important for us as teachers or parents to enstill a spiritual way of thinking for our children at an early age. I compare this to a good foundation on a house. When a house has a strong foundation, it will be able to stand tall during tough storms that it may have to endure. I think that same goes for our young people. When we tell our children about God early on in life, it will give them the ability to build on what you have told them, and also be able to withstand the tough times that they are going to experience in their lives.

  11. Katie Vander Ark

    I agree wholly with what this article is stating about children’s faith lives. So many times people believe that experience and age is what shows wisdom and knowledge; however, Christ says we should have faith like children. As a kindergarten teacher, my mom encounters all sorts of comments about God and it is amazing the kind of unquestioning faith her five and six year old students possess. They pray trusting wholeheartedly that God will answer their prayers while so many adults have trouble believing in God’s faithfulness. I believe we as adults should learn a lesson from the younger believers in this world for it is their faith which believes without question.

  12. Venessa Martinez

    I must agree with the article here. A great deal of the time people underestimate the intelligence that young people are capable of achieving. Children are growing at remarkable speeds, and as they grow they develop more and more about who they are. I think that faith is a huge part of any person, especially a younger person because this is where they are going to say “This is what I believe and I am going to live my life accordingly due to those beliefs that I hold to be true”. It’s important to find what holds true for you and what you feel needs some adjusting before you can allow yourself to fully believe it. Faith is a huge part of that process because it is the center of your life, it’s what you build everything around.

  13. Angelica Solis

    I believe that this article addresses young children in a whole new light. After babysitting my nephew, who is a year old, this summer I could only raise two thumbs up in agreement with this article. I have always believed that children are born with their own personalities and faith, and that adults can only shape that personality and faith in a child. While spending time with my nephew this summer I learned so much about young children and how they don’t pre-select what knowledge they choose to learn, as adults do. With this knowledge in my hand I truly believe that as children we are at our wisest and bravest point in our lives.

  14. Vinnie Adams

    Thank you so much for this article. It speaks so much truth into the spiritual development of Christians in this culture. The biggest challenge we have is helping these children continue to develop through that adolescent period so there isn’t such a gap between childhood and adulthood. We often give up too easily with teenagers because of the culture and the new challenges they are facing. The truth is that we learn more about the Lord every day. I recently saw Chuck Colson at Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit, and he said, “after my 35 years of being saved, I’ve never been so excited to wake up in the morning to see what the Lord wants to teach me next.” Of course, those first years are the most crucial for developing that world view, but it truly is a process that never stops.

  15. Maddy Manden

    As adults in this culture we categorize children’s and teenagers spiritual experiences too much. Most adults feel like they have been there before so they know how the children feel. They also think they know what their spiritual life is like. When in reality this is judging. God commands us not to judge. Just by looking at a student or teaching them how to read does not mean you know what their spiritual walk looks like. We have to realize that children have a lot going on in their lives. The spiritual identities have a lot to do with what has happened to them until this point. As teachers and mentors we need to conscience of that and respect that. We also need to be good examples.

  16. Taryn Wilkens

    I could not agree more with this article, or with these comments. There is so much we can learn from children and I know that I personally lose sight of this all the time. I, like Ragina, remember loving Jesus and wanting to live my life for Him when I was very young. I was raised in a Christian home and even thought I remember not understanding some concepts, I remember the desire to understand them. I had that child-like faith. As teachers we need to remember these things and be aware of our students’ potential.

  17. Crystal Fernandez

    I myself can give testimony to this, at 10 years old was when I was baptized in his name and accepted him as my lord and savior. Children grasp God’s love so willingly and whole heartedly. This is also another reason why it is critical to introduce the word of God to children at birth. I myself remember being introduced to God’s love at the age as early as six, and in my situation, my parents where not involved in the church yet I still understood and embraced his love even without the support of my parents. That alone I believe goes to show just how powerful his love is, that he can dwell in a child’s heart and give children the ability to comprehend something that even adults find too complicated to understand.

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