Two weeks ago, SNEUCC’s Faith Formation Team attended the virtual InterGenerate Children's Spirituality Conference. These robust three days included speakers and participants from all around the world who are looking to enhance their welcome and participation of young people in their churches. Each of our team members offer us brief reflections below on their favorite moments of the conference.
Begin With Listening, by Debby Kirk
Lacy Finn Borgo, author of Spiritual Conversations With Children, offered the opening keynote presentation for the
InterGenerate conference. She challenged faith formation leaders to reverse the traditional teaching model and begin with listening. Her work as a spiritual director is guided by Quaker Douglas Van Steere who stated, “To listen another’s soul into a condition of disclosure and discovery may be almost the greatest service that any human being ever performs for another.”
Finn Borgo uses art and
parallel play to give children the tools to express their encounters with God. This helps them not only recognize the voice of God but also to respond with gratitude, questions, or prayer. The role of the adult is to hear, acknowledge, and encourage. By reflecting back for clarity, caring adults can validate the sacred experience. Finn Borgo creates the expectation God’s continued presence with wondering questions, such as “I wonder where God will meet you tomorrow?” Find more on Lacy Finn Borgo at Good Dirt Ministries
It takes a Church to Raise a Parent, by Kristin Putney
Rachel Turner focused on Family Discipleship in a post-Pandemic World. She is the Parenting for Faith Pioneer at Bible Reading Fellowship in the United Kingdom, She began her presentation with a warm loving presence encouraging faith leaders to engage in practical ways to lay the foundation of a church culture where parenting for faith can flourish. One practical way for faith formation leaders to equip parents in discipling their children is to actually teach the parents the skills that are being taught to the child. How many times do church educators teach a prayer or spiritual practice to a child in a classroom setting and expect the young ones to use the method at home? This simple mindset was a great take away! How about having parents join in the last ten minutes of a church school setting to learn a spiritual practice together or create special learning times for all of the congregation during a coffee hour? She lifted up the beautiful layered structure that should be a child’s support system. A child is part of a family that is part of a clan (church community) that is part of a tribe. Rachel offered three other suggestions for parents to nurture a child: 1) Fight the expert culture and as a parent, walk alongside their child in the faith journey by utilizing their own skills and being authentic. 2) Focus on discipleship and not on faith activities. 3) Reshape parenting to learn how to spiritually parent a child focusing on the parent’s purpose, honoring parents in their place and seeing their immense value. Rachel Turner was a delightful presenter and is the author of many books that focus on parents modeling for their children what it means to be in a relationship with God.
Intentional Prescence, by Debbie Gline Allen
Another offering during the InterGenerate - Children’s Spirituality Conference was the presentations of papers. I was particularly intrigued by Dr. Edwin Willmington’s thoughts on children’s presence and participation in corporate worship and the life of their community of faith beyond the typical Sunday School experience. His impassioned presentation drew the conclusion that a focus on the entire Body of Christ – the intentional inclusion of children, the differently abled, etc. -- “will provide a conduit for both present and future formation in the life of the entire church community.”
He shared an experience he had in a congregation that he was visiting where he invited himself to Kid’s Worship, an entertainment program that had little resemblance to a time for spiritual renewal and praising God. He wondered how these children, currently provided with a well-intentioned but misguided understanding of worship, might approach worship when they become young adults and adults. His research linked most congregations’ practice of separating children and adults from worshiping together, as well as many segregating systems and structures within the church, as the main reason for the current mass exodus of young people from church.
Dr. Willmington concluded with a prayer for a heightened awareness of the centrality of (age-accessible) worship in the life of a congregation, to bring the true Body of Christ – children, youth, and adults -- together into full communion with God and with each other, for the raising up of the next generations in faith.