Teach the Children Well

By Katie Kinnison

November 9, 2015

What should children learn in church?  When should they learn?  In what kind of settings?  Are we talking content --  which bible stories, the Lord’s Prayer, what it means to be Presbyterian, etc. -- or are we talking life skills that will help them practice their faith -- prayer, meditation, service, stewardship,or  reading the bible well.?

At Covenant, we do a wonderful job with children.  First, they know they are loved, and they know God is love.  That is huge.  Second, they know this is their church, too, and that is no small thing, my friends.  They lead worship some times; they dance up and down the aisles, they are welcomed and they welcome others.  We have incredible Treasure Finder teachers who faithfully teach them myriad bible stories and faith lessons.  We have a congregation full of people who beam upon them.  We have faithful followers of Jesus Christ who model what it is live trying to love the best we can.  We have much to celebrate.  

And more to embrace.

We are alive in the Living God.  Reformed, always reforming.  We keep moving, keep dreaming, keep asking questions about how we live more deeply into the joy and peace of God.   Also, our culture is changing.  The structures of family, communication, knowledge and daily life are all  in flux.  Our congregation continues to grow and to change.  We are deepening our faith and sharing that faith, expressing it in new ways..  It is time to ask ourselves again:  what should we be teaching our children?


Let's explore this together.  Let's pull our wisdom and bounce ideas off one another in a beautiful, creative, Christ-filled dance of possibility.


I'll start.  So, I want a ministry of Christian education and spiritual  formation for children that will help center them in God, teach them what it means to follow Christ, and awaken them to the presence of the Spirit of the Living God within them and within others.  What would some of learning goals be to get us there?

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For me, one of the most basic skills for life in the Spirit is the art of Presence.  It is profoundly counter-cultural, and the truth is that we spend our entire lives working to do it well and with consistency -- yet, it is also profoundly simple.  It is the Art of Being.  This skill is at the heart of actively centering your life in God and having a heart free enough to love with more ease.

You are present when you are awake, all the way here in this moment, alert to the movement of the Spirit.

Presence is cultivating the art of Being, rather than Doing -- yet it is quite active.  When we practice what it mean to be present, we are all the way alive, and we can do things while being fully present, all the way there, awake.  This is not a choice between being and doing.  We can have both.

Think of how much of our lives we spend as divided and distracted selves.  We drive the car and run through the list of what needs to happen that day.  We cook dinner and fret over that conversation at work a few hours ago.  We ask a friend how they are and wonder if we remembered to remind our child that our neighbor is picking him up after school.  We put our child to bed aware only of how much we want to go to bed ourselves.  We pause to pray and write our grocery lists in our head instead.

We fritter our lives away rehashing the past or fretting over the future, but where are we now?  Are we missing now?  Are we even noticing the wonders that are before us right now?

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Think now  about one of those moments when you were really awake, when you took life all the way in and were fully present. Remember what that was like and feel it. Maybe it was catching a glimpse of an astonishing sunset or putting your feet in a cold creek with rippling water  -- a moment when you became a concentrated beam of gratitude and everything seemed to  vibrate with God-ness  Maybe it was the first time you held your daughter, and her gaze caught yours, and you could feel her holding your heart, as she became the fullness of the universe in that moment.  Maybe it was the second that  you knew without a doubt you were in love, and every fiber of you woke up.  Maybe you experienced Presence that time your son reached up for your hand, and  you actually realized how incredibly wondrous and beautiful such a simple gesture can be.  Maybe there was a morning some Sunday when words spoken or chords resonating opened up a place in you that was utterly still and perfectly full, and you knew that everything is really alright, that all shall be well.

So, let’s say you are sold now that the ability to be fully present to this moment and to one another and to God is something really good, and that we should help our children learn it.

How?

How do we do that?

Well, here’s the thing:  first, we have to learn to do it.  Children learn best by imitation, by having a way of being modeled for them, so they can see and feel and touch what it is like.


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First, we have to learn to be present.  Parents are the best teachers.  The most important teachers.

Oh, we will teach it here at church, too. The Treasure Finders teachers practice it and model it as best they can.  The pastors practice it and model it as best they can.  More and more of the congregation will be practicing and modeling being fully present as best we can.

But if you don’t do it, the lesson is much less likely to be learned.

As we all talk and write and think about what Christian Education should look like for our children, please remember that if we are not learning and practicing the same things, the same skills and the same content, then the game is up.  Because then it is just a game.  We’ve shown our children that it really is not that important to work to center your life in God, to live with intention and great love like Jesus, and to embrace the Spirit within.


Oh, and, being more present -- with your child, with your Spouse, with your friends, with yourself, with God -- will open your life up in ways you had not imagined!

So, how do we learn presence?  how do we teach presence to our children?  There are lots of practices we might incorporate into our lives:  journaling, mindful breathing, centering prayer and meditation, checking in with our hearts and with our bodies, learning active listening skills, and more.  The ways we can learn how to be more present are myriad.

This is a big topic, and this blog has gone on long enough.

I would love to hear now what you think -- about what I have said above, about anything at all when it comes to how we share our faith with our children, about how we journey together deeper into the heart of God and onto the way of love.

We are all still learning.  Thanks be to God!
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