Today is set aside in the Revised Common Lectionary as the Day of Baptism. Like all liturgial days there is something comforting in the familiarity of the day, and the readings. We can almost recite these readings by heart; we have heard them, even our young children have leard them numereous times in their lives. So there is nothing new to learn? WRONG, the more you scratch the surface, the deeper the dive, whether you are using traditional forms of exegisit or a mindful method of reading and colouring in, there really is a new way into these passages each time they reappear.
Teaching your children to read the Bible and leading by example in the home is immensely important but that can be held over to another post or found in previous writings of mine.
Every child wants to hear the words of Luke 3:22b “You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased” (NRSV), Many pschologists insist that parents need to tell their children they are loved. And if God is our role model then as parents we have a great example to copy here.
I do have some questions though, I wonder why God choose this moment after baptism to say it? Some commentators claim that it is for our sake the words were spoken, as there was an audience to the words.
I wonder then if as parents we are only to praise our chidlren in front of others? I hope your answer here is no, many pschologists would tell you that a child needs to genuinely hear these words as for him, not for the praise of other parents for the show of love from a parent. They are useless if the child does not know it to be a truth for themselves.
This reading is Not a parenting advice column from God.
To read this passage exclusively through the lens of the child in the passage is to miss the deeper truths of the verses. (and no I don’t see that arguing against a Child Theology lense is counter to many things I have said over time, it is one form of lens to look at the passage, not THE ONLY lens with which to examine a passage).
And here comes my point.
We need to hear many voices, we need to see with many lens, to fully unpack God’s word.
I wonder what you saw in this passage? What did a younger family member see? or an older family member see (and that can be a genetic or social family or your congregational family)?
This year I came to realise that Jesus may not have been in the water when this event happended. Luke tells us he was praying when the holy spirit descended. He had been baptised, past tense. (my poor Biblical Greek can at least work that out).
So these special days and readings come around each year, but they are never the same. Examing the passages communally or individually, using different methods of exegesis or lenses, opens our eyes to what we failed to see the last time we encountered these readings.
If there is a parental message in this passage, it is to teach our children to read God’s word, so they can wonder themselves when you are not with them.
I am writing this on Wurundjeri land and wish to pay respect to all Elders, past, present and emerging.
Today is my eldest daughter’s birthday. Halloween. When I attended church in early labour, I was concerned that I would not make it through the service. I felt safer sitting in the service, than I did at home. And as it was I still had 24 hours of labour to go before she made her appearance, waving at the world, she entered the world hand emerging first, as I was to find out her father had years before. Our congregation had a few nurses and a few parents so I felt more comfortable at church realising that many people in our multi-age congregation would know what to do, rather than me wondering what would happen at home. Anyway it seemed completely natural to me to be worshipping. I had prayed over and for my developing child throughout her pregnancy.
We were part of, not just a congregation but a community, most people living within walking difference of our church, my Paster was around the corner with his school age family, my prayer partner and her brood lived opposite them. There were a few other new mums or mums to be and we would pass each other in the health centre, at Nursing Mother’s meetings, the supermarket, the doctors. I felt that I was in a community that would support us and we would be a part of as she grew, a blend of faith and secular.
What I wanted more than anything was for her to come to know God and be a part of this wonderful nurturing community.
I asked everyone, how do I help her to know God? Most did not have an answer for me, one informed me that it was like introducing her to any friend. But that statement, though true didn’t help me, so I continued praying for and with her, we continued the tradition of attending church together, we prayed at meal times, but we did not read Bible stories, we read secular books, it did not even occur to me that faith books for children even existed.
With the congregation, she was dedicated, we moved to the front for the children’s talk and sat at the back so we would not disturb other’s in the congregation, eating treats to keep her quiet during the sermon. When the time came for her to join, Sunday School with the other children she left the service to learn. When she was old enough we started evening devotions when she went to bed, a bible reading some questions, which she didn’t enjoy at all. What helped her more was the Christian meditation we practiced.
She went to a Christian school, and I felt that I had done my best, but I was so disappointed when in her teen years she refused to come to church anymore, and I started to question, what I had done wrong to not show her God in a way she wanted in her life. It led me to question so much, to ask questions, to look closely at the gaps in my teaching her about faith. Yes, we could have read story books, watched videos, played computer games with a stronger faith focus. Did she not learn in ways that were appropriate to her learning styles?
God is not a stranger in our home. She still prays, meditates when stressed, she has accepted some of the things we did as a family such as Ski, and rejected others. She is not a part of a faith community other than within our family. I am the only one who is connected to a Church, yet each Christmas and Easter, she comes to church with me, not to please me, but because these events do not have any meaning for her without attending Church.
As parents, we can not guarantee the faith choices our children make. We can only try our best, and leave the rest to God. Always keep the doors open for that conversation, or the opportunity, but respect their wishes, they like everyone else we come across must be free to open their ears to hear, and shape the faith process for themselves. We do not fail when our children don’t stay in the church, if they know God we have done our job.
I am writing this on Wurundjeri land and wish to pay respect to all Elders, past, present and emerging.
Somedays the words don’t make their way to the paper, even though I am still being influenced by this weeks readings.
It is weeks like this that I think of children with their limited vocablaries, those through illness or accident with limited capacity to verbalise or write. Sometimes in our lives our emotions overide our capacity to express ourselves in a verbal or written sense. I know that like me, when words fail, we have other ways of praising, sharing, expressing ourselves.
And 10% of us are dyslexic. I remember my own daughter’s struggle to find God was frustrated by worship material only being available in written format, where Sunday School meant reading aloud from the Bible and then responding to written question. She was not alone, I struggled too in trying to find material that she could relate too. Messy Church has only been around for a decade and though Godly Play has been around for decades, a product of the Berryman’s own search to find a good way of teaching children, especially their own daughter, it was not until after my daughter had walked away from the church that my studies introduced me to this method.
This is one of the reasons I often suggest play, singing, colouring-in, or craft as a response to the RCL readings in this weekly blog. Why I move away from wordsearches, written responses to questions, or private reading when I make suggestions for All-age or Family based worship.
As a teacher, I have always used multi-sense methods of teaching, never one method alone.
Like Godly Play I am influenced by the work of Montessori, but also Steiner, even though I teach and have been educated through the mainstream channels, where more theorists are using multi-sensory models now.
For those of you who follow me on Facebook or Instagram some of what is below you willl have seen.
Everything was a response to the Bible readings either this week or last week.
They were as much an outpouring of my response as a production for other’s consumption, that is they were my spiritual response. I hope they spark a response in you.
This was my response to Ephesians 6:10-20, every one is putting on protective gear these days, so I extrapolated away from the idea of Roman war attire as appropriate to the time of writing and thought about our present day situation
I created a game board for the same reading. You need to print 2 then cut one up and then match up the protective garment pictures.
At the start of the week, I created some inspiration to bring a spiritual dimension into our 2 hour exercise walks(where I live we are in lockdown due to the rising presence of th COVID-19 infection, delta varient, and the lack of innoculations). This had been inspired by Ephesians 5:15-20. Use the ideas each day to find Biblical references or to spark prayer.
If you would like to use any of these please acknowledge my work, thank you.
Here is a list of Sources that might be useful for families looking for Faith Formation Guidance. It is not definative and has been erred toward sites that offer free or predominately free resources for Families
What’s available: Resources for congregations and families, Links to resources including Grief and Bereavement, Disaster and Trauma, mental health and Anxiety, to share with families. Family on Mission Journal
Form available: Links, articles and video’s and podcasts.
Covers which Stages: Families with children and the communities in which they worship.
Price of Resource: free
Media platforms, website, Facebook, Pinterest, you tube,
Languages other than English; some Moari
Mission: Equipping congregations and families in faith formation
Operated By: Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia
Country of origin: New Zealand
Notes: primarily aimed at church leaders to enhance their family faith formation, building on 5 areas of ministry, Kingdom Pilgrimage, Strategic Faith Formation, Partnering with Families, Intergenerational, and Whanau (build community connections). The Families, faith formation link is easy for parents to use
What’s available: Resources, for the faith education of all, programs such as Frolic (for Babies and Toddlers, including boos and playgroup resources)
Sunday School Resources Spark (2 yo –Grade 6),( Whirl, (pre-K –Grade 6) Holy Moly,(Grades K-4) Connect,(grades 5-6)
Re:Form, (empowers youth to explore faith and question, to go deeper into the backstory and history, including specific resources, for Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed traditions)
Echo the story, (creative, student centered learning)
Colaborate, specific denominational learning
T.B.D.,Think Do Believe, for Grades 9-12, small group programme
Wholeness and Holiness, Purity, wholeness and Holiness, discussions
Animate (small group discussion, faith practices and perspectives in 7 sessions) and
Dialogues On (dialogues for faith communities) $US 9.99-24.99 some free
Form available, books, video’s, downloads, webinair
Covers which Stages, from birth to old ages, specifically early childhood, children, youth and Adults for parents, and Sunday school educators
Cost: many items free,
Does not ship to Australia, Koorong stocks some Bibles, eg. Spark, Whirl Bibles @ $36.99, and Holy Moly resources from $4.50-75.00. Echo the Story resources from $14-99 – 85.00. most programs available as digital download from $US49.99-179.99 annually
Media platforms: Facebook, website, twitter and Instagram,
Languages other than English:
Mission: Faith formation resources for each stage of life, both at home, corporate worship and education, across many denominations
Created By: A division of 1517 Media, the publishing ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Country of origin: USA, Minneapolis
Notes: very USA colloquial, website is easy to navigate, aged products are clearly defined.
What’s available: Articles on practical discipleship at home for parents, Book suggestions, Splink newsletter, website suggestions. For ministry, articles, website, and Facegroup and book and leadership recommendations.
Form available: articles
Covers which Stages: Intergenerational and families at all stages, including grandparents.
Price of Resource: free
Media Platforms: Website, twitter, Facebook,
Languages other than English: None
Mission: Resource, encourage and support for Intergenerational and Family Focused Ministry
Created By: Chrisitna Embree
Country of origin: USA, Kentucky.
What’s available: Inspirational articles, Resources to grow faith, predominately for an adult audience.
Form available: Blog, webinars,
Covers which Stages: all ages and stages
Price of Resource: free
Media Platforms: Website, Facebook
Languages other than English: none
Mission “To equip and inspire churches and individuals for the ministry of Christian Education and Faith Formation”
Created by: Virginia Theological Seminary, and including the work of Sharon Ely Pearson ( who commenced it), Sarah Bently Allred, Charlotte Hand Greeson, Keith Anderson, Christine Hides, Matthew Kozlowski, Dorothy Linthicum and Santi Rodriquez
What’s available: Computer Game, parent information pack and reading plan, Bible and extension packs.
Form available: Downloadable Game, Android tablets, ipad, windows and MacOs
Covers which Stages: Preteens and families
Price of Resource: Season 1 (family Pack) access for up to 5 players $US49.99, Individual Access $US24.99 Family reading plan available through You Version, free. Also, free companion levels for download
Media Platforms: You tube, Instagram, twitter and Facebook
Languages other than English: None
Mission: To create an allegorical Bible presentation that was entertaining, educational, formational.
Created By: Scarlet City Studios
Country of origin: New Zealand
and Bible App for Kids
What’s available: Bible downloads, and The Bible App for Kids, children’s story book Bible for personal electronic devices.
Form available: iOS, Android Apps, webpage
Covers which Stages: all ages.
Price of Resource: free
Media platforms, Apps, webpage, twitter and Facebook
Languages other than English: 60 available, (55 for the Bible App for Kids)
Mission: To encourage a daily rhythm of seeking intimacy with God
Created by: Life Church
Country of origin: USA, Oklahoma
Notes: resources for parents on the website, also 2 year church curriculum.
What’s available: Family Fun Questions, Splink – family devotional, Parent Pages – background devotional information, Family Fun Night suggestions, podcasts, D6 information and products
Form available: App
Covers which Stages: All stages and ages of Faith Formation
Price of Resource: free
Media platforms: website, app, Your Tube, Facebook
Languages other than English: none
Mission: that parents are the primary, disciplers of their families.
Created by: Randall House
Country of origin: USA, Tennessee
Notes: veryParent friendly
(if you have foudn this useful please mention where you found it)
I have watched great organisations, and local congregations scrambling to produce on-line material over the last couple of weeks. Many will admit it’s stretched them, but from my observational position they have all risen well to deal with the situation as best as they can, given the constraints of technology, knowledge of its capabilities and use by both ministerial teams and congregations.
Many are trying to include those without technology. Also, bigger questions are being asked as to whether recreating what we had in the pre-covid world is replicable on line, and if there are different ways of doing community or faith on line? Great question. How do we deal with the children? How do we educate parents in the transference of faith? a question that those involved in Child and Family Ministry have been asking for over a decade but which has been unimportant to the wider church until now. Braden wrote a great open letter on this theme. https://victas.uca.org.au/to-the-church-post-covid-19/?fbclid=IwAR1c1AWAX3QIdBflmGlf3ZXhrWFBxDepCzYlShEpEFQCiZSLa7dH91pGWNw
But there seems to me to be one other group that we are not addressing. And that is the “single” faith parent, and no I don’t mean, the socially single family, I mean the family who attend our congregations without the other spouse. Two parent households that do not share the same faith convictions.
These are the families who will not be gathered around the livestream service together. These are the families where the differing beliefs of the partners would have been evident in the formation of their relationship or where one parent has come to, or fallen away from faith during their partnership. Each family would have made their own decisions regarding the spiritual formation of the children, but they would be renegotiating this issue, along with all the other negotiations that have been happening in homes around the world.
This can lead to increased tensions in these families, OR they could lead to the advancement of faith discussions and decisions. How are you helping these families deal with either situation?
As we race to supply services, have we addressed how we deal with those who are searching for faith?
Do you have strong pastoral care, or communication lines that stay in touch with all your families?
And what about the child who is searching for faith? What are you offering them and how are you making that a safe on-line environment?
I have asked more questions but not solved any. Because the answers are also situational.
Assuming that all your efforts will be acceptable in a multifaith environment, is to fail those families that are in that situation. Find out what they will need, ask the questions rather than assuming that you have the answer, or solution. If there is one thing I have also noticed it’s that the consultation process has been lost as congregations try to move their physical activities on line. The wrong people are leading and those who are familiar with “living online” such as the ill, the travellers, those with disabilities are again being overlooked by those in the “physical congregation”. Let this new opportunity to be church be an inclusive one, or maybe one with multi access points. We are so use to the spiritual model of the labyrinth, one entry and exit point that maybe now is the time to explore faith formation as one of multiple entry and exit points. We have the technology.
With a background in the Wesleyan tradition, I’m encouraged by the story of being refused the capacity to preach in the Church of England, John took his preaching beyond the constraints of the buildings and took it into the fields. Christ saw the ill, those outside of society, the shamed and oppressed. As we enter this brand-new world, may we see the opportunities to not let anyone be left behind.
This topic will have a very different cultural identity as I am writing in Australia, rather than America. So for those in the USA my apologies for anything I say that might add fuel to the very real cultural tensions that exist, or for the use of terms that may have different connotations than your own. I read an article a few years ago that explained that of all the English speaking countries we only understand each other on average 80% of the time. And as a frequent visitor to the USA, I have discovered that my vocabulary, if not my accent changes as soon as I touch down now. But culturally I still make mistakes as I don’t have the education, or history behind me to place me fully in the cultural context.
So, to be clear, I am writing this from an Australian context.
If we place a baby in the Christmas crib. What cultural type do we place there?
I have been bought up with a baby that reflects my own culture, and was comfortable with this until during my Children’s Spirituality qualifications, the cultural integrity of Bible story books was pointed out to me (thank you Dr Beth Barnett for opening my eyes to this)
So, when choosing storybook bible’s, I now automatically look for ones that represent a more culturally middle east specific representation if that is where the story takes place. Just as I look for Storybooks that tell of a more culturally diversified Australia.
But do we show the same care when choosing our Manger representation.
It is difficult to find culturally diverse dolls in Australia.
But maybe the more expensive choices should be considered, and duly budgeted for. If the Children’s budget is too tight place it under the Outreach budget.
Because the theological discussion that needs to take place is if the representation should be culturally accurate for the times of the Bible stories or whether it should show God in our own image. But in today’s Australia what is that image and how many differences do we see in our congregations. Should the Chinese churches be using a Chinese baby? Where congregations are mixed in whose image do we place the Child in the Manger? The major cultural representation or show hospitality by representing the smallest cultural representative (if you can find the appropriate baby doll), and what of the other cultures in the congregation?
We are not alone, the discussion of representing God in human form has split the church, literally, since its early days. But for us maybe this is our time to ask the question in this way.
In the early 1990’s my eldest daughter would watch the TV show Lift Off, in this show was a doll, made of scraps and without a detailed face. This Doll was known as EC https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyA60FEUUMDqDOZS5TsRvlQ a tussle between two children left it with a male and female name shortened to EC, or as it was meant to represent Every Child. Are we at the point of cultural correctness that we need our own EC doll in the manger? And how would that look? And would, as I have seen for decades, a small child reach in and hug the baby to their heart?
During the week, I had the good fortune to attended a local preaching conference.It was well run, had great speakers, motivated us and was an absolute delight to participate in. I should have been on the other side of the world, but as these things happen the fires that are heavily affecting two countries, America and Australia, put paid to business/social plans and so I was able to attend this instead. And I was excited, still am, but there was one thing, that niggles at me for the two days, this conference, for Ministers of the Word, assumed that their audience was over 18 years of age, understood English, and were educated to Tertiary level at a time when listening and contemplation were necessary skills for learning.
It did throw a nod to the mentally ill, first generation Australians, and a brief reference by one of the key note speakers to the fact that there is only one reference to mass gatherings and preaching while most other references of Jesus’s teaching in the Gospels was through stories and small group discussions.
Given that the convener was an ex-teacher and Chaplain at that, I was surprised by this oversight. I found the response that it was the responsibility of another department of the Church, unsatisfying. It perpetuates the idea that children are not part of ministry. Yet if we take the view that Preaching is more than the sermon, the whole construct of the service, children are still present for a third of the time in a traditional format, ie leaving through the service to attend Sunday School. These little jugs have ears, they see, hear, feel, even if the ecclesiastical arguments are beyond them. Failing to include the worshipping child in a conference on Preaching is an oversight, a mistake of history, but one that could so easily be addressed. Is it really, too hard to invite the presence of another department? Aren’t we in the business of integration!
And it is not just an issue with this conference, I spoke to some of our Minister’s that had attended an American Preaching conference earlier in the year, not one, recounted in their experience of the example of preaching with children.
Until the walls come down between child learning and faith formation, and adult worship the divide that exists between children and adults in the worshipping community will continue, while we still see that it is not important to give our best leaders to the children, we are not being true to Matthew 18: 1-5. We can do better, it takes a bit of thought and effort, but we are really close, if we just think a bit more broadly.
The last question to be considered in this series on Grandparents is how to be missional.
What makes Grandparents home an extension of the church that many grandchildren may never enter? How can grandparents express their faith in their own homes, respect their children, but remain true to themselves? Or how to be missional in your own home.
We know that maintaining relationship is at the heart of faith formation, so the grandparents’ home, should be a safe place where all your grandchildren are welcomed and encouraged.
If you can share your faith with your grandchildren, then you might also find that some of the things mentioned below might help to set your house apart and be a place where they can discuss faith issues and use faith terminology, especially important as these types of discussions are no longer acceptable in public places.
But there are also some things that you can share without getting your adult children offside.
Picture books, movies and TV shows can have Christian themes, or in the least themes that are Christian, encouraging these when in your presence breaks no rules but lets you share something of your belief system, in a less direct ways. Storypath http://storypath.upsem.edu and Picture Book Theology http://www.picturebooktheology.com/2018/08/grab-go-15-our-tree-named-steve.html are great sites for finding books that can reflect a not necessarily intentional Christian theme or value. No need to preach just read the books and let your grandchild process the thoughts their way.
If you are allowed the freedom of sharing your faith with your unchurched grandchildren, your home may be the first/only experience of a faith community. In Australia protestants are not used to the concept of their home being an extension of their faith expression. I”m not talking about creating icons, but about creating an environment that reflects your Christian Heritage. Thus, how much you do, or how little depends on what you are feeling comfortable with.
No not THAT conversation, hopefully by this age that has been done and dusted. No, I’m talking about that other S word, Spirituality.
Many in the Grandparent bracket, have never contemplated that a conversation about faith is really a conversation about spirituality.
By being so fixated on Church attendance or faith sharing we often by pass the idea that what we are asking about is the spiritual well being of our families. And as it has always been implicit in our conversations or needs for faith formation, we haven’t got our thinking around this very first element, spirituality. In fact, many don’t even know what it means or why it is important.
So, what is Spirituality? Nye’s little book Children’s Spiritualityexplores and clearly explains how complex a definition it can be. She sets out the number of disciplines; educators, theologians, psychologists and they’re different way of looking at what1spirituality is. Nye looks at 3 explanations, the first an over simplified “God’s ways of being with children and children’s way of being with God”, but it is far broader as her next attempt shows, “children’s spirituality is an initially natural capacity for awareness of the sacred quality to life experiences. This experience can be conscious or unconscious, and sometimes fluctuates between both, but in both cases, can affect actions, feeling and thoughts. In childhood, spirituality is especially about being attracted towards “being in relation” responding to a call to more than “just me” –i.e.to others, God, to creation or to a deeper inner sense of Self. This encounter with transcendence can happen in specific experiences or moments, as well as through imaginative or reflective activity.” It is about relationship and the interconnectedness of all things. As Grandparents, the concern is our grandchild’s spiritual development will be stifled and not developed.
Thus, the question we should be asking our unchurched adult children is how are they going to cultivate their child’s spirituality, especially when they have rejected faith themselves?
You also need to listen to their answers as they may have already worked out what is spiritually significant to them and how they will express that with their child.
Or it might give you a missional opportunity to share with your child, and how the Christian faith can benefit them and their child.
The very first point of connection a child has is with its mother, so strong bonding is an important spiritual beginning. Thus, your first duty to the spiritual formation of your grandchild is to help facilitate or provide the necessary support to allow that significant bonding experience to happen.
For something practical you can do, if your church does not have a mother and baby group, help start one, so that they can help nurture the parents in your local area.
You might also like to suggest that your child attends one near to them.
A grandparent’s support group or the creation of good relationships within your congregation can help you gain the support you need in your role as grandparent.
Also, what liturgies take place in your congregation to support the grandparent. One congregation we attended had a liturgy for the new grandparents, that involved handing them a rose and praying over the grandparents. Do others have this type of liturgy?
Nye, Rebecca, Children’s Spirituality: What it is and why it matters, (2014, Church House Publishing, London) p. 15
Nye, Rebecca, Children’s Spirituality: What it is and why it matters, (2014, Church House Publishing, London)
Each family is different, we all have our own ways of communicating or miscommunicating. But it seems that many adult children have found a way to be very clear about the fact that they are not interested in the faith of their parents.
So, it is with much trepidation that the grandparents I know approach me with concern about how to share their faith with their grandchildren, the children of these children that have wounded them so with their choices.
We negotiate healthy boundaries everyday, yet when it comes to our family many of those skills go out of the window. We jump into the war, and find that we are fighting along well worn lines even when trying hard not to make common mistakes.
It might also be worth having a different conversation with your adult children.
Break it down, work out what it is that you want to share with your grandchildren about yourself, about your faith.
For example, do you want to tell them about faith experiences in your life?
Do you want to tell them faith stories/ read from Children’s Bible Stories?
Do you want to be able to give them Christian based gifts, such as prayer books, bibles, storybooks, toys etc?
Do you want them to attend church with you? On religious holidays, or at other times during the year?
Do you want to pray withyour grandchild? No-one can stop you praying for your grandchildren or for that matter your children.
Are you expected to give up a church activity to attend sports, or other activities for your grandchildren?
Please share with us any other needs that need to be negotiated.
Being clear about what you want to talk about can help reduce the message being lost in the emotional pulls. Giving you a better chance of being heard.
And it’s just as important to listen to what your adult children want.
May I suggest that you,
1)Don’t talk about everything all at once,
2)choose your topics,
3)and have the discussions over days, weeks, years.
4)And get the conversation started early, well before it becomes necessary.
Above all, you are now missional, not confrontational. Your agenda is to bring your family to faith, NOT to isolate any of you from each other. Christ walked alongside people reaching their needs. What is your child’s need that has bought them to the decisions that they have?