How do we pass on our faith to children?

The ARK, A Publication of the American Association of Interchurch Families……….                                              

Volume 24; Edition 4 ……………….   October, November and December 2013

Pages 7 & 8 …..  How do we pass on our faith to children?  Implications For Interchurch                             Families

Pages 9 – 12… Passing on the Faith: Teaching the Next Generation by Rabbi Brad Hirschfield with Implications for Interchurch Families

Pages 12 – 17 …. Just Imagine: Considering the Theological Insights of Children by Ivy Beckwith with Implications for Interchurch Families

Pages 17 – 20 … Less Talk, More Action  by Mark Yaconelli with Implications for Interchurch Families

Pages 20 – 23 … My Six Essentials for Passing on the Faith by Phyllis Tickle with Implications for Interchurch Families

***************************************************************************************************************

The Cloisters in New York City; photo by M.J. Glauber

The Cloisters in New York City; photo by M.J. Glauber©

How do we pass on our faith to children?

This is a question most religious traditions care about deeply.

We are concerned, perhaps, for our children’s spiritual well-being, their moral grounding and behavior, and perhaps for the ultimate state of their souls.

Without the commitment, creativity, and zeal of the next generation, our own values and beliefs may die with us. But what is the best way to communicate faith? If faith is “caught, not taught,” then what can we do to make our spirituality contagious?

At the blog site found at http://www.Patheos.com/Topics/Passing-On-The-Faith/ they invited scholars, practitioners, teachers, and parents from diverse traditions and perspectives to share their wisdom, insights, and best practices on this important topic.  ( See more at: http://www.patheos.com/   or at  http://www.patheos.com/Topics/Passing-on-the-Faith/  )

Implications for Interchurch Families

Perhaps one of the foremost questions that couples, their extended family and their churches of origin ask when the young couple is about to marry across traditional denominational barriers is precisely, “How do we pass on our faith to the children in an interchurch marriage?” The fact that two people have bridged an historic division is a good and a positive action may elude the very community that the interchurch couple must rely upon for their very support and nurturing.

What is an interchurch Family or Interchurch Marriage?

Some people refer to interchurch marriages as mixed marriages whereas “interchurch” refers specifically to the marriage of two Christians from different Christian Denominations who continue on with their own Christian Faith after marriage.

Historically, in the United States, when the term “Mixed Marriage” was used, it referred to a racially mixed marriages. “Interchurch Marriages” refer to the marriage of two people across across traditional Christian Denominational divisions within the church; these couples may also be from two racial backgrounds.

An interfaith marriage is between a Christian and someone who comes from a religious experience that is not Christian. There may be some universal truths that assist couples who enter into an interfaith marriage which helps to guide them toward a form of unity in their own domestic religion within their own newly created family. These marriages have merit and value for humanity.

AAIF has intentionally kept our focus on the marriage of couples coming from two Christian Denominations and most often on those between a Roman Catholic and someone who is from one of the churches that grew out of the Reformation and/ or the Orthodox Churches.

As Christians we share a common heritage and beliefs. We may see variances in the emphasis of certain cultural traditions even within the same Christian denomination; we also may see and take note of the difference in emphasis between different Christian Denominations. Yet, all Christian Denominations come from the same source.

Frequently, interchurch couples and interchurch families are looking for ways to be a part of each church from where their parents are active members.

Upon marrying, interchurch couples are faced with having to decide how they will create their own domestic church in their own newly forming family. There seem to be several paths that couples who marry across denominational lines see as a potential solution. Some convert to the denomination of their spouse; the conversion seems to go equally either way. Some drop out from attending any church at all. Others seek out a third church which seems to be a neutral choice between either of their churches of origin.

Interchurch Couples stay active in their church of origin and try to participate in their spouse’s church as much as possible. It is common for many interchurch families to wish to receive the eucharist, holy communion, with their spouse in their spouse’s church. Many families find comfort in being able to worship together. Many spouses want their church to welcome their other kind of Christian spouse without pressing their spouse to convert.

Many years ago now, at an interchurch conference in Ireland, one of the speakers mentioned that “Interchurch Families’ Children may become confused.” Ellen Bard was quick to speak up and to explain that she was an interchurch child and that she wasn’t confused. I was impressed.

Over the years, I have observed that children brought up in an interchurch family know both traditions quite well. It is the children who have learned the language of both churches in which they have been raised. They frequently explain and clarify for the greater community who may have never considered the possibility of marrying across Christian Denominational lines any questions that the uninformed may have. It is as if interchurch children are bi-lingual so that they can negotiate the intricate and nuanced differences between the two Christian denominations that have nurtured them all of their lives and then be able to answer questions fluently in either domain.  It is beauty in action.

Yet, I believe that it is an important question, especially given the results from a recent Pew Report on religious affiliation in the United States, to ask how and to consider what contributes to a positive spiritual religious communal experience, both within the home and in any church community, so that we can pass the faith onto the next generations who follow us.

At Patheos.com they ask us to “Please consider doing a discussion of the following ideas.” So to myself, I said, “Why not? And that is basically what follows”

Because Christianity is built on a Judeo-Christian Heritage, I am including a selection from www.patheos.com by Rabbi Brad Hirschfield.

                         ~ M.J. Glauber

End of Pages 7 & 8 …..  How do we pass on our faith to children?  Implications For Interchurch  Families 

The Cloisters in New York City; Photo by M.J.Glauber

The Cloisters in New York City; Photo by M.J.Glauber   ©

Passing On The Faith: You Shall Teach Them 

We build the brightest future, not by worrying about the future, but by living our faith in the present.

By Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, July 31, 2013

Note: This article is part of a special Patheos Symposium, See more at: http://www.patheos.com/Topics/Passing-on-the-Faith/Teach-Them-Children-Rabbi-Brad-Hirschfield-08-01-2013.html

Passing on the Faith: Teaching the Next Generation

[But “How?” You may wonder.]

“Rabbi, how do I make sure that my children believe in God?”

“How do we make sure that our kids will carry on our traditions?”

“How can we assure a successful future for our community?”

If these are not the most common questions that I hear in the contemporary Jewish community, they are certainly near the top of the list. And people want answers! In fact, people often want the answer. They want to know the magic bullet response, and of course there isn’t one.

Human beings are simply too complex, and the journey of one’s soul to infinite, to ever be reduced to a finite response.

There are, however, approaches that can help us respond more productively to these often asked questions.

When it comes to believing in God, I am reminded of the words of the famous singer and outreach worker, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, who said that he too was always asked by parents about how make sure that their kids believed in God.

“Better,” the rabbi observed, “that you should make sure they know that God believes in them.”

Reb Shlomo, as he was known, stood in line with those Jewish sages who question whether or not one can even count the first of the Ten Commandments—”I am the Lord your God”—as a commandment. He appreciated that genuine faith can neither be assured nor commanded.

Genuine faith is something far more profound than verbal assent to an agreed upon dogma. It arises out of life experience, and among the most important of those experiences are those that help people—especially young ones—to know that they are loved, that their aspirations are sacred, and that they are believed in. In other words, faith in God is best thought of not as a goal, but as a by-product of loving and trusting experiences created by those who themselves already possess deep faith.

In terms of continuity of practice, the most natural thing in the world is to hope that those we love will do the things that we ourselves most love doing. In fact, it is difficult not to feel the sting of rejection when our kids don’t follow in our footsteps. That said, we might do well to widen our definition of what it means to follow in our footsteps.

Don’t get me wrong, I am quite traditional in my practice, and certainly hope that my children will be so as well. But I don’t imagine that they must always look as I look on the outside in order to meaningfully carry on a 5,000-year-old tradition which has looked quite different at different times in its unfolding history.

In fact, when Deuteronomy 6:7 famously commands us to “teach them to our children,” the definition of “them” is not entirely clear. As the verse continues, Moses says that it refers to the “instructions which I (he) teach you (the Israelites) this day.” But what does that include?

The commandments found in the immediately following verses? Those which subsequent generations of rabbis understood to be implied by these verses—commandments including tefillin (phylacteries) and the mezuzah hung on doors of people’s homes? The entire speech that is basically what makes up the Book of Deuteronomy? I think the answer is probably “yes.”

What we are meant to teach our children is both the specific practices and an entire worldview or story. Sometimes the principles that animate the second express themselves in ways that differ from the practices of past generations.

***

Listed three years in a row in Newsweek as one of America’s 50 Most Influential Rabbis, and recognized as one of our nation’s leading Preachers & Teachers by Beliefnet.com, think tank President, talk show host, interfaith activist, and diversity expert Brad Hirschfield is the author of   You Don’t Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism (Harmony, 2008).

*********************************

Implications for Interchurch Families:

Rabbi Hirschfield wrote, “What we are meant to teach our children is both the specific practices and an entire worldview or story. Sometimes the principles that animate the second express themselves in ways that differ from the practices of past generations.”

Our religious and spiritual lives are naturally in a constant state of questioning and growth. Our understanding of the Divine is evolving and growing as we live. Our faith is lived and it is dynamic. However, I want to emphasize the Rabbi’s insight into the importance of “making sure they [our children] know that God believes in them.”

Rabbi Hirschfield shares a story with us. He said, “When it comes to believing in God, I am reminded of the words of the famous singer and outreach worker, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, who said that he too was always asked by parents about how make sure that their kids believed in God.  “Better,” the rabbi observed, “that you should make sure they know that God believes in them.” It is important to know that God loves us.

Here is just a sampling of some of the many Bible verses explaining that God loves us and believes in us:

Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,

Proverbs 8:17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.

Psalm 136:26 Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

1 John 4:7-8  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Isaiah 38:19 The living, the living, he thanks you, as I do this day; the father makes known to the children your faithfulness.

Matthew 7:12 ”So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Habakkuk 1:5 (KJV)“Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for I will work a work in your days which ye will not believe,
though it be told you.”

 1 John 4:10 ESV  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Isaiah 41:13 ESV  For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

1 John 4:1-21 ESV  Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 

Those are only a few Bible verses about God’s love for us and God’s belief in us.

We must show our children all of the ways that God loves us and that God believes in us. This we must do on a daily basis through our actions and interactions. Our belief system is learned by doing and by our daily actions. This is one way that we pass on the faith. Our Domestic Church, that is our Little Church of the Home, may be the most important place where values are transmitted to the next generations. In our interchurch homes when we say yes to that of God, it is noticed, learned, and absorbed in such a way that it passes the faith onto the next generations.

Our faith is in a constant state of growth in understanding, we pass that concept allowing for growth in the faith on to the next generations because we want them to fully experience that of God in their lives. Whether we are a part of an interchurch or a same church family, knowing that God believes in us and loves us inspires our continued spiritual faith development.

The physical and technological world in which we find ourselves has been in a rapid state of constant change. It seems natural that how we interact with God’s people, all of humanity, may take on new or different forms, but that some underlying truths will still exist. Seeing their own parents actively grapple and deal with how to encounter that of God in their lives may be the best example for how to be religious well into the future.

We may come to a profound conclusion that we are human, and by being fully human that we have limits to our understanding. God’s plan may often be beyond our understanding, but to know that God loves us all of the time is important. Humanity grows in understanding and changes over time. We will be constantly seeking that of God. Is not that of God eternal?

                       ~ M.J. Glauber

End of Pages 9 – 12  Passing on the Faith: Teaching the Next Generation by Rabbi Brad Hirschfield with Implications for Interchurch Families   

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Magdeburg, Germany; Photo by M.J. Glauber

Magdeburg, Germany; Photo by M.J. Glauber   ©

“I was struck by the way he (the child) phrased his question and its theological implications.”

Just Imagine: Considering the Theological Insights of Children

Perhaps we should be thinking about how to do Children’s Ministry in the way of Jesus, by taking our children’s theological questions and observations seriously.

By Ivy Beckwith, July 31, 2013

Note: This article is part of a special Patheos Symposium, Passing on the Faith: Teaching the Next Generation. Read more perspectives here: http://www.patheos.com/Topics/Passing-on-the-Faith/Just-Imagine-Ivy-Beckwith-08-01-2013.html

“What happened in the Bible while I was away?” asked the eight-year-old boy sitting in the pew next to me. 

He’d been absent a few Sundays and was asking me what he’d missed. I knew this was what he meant, but I was struck by the way he phrased his question and its theological implications.

Without even knowing so, perhaps, he had characterized the Bible as a living, breathing book full of stories happening, moving, and morphing when we are not even looking. 

I sat there in the pew in the sanctuary of my church once again marveling at the spiritual and theological insight and imagination of children.

About a decade ago I stood on the floor of a national pastor’s convention and declared the way North American churches go about their Children’s Ministry to be broken. I cited things like the lack of meaningful intergenerational experiences and the preeminence of the idea that church, first and foremost, must be fun, wild and crazy even, for children to want to follow Jesus. In the intervening years I still believe what I said about the brokenness of church based Children’s Ministry to be true. But I’ve added at least one more sign of this brokenness to my list—lack of imagination.

We, the adults who parent and pastor the children in our midst, must unleash our imaginations to first see children as able to contribute as equal partners to our discussions and understandings of God, the Bible, and the good news of Jesus. We must open up our hearts and eyes to see the insights children bring. We must allow them to have these insights, listen to them, and allow ourselves to learn from them. When that eight-year-old asked me that question about the Bible I could have just smiled at him and chalked it up to one of those cute things children say about the Bible because they have limited theological knowledge of the biblical literature. But I chose not to see it that way.

Yes, it was a cute way to ask the question about what he had missed in Sunday School, but to me it had a deeper meaning of how this child understood this special book God gave us, and enhanced my view of the Bible as always speaking in new ways to us. 

But it is difficult to allow children to contribute to our discussions of God, Jesus, and the Bible when we are always telling them what the biblical stories mean and how they should apply these stories to their lives. This stunts their burgeoning theological imaginations and ours, too.

Second, we who pastor and parent children must redeem and re-energize our own imaginations to help our children envision and claim for themselves what life in the Kingdom of God looks like—to vision and eventually put feet to a different, better, and hopeful way to live 

      • where neighbors are loved, 
      • burdens are carried,           
      • cups of cold water are given, 
      • and where everyone is invited to the banquet. 

Walter Brueggemann has called this cultivating the “prophetic imagination.” 

The task of the prophetic imagination is to evoke an alternative community that knows it is about different things in different ways from the culture at large.

The prophetic imagination seeks to penetrate our despair so that new feelings can be named and embraced. And it seeks to stun people out of business as usual and to believe a different way is possible.

And ultimately to infect God’s people with the joy of the kingdom of God—to turn our mourning into dancing and live out the words of the Psalmist that joy comes in the morning.

Over the last year I’ve read many articles, blogs, and studies about the millennial generation and its relationship or non-relationship with the institutional church. What I find interesting about this is that churched millennials came of age in what might be called the “golden age” of church-based Children’s Ministry. From the 1980s onward, churches hired children’s pastors, spent time and money refurbishing their children’s ministry areas, and curriculum publishers churned out programs and resources at record speed. Yet, all these blogs, articles, and studies chronicle how disillusioned the millennial generation is with the church. While the church’s concern for its children is commendable, perhaps we have botched our sincere attempts at the spiritual formation of our children.

Perhaps, instead, we should be thinking about how to do Children’s Ministry in the way of Jesus, taking our children’s theological questions and observations seriously and offering them the imaginative blueprint of the very real option of living hopefully in God’s kingdom.

***

Ivy Beckwith has spent many years in church based Children’s Ministry. She is the author of Postmodern Children’s Ministry (Zondervan), Formational Children’s Ministry (Baker) and the soon to be released, co-authored with Dave Csinos, Children’s Ministry in the Way of Jesus (IVP).

++++++++++++++

Implications for Interchurch Families

Ivy Beckwith suggests that “We must open up our hearts and eyes to see the insights children bring. We must allow them to have these insights, listen to them, and allow ourselves to learn from them.”  

This observation reminds me of a Sunday School Class that I attended in elementary school. We were to discuss the story of “Moses in the Bullrushes” and then in the “Morning Circle,” where all of the elementary school aged classes gathered, our class would present a re-enactment of that Bible Story. The teachers had brought in a doll to serve as “Moses.”

However, one of the boys thought that using a baby doll to portray Moses would be all wrong; he was quite vocal about this. The teachers asked him if he would like to take the role of Moses in our re-enactment, and he readily accepted that role. I was given the role of Miriam, his older sister; I had to wait in hiding for the Egyptian Princess to come down to  the water where she would bathe and also find Moses floating in a basket. The teachers had brought a basket in that would work well for a baby doll, but my classmate who wanted to take on the role of Moses was far too big for the basket. As I waited for the Egyptian princess to arrive and find the baby which she would adopt, I saw this huge Moses using his hands to paddle along in the imaginary water.

At the time, I remember thinking that he was simply far too large to be Moses.  I was perhaps more comfortable using a baby doll to portray the baby Moses, whereas it is most likely that my male peer  wouldn’t have even been given a baby doll to play with and perhaps he considered baby dolls to be girl’s toys. At this point in time, I can only guess what factors made my young male peer decide to take on the role of being Moses.

Finally the girl who was playing the role of the Egyptian princess came out and found the baby Moses floating in a basket in the water. This was my cue to come out in the staging area to offer to find a wet nurse for the baby that the Egyptian princess was about to adopt for her own son.

Over the years, I have changed my mind about this re-enactment. First, my understanding of the nature of art and knowing that theatrical plays are a form of art has evolved. The dictionary defines “Art” as : something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.

Also, over time, I have become aware of the concept of “artistic license” which About.com defines  quite simply as “doing whatever you wish in a painting, without regard to artistic conventions, art critics, theories, or history, or what reality looks like. It’s applying your own vision and views in your work, without worrying about whether it’s realistic or not, nor about what other people may think or say. You can apply it in varying degrees, from only a little to oodles.”… “Artistic license is the “creative juice” that comes from the artist’s mind, the interpretation and selection of what to convey and how.”

Second, Moses is a very significant and important figure in the Bible. One on-line Bible commentary explains, ”This godly man towers above all other persons in the Old Testament period because he was God’s instrument for the introduction of covenant law in Israel.”…”Moses is so strongly interwoven with the religious tradition involving God’s plan for human salvation through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and ultimately the Davidic Messiah, and attested to as an authoritative figure for Hebrew culture even in the New Testament period.”…. ”Perhaps out of deference to his stature there was nobody else in the Old Testament named Moses.“… “From what has been said already it will be clear that Israelite life under Moses and his successors was grounded upon divine revelation and its accompanying theology.” … “In dealing with the chosen people, Moses periodically acts as an intercessor with God, so as to avert divine displeasure with Israel (Exodus 33:12-16; Numbers 12:13). The call that he had received from God involves his acting in the capacity of prophet to the nation, wherein he serves as God’s spokesperson to Israel. So effective is he in this function that God promises to raise up other prophets after his death who will also serve as spokespersons (Deuteronomy 18:15-18 ), thus indicating that God regards Moses as the standard by which his successors will be judged.” [The Bibliography given for this on-line discussion includes:. O. T. Allis, God Spake by Moses; M. Buber, Moses; R. A. Cole, Exodus; R. K. Harrison, Numbers; F. B. Meyer, Moses the Servant of God.]

The conclusion that I came to overtime is that Moses, although human like the rest of us, was of such importance that if we were to take “artistic license” in an attempt to show how important Moses is to our Judeo-Christian heritage that having a physically over-sized, huge baby Moses would be an excellent way to indicate that Moses is very important.   Children may have a greater insight into what is truly sacred, important, and holy than we may have previously considered.

I now believe that through his own innocence that my elementary Sunday school classmate, who was so oversized in the basket that was to be for a baby doll to portray Moses, may have given us some visual image of the magnitude of the importance Moses in our Judeo-Christian Tradition.

In their openness and innocence,  children may be able to see a purer form of that of God in our world, the ordinary world that surrounds us. When Ivy Beckwith suggests that “We must open up our hearts and eyes to see the insights children bring. We must allow them to have these insights, listen to them, and allow ourselves to learn from them,” I believe that she has uncovered an important insight, one that as adults, we should endeavor to encourage with our own openness of our hearts and eyes.

How does this impact interchurch families? We share most of the same Bible stories between our different Christian Denominations. Bible stories and a study of the Bible can be shared easily across historical  denominational traditions or divides. Some combinations of Interfaith families also share some of the same Bible stories. Certainly same church families would share the same Bible Stories.

As an interchurch couple, we have been fortunate to be able to participate in a Bible study that encourages the use of different editions of the Bible over the past few years. Every person brings a Bible or Bibles of their own choosing. We usually examine one Bible chapter per gathering. After that, in our small group Bible Study, we answer  five questions about the verse we have just read; each person answers each question:

What is the author’s main point in this passage? (MAIN POINT)  It often helps to state the question again in another form: “What is the author saying about God?” Each person must address the text directly in a relationship formed between reader and author.

What new light do I find in this particular reading of this passage of the text? (NEW LIGHT)  This question reminds us of the continuing revelation in our lives from both unfamiliar and familiar passages. The focus here is on each member’s new insight, observation, or understanding during this particular reading of this passage on this particular occasion.

Each reading can bring some new or renewed insight. That insight may be small or great. This answer may grow with more and more points as the group works through the passage with other questions.

The new light may be something that is seen now, but had never been seen before. It may be a new understanding of a word or phrase. It may be a new way of seeing a particular problem that this passage triggers in a member’s mind. It may be the last in the sequence of questions answered in the silence. It may grow with more and more points as the group works through the passage with other questions.

Is this passage true to my experience? (TRUTH)    The focus here is on comparing the message of the Bible passage with each person’s experience in life. Our spiritual journeys are “experimental” as we search toward fuller understanding. Our personal experience and our community experience are sources of authority which we bring to the study to understand and supplement the Biblical text.

What are the implications of this passage for my life? (IMPLICATIONS)  “What difference, if any, does the passage make for my life?”   It brings the role of ethics and daily living practices to our attention.

What problems do I have with this passage? (PROBLEMS)  Here we identify problems of language in the text, of interpretation, of meaning, or of applying the text to our lives. These problems may generate interest in seeking answers from other sources during the days before the next Bible study.

Problems can be identified without being solved. This question reminds us that study of a passage is a continuing process. Like life, understanding is never complete at any one time. It is a continuing dialogue between the text and life. This format for Bible Study was originally developed by Joanne and Larry Spears

As a Bible study group, we have found it helpful to see how various Biblical texts are translated and specifically which words are used in different translations. This form of Bible Study tends to create a collaborative search for meaning in the Bible Verses. Each person in the small group contributes a response to each of the five questions. However, sometimes we simply note that we agree with what a group member has already stated for an answer. Other times,  I have heard group members say that they hadn’t yet considered what another group member has uncovered within the Biblical and they have appreciated the other person’s input and insight. This format is affirming while getting the group members to become actively engaged in the Bible Verses. This Bible Study format helps to create a sense of community.

As noted before, Ivy Beckwith suggests that “We must open up our hearts and eyes to see the insights children bring. We must allow them to have these insights, listen to them, and allow ourselves to learn from them.”

Ivy Beckwith says, ” The task of the prophetic imagination is to evoke an alternative community that knows it is about different things in different ways from the culture at large.

The prophetic imagination seeks to penetrate our despair so that new feelings can be named and embraced. And it seeks to stun people out of business as usual and to believe a different way is possible. And ultimately to infect God’s people with the joy of the kingdom of God—to turn our mourning into dancing and live out the words of the Psalmist that joy comes in the morning..” …  She then concludes by way of suggesting that, “ we should be thinking about how to do Children’s Ministry in the way of Jesus, taking our children’s theological questions and observations seriously and offering them the imaginative blueprint of the very real option of living hopefully in God’s kingdom.”

The Bible Study format created by the Spears, and presented above in this discussion, could be used by High School aged students and anyone older. Younger children are accustomed to using forms of “imaginative play” to help them better understand the world around them.

The Spears suggest that the “Tests for Sound Bible Study Methods” should include:

First, a Bible study method should recognize personal experience as a central part of our spiritual lives.

Second, a Bible study method should recognize the equality of all believers in the study process. It should remove the centrality of an authority figure as leader, thereby affirming that the Spirit works through everyone out of the open silence of even the few seekers gathered together.

Third, a Bible study method should recognize the availability of continuing revelation of God in our spiritual lives.

Fourth, a Bible study method should affirm the connection of the Biblical witness to our lives in our present world.

It is a matter of connecting the Bible Stories to our own lived experience so that we can expand our knowledge and continue to growth in our faith traditions. For children, we must allow them to explore and become personally involved with a Bible story so that they can apply their natural imaginative play skills.

This system should work well for all Christian traditions and it holds a greater potential for allowing members from different Christian denominations to study the Bible together as we seek a path toward Christian Unity that is guided by our Divine Creator and that Holy Light  we call God.               ~ M.J. Glauber

End of Pages 12 – 17 …. Just Imagine: Considering the Theological Insights of Children                                                                                          by Ivy Beckwith with Implications for Interchurch Families

Church Steeple; Prague; Photo by M.J. Glauber

+++++++++++++++

Less Talk, More Action

In my town, children and youth are looking for people with mischief in their eyes, people willing to say “yes” to the active pursuit of love.

By Mark Yaconelli, August 01, 2013

Note: This article is part of a special Patheos Symposium, Passing on the Faith: Teaching the Next Generation. Read more perspectives here: http://www.patheos.com/Topics/Passing-on-the-Faith/Less-Talk-More-Action-Mark-Yaconelli-08-02-2013.html

So much of religious education is abstract—stories, beliefs, ideas about how life works. Meanwhile youth long for experience. They long to do something. If we could listen to the restless yearning hidden within the hearts of the young, we might hear something like, “No more talk of love. No more tales of suffering. No more cautionary fables. Give me someone to kiss. Give me a road to walk. Give me ashes to grieve. Help me make my own regrets.” This kind of raw desire is troubling to parents and manipulated by advertisers, and yet it’s exactly this honest ache for life and relationship that Christian communities should cultivate and address.

What my children want from religious communities are opportunities for the direct exploration of real living. They don’t want to talk about God, they want to live God. They don’t want to hear about great deeds, they want to be asked to do great deeds. For religious communities to aid the spiritual growth of young people in the future, they need to find ways to encourage, bless, train, and support young people in the active pursuit of real life. It is in that pursuit that God is discovered.

The youth of this age carry the same hurt and prayer and visions and spiritual ache that all of us harbored when we were young. They long to fall in love. They long to discover and pursue and develop their own gifts. They long to be overcome by the Great Mystery we call “God.” They long to be seen and known, accepted and celebrated by people with warm hearts. Although the culture shifts and technologies invade, the desires of children and youth remain the same.

The challenge for me, and the struggle for those called to tend the spiritual essence of children and adolescents, is to remember what we know—remember what is needed. Young people are looking for living people who take the soul’s desires seriously. They are looking for people who care about what matters; people struggling to pursue loving relationships (with God, others, enemies, self); people willing to struggle for freedom and healing; people willing to risk new forms of living that resist the frantic, isolating, and violent culture that surrounds us.

In my town children and youth are looking for people with mischief in their eyes, people willing to say “yes” to the active pursuit of love. Four examples of what this might look like from my own town, none of which were initiated by local youth ministries:

Overwhelmed with worry and sadness following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, a group of local adults invited eight Haitian middle and high school students (as well as other interested students) to spend a weekend exploring a Christian approach to suffering.

Thirty students signed up. For two days we experimented with various practices that heal suffering (silence, prayer, singing, art, storytelling, solitude). The final night the kids held a prayer vigil that lasted into the wee hours of the morning.

For over twenty years two members from my church have volunteered with Witness for Peace, accompanying families and communities in Nicaragua and Honduras who face persecution. On one trip they invited youth and families with children to join them. Two youth from our community and three families participated. These trips continue.

Upset by the loss of salmon in our local rivers, a college woman in town began an art project to raise awareness and funds to help the salmon. A church member invited this young woman to speak about her project in worship. At the end of her presentation the speaker invited the children and youth of the church to help her create the public art protest. Twenty teens and children signed up and the church created youth and children classes to help prepare them understand and prepare for the event.

A former theater teacher in our church asked a local teenage girl if she might write a play for a church Christmas pageant. She did and the teacher helped her put it on. On the night of auditions, a woman in our church brought in a young teenage boy whom she had heard singing around her neighborhood. The boy became the primary singer in the play. The show (with a hard hitting message on the suffering of military families) was a hit and the boy now sings regularly at church and community events.

What real activities can churches and religious teachers do with youth and children? How can we help the children and youth of our town live out the faith first, and then learn the theology and beliefs second? It begins with people listening to the yearnings and needs of the young and then prayerfully, imaginatively, and even courageously responding.

Implications for Interchurch Families:

Mark Yaconelli observes that   “it’s exactly this honest ache for life and relationship that Christian communities should cultivate and address” in our religious formation classes for youths. “They are looking for people who care about what matters; people struggling to pursue loving relationships (with God, others, enemies, self); people willing to struggle for freedom and healing; people willing to risk new forms of living that resist the frantic, isolating, and violent culture that surrounds us.” Yaconelli points out that “ What our children want from religious communities are opportunities for the direct exploration of real living. They don’t want to talk about God, they want to live God.” An experiential format for living God is needed, but how will that look?

Yaconelli indicates that “for religious communities to aid the spiritual growth of young people in the future, they need to find ways to encourage, bless, train, and support young people in the active pursuit of real life. It is in that pursuit that God is discovered.” Youths don’t want a lecture and lectures simply won’t work if we are to engage youth in our faith traditions. Yaconelli encourages religious communities to engage youths actively so that they may learn by doing. In this way, the adults serve more as a support system helping youths to find answers to the questions that face them most directly in their lives. Yaconelli observes that youths, “long to discover and pursue and develop their own gifts. They long to be overcome by the Great Mystery we call “God.” They long to be seen and known, accepted and celebrated by people with warm hearts. Although the culture shifts and technologies invade, the desires of children and youth remain the same.” Of course, technology and the way we use media has changed rapidly and it is in a constant state of change, but the point that Yaconelli is making is that the needs of youth are consistent from generation to generation and through the centuries.

We must remember as adults working with youth that what we do must be initiated by the youth themselves. Once that is established then, we, as the adults in the religious community may ask questions to help to guide the youth as they delve into trying to find a better understanding of the world we live in at this time and help the youths to find Bible stories that also address these experiences so that they may be able to find a universal truth.

No matter what religious tradition we may come from and which traditions we encourage in our homes, in our own Domestic Churches, we all live in the same American cultural. We are most likely exposed to the same media inputs and information simply because we live in the same country.

Within Yaconelli’s suggestions for how we should proceed forward, there is great potential for creating dialog across historically religiously divided denominational traditions that is respectful of our differences and the insight our varied life experiences bring to each of us. I find a sense of hope in the path that Yaconelli suggests for passing on our faith traditions.

                                                   ~ M.J. Glauber

 End of Pages 17 – 20 … Less Talk, More Action by Mark Yaconelli with Implications for Interchurch Families

Madonna and Child; Ivory Miniature Sculpture at the Cloisters - Photo by M.J. Glauber

Madonna and Child; Ivory Miniature Sculpture at the Cloisters – Photo by M.J. Glauber ©

++++++++++++++++

My Six Essentials for Passing on the Faith

What we want to implant is an easy and natural affection for the holy, an inherent connectedness to an on-going story, and a sense of membership within a sustaining community that is always there to hold all of us as well as demand some things of us.

By Phyllis Tickle, August 01, 2013

Note: This article is part of a special Patheos Symposium, Passing on the Faith: Teaching the Next Generation. Read more perspectives here: http://www.patheos.com/Topics/Passing-on-the-Faith/Six-Essentials-Phyllis-Tickle-08-02-2013.html

Train up a child in the way s/he shall go etc., etc. may be the oldest cliché that parents are subjected to in this world. It certainly is the most annoying when it is laid upon one by an overweening grandparent. Yet there is—isn’t there always!—a rock-solid truth in the whole thing.

In this case, what it means is that the first thing we must do in teaching and forming our children is to become dreadfully honest with ourselves and our mates and/or extended family about just how Christian we want this youngster to be and in what ways.

Most of us, if we’re honest, eventually conclude this preliminary work by realizing that what we really want to form is not so much a code of conduct, though that is obviously important, as it is an intimacy with God and the things of God. What we want to implant is an easy and natural affection for the holy, an inherent connectedness to an on-going story, and a sense of membership within a sustaining community that, being larger than any of us, is always there to hold all of us as well as demand some things of us.

And to do these things, the second step is to pray earnestly together as parents and/or extended family and without the children present, for them and for the progress of their souls. That, too, seems like a no-brainer, but it is an adult or mentoring habit often overlooked and almost never routinized in the press of other, more immediate duties.

The third on my short list of a half-dozen essentials is a bit easier to accomplish. Children respond (as do we all) to the very business of routine, and here the flow of the week itself helps.

Judaism long ago discovered the informing necessity not just of observing Sabbath…really observing it, that is…but also of wrapping it in prayerful preparation and prayerful conclusion. What that translates to for us is a time of evening prayer as a family on the eve of Sabbath and again on the evening of the Sabbath itself, the former to be a time of preparation for communal worship, and the latter to be a time of family thanksgiving for having been granted the gift thereof.

The fourth in my short-list of essentials is storytelling, but there is a trick here, too. It is a good and joyful thing to read to children (or watch a DVD rendition thereof with them), but it is not nearly as instructive as is the business of telling them a story without benefit of books or discs. Implied in telling is the authenticity of what is being told. The underlying message is that this story matters. It matters because Daddy or Grand-daddy or Uncle Bill knows it all the way through. It matters because Mama or Granny or Aunt Sue loves it enough to know exactly what happens next. Of course, what that also means—and this is the source of the child’s perception of authenticity—is that Daddy and Mama et al. have valued this story enough to know it in detail and have also thought about it before telling it. What telling rather than reading or watching also means, of course, is that the stories of the faith can be pulled out spontaneously when their words and plot lines are apropos of some conversation or situation other than bedtime.

All of that is to say that I suspect that of all the things we do in shaping our children in the faith, it is the storytelling that is most formative over the long years of their adult lives.

I also think (which is far beyond “I suspect,” obviously) that one of the things we as mentoring Christians need most urgently to turn our energies toward is adult classes in teaching each other how to be good storytellers and then in learning in detail the stories of both the Hebrew and the Christian scriptures that most need our telling.

The fifth thing in my short-list of ways and means is music. In religion, it is, always and finally, the music that instructs the spirit and rides with it through the years. If we need adult classes in the stories of the faith and the art of their telling, then just as surely we need training sessions with one another about the beloved songs that are our heritage, about intentional ways to bring them seamlessly into domestic life, about family song fests, certainly, but even more about tunes woven artlessly into the mundane business of our lives together.

And last in my half-dozen is something even more basic than storytelling and singing.

That is, if there is anything that appeals to a child more than those, it is food. In fact, food manages to leave a fairly lasting impression on all of us, and this is especially true of food that is tied, on an on-going basis, to special events.

We hear “Easter” and think “eggs,” whether we want to or not. Of course, the other side of that associative process is that, because we all love Christmas candy, when we see a peppermint stick, we inevitably think “Christmas” whether it’s Christmas or not. Our forebears in the faith used to use that double reinforcement of food and event more or less un-self-consciously; but it is an art, a grace, and a legitimate ploy that we have somehow lost or misplaced along the way.

The story of the Church herself, the grand narrative of the beloved community and the body of Christ on earth, is tied to more events than Christmas and Easter.

It is tied to Shrove Tuesday with its pancakes for supper and the tale behind the pancakes.

It is tied to a lovely cake in early January from the midst of which colored ribbons rise and trail along the sides, just waiting for the lucky child who will be the one to pull out the wondrous streamer with the tiny, tiny baby doll attached….just waiting for the happy remembrance of this day when Mary and Joseph took their baby son to the Temple and gave him there, before the priest, his Holy Name of Jesus.

It is cinnamon buns on Good Friday, bearing their cross as they come to us bittersweet in their remembrance, etc.

These, then, are for me the sacred half-dozen from which all other efforts and intentions and programs must depend.

Small and domestic though they may be, it is nonetheless by means of them that we begin to instill into the young the faith of our fathers and mothers.

And of course, it is by the employment of them for our children that we teach and renew ourselves, even as we are teaching them.

***********************************

Implications for Interchurch Families

Phyllis Tickle notes the importance of being able to have “ an intimacy with God and the things of God.” All of us wish for this for ourselves and for our children.

Tickle asks us not to forget our role as mentor. She notes that children thrive in routine and that our own routine should wrap our religious observations with prayerful preparation and a prayerful conclusion. She points out that telling stories are very important especially when those stories are very important to us. Our enthusiasm for the stories we tell are “contagious.” The more spontaneous a story is, the more powerful it can be for conveying a message, the message we want our children to hear. Tickle suggests that adults in any church community should be focusing on improving their story telling skills. Then Tickle points out that connecting our religious experience with music and our active participation in that church music is very effective. She encourages singing. Tickle encourages us to tie the events of the church calendar year, the history of the church with activities beyond Easter and Christmas that reinforce our denominational traditions and beliefs as Christians.

Phyllis Tickle says that “Small and domestic though they may be”( such as eating specific foods for various important events during the church calendar year), it is nonetheless by means of them that we begin to instill into the young the faith of our fathers and mothers. And of course, it is by the employment of them for our children that we teach and renew ourselves, even as we are teaching them.” Interchurch Families will recognize that what Phyllis Tickle is talking about has to do specifically with our understanding of what Domestic Church, that is Our Little Church of our Home, means for us as Interchurch Families.  This is how we pass on the faith to the next generation as interchurch families. Of course, most Christians, and actually, also people from other religious traditions most likely also have some form of a Domestic Church, that is their own Little Church of the Home, being actively practiced in their homes too.

In this way, Interchurch Families are like all other families. The difference is that as Interchurch Families we seek to encourage the faith of our spouse while we continue to follow our own spiritual growth. Our children have become bi-lingual in an interchurch sense because interchurch children often can transition smoothly from one of their parent’s church to the other.

The issue of being able to share communion, that is the Holy Eucharist, together as a family in each of our churches continues to be an issue because we often feel rejected by the same church that nurtures our spouse and even our children. Nobody likes to feel rejected. Any reason given for why we, as Christians, while attending a eucharistic mass or service held in another Christian denomination’s church building can receive the eucharist doesn’t seem like we are being shown  the kind of love that Christ wished for us as one body of believers.

The Vatican Document which we often simply call “the Ecumenical Directory” provides for and allows other Christians to take communion, to receive the host, by exception. Many interchurch families believe that we live a life that is exceptional; this concern and a feeling of being repeatedly rejected are often verbalized by Interchurch Couples. This is one advance forward that we, interchurch families, wish to see happen as we work toward our shared goal of Christian Unity.                       ~ M.J. Glauber

 End of Pages 20 – 23 … My Six Essentials for Passing on the Faith by Phyllis Tickle with Implications for Interchurch Families
The Cloisters in New York City; Photo by M.J. Glauber

The Cloisters in New York City; Photo by M.J. Glauber   ©

The ARK, a Publication of the American Association of Interchurch Families;                  Volume 24; Edition 4; October, November, and December 2013
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s