We practitioners and/or parents talk a lot about what to teach children and youth, how to spiritually form them, and how to nurture their spiritual lives. But we forget that we, too, are learners along the journey. From cradle to grave, we are all spiritual beings who grow, change, learn, and develop through all the seasons of our lives. We are all pilgrims and co-learners along the spiritual journey.
Often, as we invest our time and energy into ministering with children, we forget that they, too minister to us. They teach, shape, and guide us. Ask any parent—I’m sure they’ll tell you how much they learned during the first day/month/year of parenthood. And all that they learned about parenting, they learned because of their children. So, let’s remember that as we can teach children about God, they too can teach us.
Children, like all human beings, are made in the image of God. They reflect the characteristics of the One who created them. They, like God, are creative, innovative, imaginative, loving, and gentle. But children can also be messy, loud, irritating, disruptive, and vulnerable. It is no wonder that we often exclude children from worship services by setting up children’s church and Sunday school. We don’t want loud noises, messes, and disruptions throughout our time of worshipping. But when we exclude children from the wider community, we not only do a disservice to them—we also do a disservice to ourselves. After all, children reveal the image of God. Their messiness and disruptive behaviour actually gives us an otherwise overlooked glimpse into the very nature of God, the divine Child. God too can be messy, loud, irritating, disruptive, and vulnerable. So, when we exclude children, we are in fact excluding God. After all, Jesus said, “whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me” (Mt 81:5).
More and more, voices are crying out for children to be included in the worshipping community. Books like Children in the Worshipping Community, Children Matter, Welcoming Children, Formational Children’s Ministry and Children’s Spirituality include sections that speak of the importance of welcoming and including children in the faith community. In my own forthcoming book, I devote an entire chapter to the subject. But as we come to see how vital such inclusion can be for children’s spiritual formation, let’s not forget that it is also vital for our formation.
Let us always open ourselves to receiving the wisdom of children.