A review of Children’s Ministry that Fits in the magazine, Canadian Mennonite:
Making Children’s Ministry ‘Fit’
Children’s Ministry That Fits: Beyond One-Size-Fits-All Approaches to Nurturing Children’s Spirituality. By David M. Csinos. Wipf and Stock, 2011.
Reviewed by Elsie Rempel
Listening to children has become a countercultural activity in our fast-paced, media-saturated society, but it is an activity that has much transformative potential.
Children’s Ministry That Fits: Beyond One-Size-Fits-All Approaches to Nurturing Children’s Spirituality is the result of care-filled listening and has the potential to transform the church’s ministry with its children.
Author David Csinos’s research with— rather than just about—children honours their ways of knowing God and recognizes them as fellow spiritual pilgrims on a journey. He is part of what emerging church theologian Brian McLaren describes in the afterword of this book as “a growing movement to reinvent and rediscover ministry among children and youth, to help children become authentic followers of God in the way of Jesus.”
And that is what this book is about. “The practice of listening to children is fundamental to seeing them as valuable,” Csinos writes.
Children’s Ministry That Fits includes chapters that outline the author’s understanding of children’s spirituality; report on his interviews and other interaction with children from three varied congregations, about their ways of knowing God through word, emotion, symbol and action; and offer a variety of strategies that are important for ministry with children in our current context.
His research with children set out to answer a series of questions:
• Where in your church do you feel closest to God?
• What people in your church help you feel close to God?
• What makes your church’s worship different from a school assembly?
• What do you like or dislike about worship in your congregation?
• When and where do you feel safe, comfortable and at peace in your congregation?
• How is worship different when you are mainly with children than when you are with people of all ages?
Csinos also asked them to take photos of places and objects that helped them feel close to God, and to draw pictures of worship. Then he discussed their pictures with them and asked them where God is, where they are and where they would like to be. Their responses convinced him that children are “faith-filled agents and learners, continually making meaning of the world around them, including the people and places with which they interact.”
As one who has been deeply blessed by learning and worshipping with children for several decades, I am greatly encouraged by this new voice in the field of children’s spirituality. Listening carefully to the voice of this emerging leader, with his informed passion for integrating children and their ways of knowing God into the worship life of the church, will help transform and equip the church to move into a hope-filled future to which I believe Jesus is calling his church.
Elsie Rempel is director of Christian nurture for Mennonite Church Canada.