On theology, church, & children’s spirituality

I just received two eagerly anticipated volumes on children’s spirituality that kick off some research in a new field. My exploration is triggered by a couple simple but not simplistic questions – as a theologian, pastor, and parent, “What does it look like to think well theologically about childhood and parenting?” and, “How can the Church best serve the perennial needs of parents, families, and children?” I will write more on these titles in the next few months.

Nurturing Children’s Spirituality: Christian Perspectives and Best Practices is a book of collected essays from the 2006 Children’s Spirituality Conference edited by Dr. Holly Catterton Allen. Some of the main themes for this conference included the concept of children and the kingdom of God, views of children in Genesis and the New Testament, and the spiritual needs of children around the world. The essays are divided into three broad categories that explore historical and theological issues, promote best practices for nurturing children’s spiritual development, and look toward future challenges.

The second book, Let the Children Come: Reimagining Childhood from a Christian Perspective by feminist theologian Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore, is more of a constructive theological exploration of childhood and parenting that draws specifically from Christian, psychological, and feminist resources. She explains the purpose of the book as follows:

This book…is about that convulsing ground on which children and caring adults stand: the images that are failing us; the battle over new ways to understand children; the distortions toward which many people, including myself, are tempted; and the attempt to assert healthier, richer moral and religious visions. Reimagining children, I am convinced, will lead to a renewed conception of the care of children as a religious practice (xxvi).

Considering she advances this contention along a “feminist maternal theology” I am quite intrigued to see where this leads her.

Does anyone have suggestions for other helpful resources on the subject (not parenting books but theological works on children)?


9 thoughts on “On theology, church, & children’s spirituality

  1. The following books are excellent.

    Welcoming Children, by Joyce Ann Mercer
    In the Midst of Chaos, by Bonnie Miller-McLemore
    Graced Vulnerability, by David Jensen
    Real Kids, Real Faith, by Karen-Marie Yust
    Children Matter, by Scottie May et. al.
    Children’s Spirituality, edited by Don Ratcliff
    Seeing Children, Seeing God, by Pamela Couture
    Child Poverty, by Pamela Couture
    Perspectives of Children’s Spirituality, edited by Michael Anthony
    The Spiritual Life of Children, by Robert Coles
    The Spirit of the Child, by David Hay and Rebecca Nye

  2. Kent,

    Those books look excellent. Something that intrigues me is how we can learn from our children. Jesus said we should change and become like children in order to live in the kingdom. I know it’s off topic but do you have any comments on that?

  3. Other helpful theological works regarding children – not in any specific order.

    The Mystery of the Child, by Martin E. Marty

    The Child in Christin Thought, by Marcia Bunge (ed )

    Paedofaith, by Rich Lusk

    When Children Became People, by O.M. Bakke

    The Children of Israel, Reading the Bible for the Sake of OUr Children, by Danna Nolan Fewell

    Handbook of Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence, Edited by Roehlkepartain, King Wagener Bensen

    Children of God, Towards a Theology of Childhood, ediited by Anela Shier-Jones.

    Children Matter, edited by May, Posterski, Stonehouse, Cannell

    Children and Spirituality, by Brendan Hyde

    Have more but these along with their own bibiliographies are good for starters.

  4. I have been on holiday so didn’t have the opportunity to engage with each of you in a more timely manner.

    Dave and Vicki – thanks for making my Amazon wishlist just that much longer! Great suggestions.

    Tom – I would expect nothing else from you but a great question like this (I am glad we reconnected after all these years). As interested as I am in the question you’ve raised (“how can we learn from children” ) I am equally interested, perhaps more so, with the question of “why”. Getting at the why will mean we have to wrestle with the status of children within our families and communities. This is something Miller-McLemore addresses in terms of our need to reconceive children as “agents.” More to come.

    Kent – I will drop you a line.


  5. Two excellent books are: Children and the Theologians: Clearing the Way for Grace by Jerome Berryman and The Religious Potential of the Child by Sofia Cavalletti (two volumes). They both address the questions and issues you are interested in. Very scholarly books.

    • Mary, I haven’t formally thought about this in a while (not since the post was originally published in fact), but as a dad I think it about it informally every single day. Let me know if you are aware of any especially helpful resources.

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