Yesterday – or Chick-fil-A

We are admirers of private companies like Chick-fil-A that decide to honor the human need for a day of rest and renewal – i.e., a weekly Sabbath – by closing their stores on Sundays.  However, they do take a few knocks for it from time-to-time.  Here is one on the good clean fun side – an April bonus edition of the Faithkeepers blog – to share this with your kids…it’s really cute.

Your kids are listening (they just may not want to hear it from you)

Thank you to everyone who provided encouraging feedback for the “Where I’m At” faith story that we debuted last week with Jeff Collier. This week, we are sharing a “Where I’m At” video shot with Michael Watt.

Whereas Jeff is an ambassador for the Net Generation, Michael is an ambassador for the Baby Boomers. He has a son in college and a daughter in high school and, although a native of California, has lived the last decade-plus in Texas.

Michael is a successful technology industry financial executive, having served in positions at HP, Toshiba American and Dell, where he served as president of Dell Financial Services, among others. One of the things that we encourage you to do with the videos of Michael and Jeff, especially with your older children – tweens and above – is suggest that they spend 5-10 minutes watching one of these video segments.

Then, afterwards, perhaps you can ask them what they thought about it the next time you have dinner or are out grabbing a sandwich together. Our hope is that watching these stories from other younger and older voices will help your kiddo hear something that strikes at their faith in a new and deep way.

Because, anyone with tweens knows that it is often the time when children start to think mom and dad are “dumb” or get embarrassed by things you say and do. (Comics from the Archies  to Zits have been chronicling it for generations!) And, admittedly, we older adults have been known to do some embarrassing things. Come on…you remember something your parents did when you were that age!

But, this period of mild (or great) rebellion is a stage that we all go through as we start sorting out our identity, what we believe, and who we will become, as an ultimately independent young adult.

Over the next several weeks, we’ll continue to share these “Where I’m At” stories from Faithkeepers, aiming for an initial video – one each – from a member of each of the generations: traditionalists, baby boomers, gen x’rs, net generation, and the so-called “re-generation,” i.e., members of the youngest generation, who are the prodigy of the Gen X’rs.

As always, let us hear your ideas and what has worked for you in having faith discussions with your family and friends.

Part 2: Unexpected Theology from Children – Art

In “Part 1: Unexpected Theology,” I described conversations I’ve had with children and their ideas and beliefs about God. What I found is that Children have many of the same questions as adults about God.

Children are deeply spiritual beings at the beginning of life. They want to know: How were we created? What is our purpose? How do we communicate with God?

These are basic life questions. The parents of the children that I’ve conversed with have done a remarkable job of providing ways to nurture their understanding of God. In addition to talking with kids about God, I’ve also studied their perspectives through their art. The experiences have been truly enlightening.

Art is a natural way to explore a child’s deep thoughts about God. Over the years of working with kids, I’ve collected a number of examples. Some of them are from my own three children; others from children in our church or other congregations.

Regardless of the source, I think you’ll find the individual expressions fascinating. Here are a few of my favorite examples:

1. Our family traveled to Australia. My 14 year old daughter, Lauren, was intrigued by the story of the mistreatment of the aboriginal people and their spiritual beliefs.

When we returned to Texas, the bulletin cover at church on the first week back stated, “Draw a Picture of Jesus.

This prompted her to wonder how the Aboriginal people would draw Jesus.

As you can see it reflects their view of themselves with the tattoos. The discussion after church focused on the different ways that Jesus may come to each of us.

By listening to different viewpoints, we can learn from each other.

2. This 7 year old saw Jesus as very nice and loving.

The hearts show how all-encompassing Jesus love is.

3. A 4 year old drew this picture of Jesus on the Mountain.

Jesus was with the child sliding down the mountain.

Jesus was a friend in this child’s daily life.

 4. “Draw some ways that show how you follow Jesus.

My 11 year old son, Ben, drew a maze. He said there are many paths to following Jesus.

The important thing is to find Jesus.

5. A classmate of my 10 year old son Andrew died in a car accident in the 1st grade.

The classmate’s death affected my son deeply; it was still on his mind when he completed this collage 3 years later.

In the artwork, the child who died (at right) is being teleported to heaven. Once there, he has a party hat on because he is with Jesus.

(My son had questions about the literal travel details of getting to heaven and concluded that being with Jesus must be fun!)

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

Through the eyes of a child my understanding of God was expanded, simplified, and enriched.

Part 1: Unexpected Theology from Children – Conversations

When my children were young, my worship goal was to keep them occupied during the worship service. I brought drawing paper for them to use during church or I grabbed the children’s bulletin as I entered worship so they would have something to occupy their hands during the adult oriented worship service.

As I watched them draw flowers, guns, airplanes, houses and stick figures, I felt slightly guilty, because I often heard the phrase “Children think they have to be entertained. They must learn to sit and listen in church. That’s what was expected of us!”

However, as I watched my children create, I occasionally noticed a picture of the altar or the communion table, indicating that God was on their minds. In fact, the post worship conversations shed new light on the airplane and gun doodling. They too, frequently had a connection to God.

As I collected my children’s bulletin artwork over the years, I realized I had been given a gift. I discovered that even from a young age, children are deeply spiritual and aware of the presence of God. Art and conversations are natural ways of encouraging their discovery of God.

I shared my newfound discoveries with my Pastor. She encouraged me to teach a Sunday school class on the unexpected theology of children. To broaden my research beyond my children’s faith, I asked a 3rd, 4th and 5th grade summer class to share with me their thoughts and drawings of God.

Conversation with Kids

I started the conversation by asking the following question:

“If God was sitting next to you in a chair and you could ask God anything, what would you ask?” This is how the conversation went.

“Was the big bang theory correct? I want to know how the world was created.”

Another child asked, “Why can’t I have the talent to be a gymnast? Everyone else can do that.”

The reply came from another child. “Everyone has different talents. I think you are so kind and caring. That is what your talent is.” (You could see a quizzical look and then an expression of satisfaction on the girl who asked the question. It was a new way of thinking for her.)

Another child changed the subject, “I want to know what my purpose on earth is?”

“Yeah, and where do we come from?” chimed another.

“Oh let’s not get into THAT again!” piped one child in a semi-disgusted manner. (The previous Sunday’s topic was human sexuality) “Why does the church have to teach sex education? The schools should do that job.”

I couldn’t help but remember the discussions in the 1970’s claiming values and sex education should be taught by the parents and the church…now children want to hear the information from the school!

A Fresh View of “Purpose Driven”

I finally got a word in and asked, “What is our purpose?”

“God just wanted someone to be on earth and wanted someone to be like God,” said one.

“I think we are here to worship God, said another.

The scientific minded child piped in again and asked, “Why did God make us evolve? Why didn’t he just make us the way we are? And why did he make the ice age?”

“Oh, oh, I have another question, can God split himself apart? If he is everywhere, he has to be able to do that!!!”

I asked, “How do you picture God’s face? The answers were abundant.

“I see him with a white beard and a red coat, like Santa Clause.”

“I think Jesus and God have a resemblance.”

“I believe that God brings me good luck. I prayed that I would get a good grade on my test. That brings me good luck.”

A child brought me a drawing and said, “This is how I see God’s face. The picture was of a throne. No one was sitting on the throne; however, above the chair you could see a halo. The child said, “You can’t see God’s face, only the effects of God.”

Another child asked, “Do you believe in miracles? I do…let me tell you a story. My mom’s friend had a baby, but the baby died before he was born. My mom’s friend was in the hospital and during the night a nurse came in to comfort her. In the morning she asked which nurse came in. They said that no one came into the room during the night. I think it was an angel comforting my mom’s friend.”

My last question was, “What is your favorite memory of church?”

I was expecting great theological memories of what they had learned. Instead, I lost control of the class after this answer. “Remember when the organ was struck by lightening during church? That was cool!”

From the Mouths of Babes

Cool indeed…the whole experience of “gong deep with little ones was cool and it led me to take a renewed look at the children’s art, too. I discuss my findings from that personal study in Part 2 of “Unexpected Theology.”

Meanwhile, please share your personal experiences with kids – from toddler to young adults – so that we can learn from one another.

Creative Ideas for the “Tweenager:” Tips for Talking to Adolescents

The early adolescent years, which we call being a “tweenager” (roughly from age 11 to 14), can be a challenging but also delightful time to create a stronger connection with a young person.

As always, connecting with them on things that matter for them is a great place to start. Here’s a few tips to consider for parents and baptismal sponsors:

1. Create fun rituals – while tweenagers are beginning to grow away from the home, they often also have a strong, inner security-driven desire to maintain a connection to rituals. One good ritual for families is rotating different table prayers. There are lots of them…encourage the kids to make up their own.

2. Be a role model of faith – baptismal sponsors can be especially important at this age as youth seek role models in addition to their parents. If you live near enough to a godchild, sponsors can plan a service project with their youth once a quarter.

Service projects can range from helping to deliver meals with a “Meals on Wheels” project or serve meals at a homeless food kitchen to building a house at a “Habitat for Humanity” project (NOTE: Habitat has minimum age requirements for its projects, so check with them first).

3. Tweenager boys and girls have especially quick minds that are great for puzzles, trivia, and other problem solving. In a long distance relationship, you can e-mail or mail them word games that they can solve. You can make your own cross word and word search puzzles at the Discovery magazine web site: http://puzzlemaker.school.discovery.com/.

Another word puzzle could be to send a message in a foreign language and have the youth try to translate it. If you are like us and not fluent in another language, you can create your message by using a web-based translator like Altavista’s Babelfish web site: http://babelfish.altavista.com/.

Es una idea muy buena!