Forming a deep spirituality is just as important to our children’s development as learning to read or grasping math equations, and the Michigan Conference is helping families and churches do something about it.
REV. KATHY PITTENGER
Children’s Initiatives Coordinator, Michigan Conference
In early 2022, Rev. Linda Stephan at Traverse City: Central UMC sent me an email about a project idea based around childhood faith formation and making a case for why it is important. I work with faith formation leaders across Michigan (and beyond) and hear and see their stories about children growing in their faith. The children and family ministries that happen in Michigan United Methodist churches are amazing! And yet, we still need to be reminded why cultivating faith development for children is critically important.
Youth and young adults who have a faith community where they are known and loved are less likely to experience mental health issues. (Want to know more? Check out the latest research from Springtide Research.) Churches are an important center in society for intergenerational opportunities. Faith is modeled to children and youth through experiences of worship, service, prayer, and play. Faith formation with our youngest children is critical as that is the age when the brain is developing the fastest.
With all this and more in mind, Rev. Linda Stephan gathered a diverse group of clergy, faith formation leaders, and parents and interviewed them about various aspects of spiritual formation in childhood. From the interviews, five beautiful videos that showcase the hopes, realities, and practical ideas of faith formation were created. Alongside the videos are toolboxes that relate to each video: Starting Early, At-Home Formation, When Kids Ask Hard Questions, Telling the Biblical Stories, and Lessons for Life. Each toolbox includes resources for children/families, parents/caregivers, and churches to support faith formation. The videos can also be shared in worship or via social media to lift up the important ways our children can experience God’s love and find themselves in God’s Big Story.
The Childhood Spiritual Formation Toolbox is a great resource, and while putting it together, we noticed the need for more resources for early childhood (from birth through age 3). We also know that COVID-19 has significantly impacted families with young children returning to church. While some families felt comfortable coming back right away, others have been slower to return, if they have returned at all.
A group of faith formation leaders (including myself) from across the U.S. is working on a research project to learn more from the parents and caregivers of very young children. We want to understand their rhythms and routines better and what kinds of ministries and resources would benefit them and their children as they share their faith with their young children. To inform our research, we invite parents and caregivers to take a 10-minute survey, which is open through January 31. If you know parents or primary caregivers of young children, please share the survey with them.
The focus of my work and ministry in the Michigan Conference is to equip, empower, and encourage faith formation leaders in their work in the local church. I am honored to be in ministry alongside you, and I am excited to hear how the Childhood Spiritual Formation Toolbox and other children’s ministry initiatives are impacting your work. Feel free to email me at [email protected] with questions and ideas.