These are notes from week 1 of our fall 2012 Spiritual Parenting class, using the book “Opening Your Child’s Spiritual Windows: Ideas to Nuture Your Child’s Relationship with God” by Cheri Fuller. In this week’s class we got an overview of this book’s focus: Helping us be aware of and make time for “spiritual windows” which are opportunities to discuss God and share our faith with our families.
It’s amazing to see how different children can be who are raised in the same family, by the same parents, following pretty much the same guidelines and household rules. God makes us each unique and very different! In the same way we are made different, we each have unique spiritual journeys. There is not a single “recipe” or “formula” for how to lead a child to God and to know Christ. This book is full of ideas, but Cheri emphasizes from the start that our spiritual journeys as Christians are each unique and individual. We shouldn’t expect the spiritual experiences of our children (or spouses for that matter) to be uniform and standardized. Some kids come to faith at at early age, some people don’t get to know God and profess their faith in Him till much later in life. Some people go through intense times of “searching for God” in their college years. Others grow up with a strong sense of faith from a young age and never lose it.
Cheri makes an analogy about raising kids I thought was interesting: She says “raising kids is like nailing Jell-O to a tree.” The best laid plans are often derailed. That doesn’t mean we abandon our plans, but it does mean we shouldn’t expect everything to be “planable” or to work out according to OUR plan. God’s plan is perfect, and He choooses when to reveal it to us. His plan for each of us is unique.
Here is a good question which I think Cheri raised in this chapter to discuss together as a class, and also with members of our family:
Why is spiritual development so different for different people?
This is the primary thesis of Cheri’s entire book, which is found on page 14 of Chapter 1:
Just as children have critical windows of opportunity for learning language, music, and logic, as my book “Opening Your Child’s Nine Learning Windows” discusses, they also have important spiritual windows of opportunity… These windows are best opened early in life, though as you’ll discover, if a child’s personality or circumstances keep her from a specific stage in the process, any time in life can be the right time to catch up.
Cheri points out that kids are natural seekers. “Kids spend a lot of time thinking and wondering about God,” she writes. Cheri contends children are “more contemplative and more inclined toward intellectual and moral interests in later childhood,” and cites a statistic that “85% of kids’ attitudes about God, church, and the Bible develop in the preschool years.” This is in line with statistics I’ve read from George Barna’s Research Group, which consistently points out the importance of Kids’ Ministries programs for spiritual development. The harsh lesson from studies about spiritual formation is that for MOST people in the United States at least, if they don’t “meet God” and form a spiritual connection to God early in life, they will never form one. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t evangelize to older people and work to both share God’s word and show God’s love, but it DOES point to the critical importance of helping children know God early in life.
I totally agree with Cheri’s point on how adults tend to underestimate kids. She writes:
“…in the majority of cases, adults tend to underestimate the enormous spiritual capacity of children.”
Cheri doesn’t put too much stock in “stages” of development, since each child is unique. Her takeaway and recommendation on this is to not adopt a “cookie cutter” approach to spiritual development. We can’t see inside each other’s hearts and minds, as God can. We can and should work to create “spiritual windows” for faith conversations, but we can’t force the developmental process to move forward by our sheer force of will. Cheri reminds us that some children will naturally progress at a slower or a faster pace that we’re expecting or wanting when it comes to spiritual development. Because of this understanding, Cheri recommends a focus on “spiritual windows” for spiritual development.
Cheri recommends Jim Cymbala’s book, “Fresh Faith.” Jim reminds us that spiritual nurture is far more important than material things we can provide for our kids. I like the “coaching” approach which Cheri recommends for spiritual development: We should strive to “provide support, teaching, and encouragement in our childrens’ lives” in much the same way as a coach seeks to help his/her players develop their abilities on a team.
Our goal as “spiritual coaches” of our children is to bring them to Jesus so they will know him and live the life He has prepared for them.
On page 18, Cheri makes a CRITICAL point which many parents don’t understand today: The Church alone can’t provide the spiritual development our children need. The church can help but this is a PARTNERSHIP between parents at home and our church communities.
Jesus promises in John 10:10 “Life in all its fullness.” This is what we should want, pray for and work for with our children: Abundant life. Cheri encourages us to use her book as a “training manual” remembering spiritual development is a LONG process which takes time. We need to become empowered as parents to recognize that WE DO have “the ability to influence, nurture, and shape” our children’s spiritual development. This is an important and special role which God has given to use as parents, and we should take this responsibility seriously.
If you have any questions, comments or thoughts about these ideas, please chime in with a comment on this or other posts you find on this site.
May God richly bless you and your family this week as together we seek to follow Him and show the love of Jesus to everyone we meet.