Thursday, June 08, 2006

Theology and Children

I am reading some of Children Matter. I say "some" to be honest, because I am much more of a scimmer who jumps around and gets the gist, then a reader who starts at the beginning and goes to the end.

Sunday morning after next I am supposed to help a reading group discuss the chapter on Theology and Children. The authors talk about three distinct traditions - though certianly not the only ones - sacramental, covenantal, and conversional and how each tradition tends to handle the spiritual formation of children.

Which of course makes one think about one's own experience. The churches I grew up in were definitely "conversional" - children aren't Christians until they convert. The trick was, of course, to get us to convert in that narrow window of "old enough to make a personal decision, but still young enough to not be into full-blown adolescent rebellion."

Ten to twelve seemed to work well. Much beyond that, and many didn't seem to convert - having already having decided to blow off as uncool any type of repentance. If you miss that window, I guess it often means waiting until they are somewhere into college years or later. But college age seems more like a time when kids who didn't grow up Christian turn to it, rather than those who did, but opted out, come back. They usually seem to do so later.

Anyway - makes me think, and realize how different my children's experience has been from mine. I don't think they ever had the idea they weren't Christian and needed to convert, but more like they've always been Christian and took another step, a personal one, in continuing in that direction.

I just don't think they grew up with as much fear of hell (and of God) as I did. I count that a blessing. Which puts me somewhere more in a sacramental/convenantal world in practice with my own children.


Steve Duer said...

I have always thought that for those children who grew up in the church, there needed to be more of a "bar mitzvah" model of becoming an individual in their relationship with God.
(Bar Mitzvah literal means "son of the commandment".) I wonder what the Hebrew would be for "son/daughter of the Messiah"?

betsy2b said...

You know in the new testament, the accounts of conversions are almost all of adults. The church was new, the message was new.
But didn't jews still "convert" to following Jesus?
Obviously, I grew up as you did, in a conversional atmosphere. It's very hard to get my mind around the "taking the next step" idea. Does it just apply to good kids? I realize every journey is different, but I guess the question is how do you raise up a child "in the way he should go"?
The eternal question for any parent..