Children have the same existential questions that adults do. They wonder about everything from how their baby sister got here to that feeling they get when they watch a sunset or when a pet dies. They want to know how everything works, and why things happen. Religious education needs to give them the tools to make meaning in their lives at their own level at any age. It needs to help children explore the whole rather than indoctrinate them into a single way of believing. Religious exploration needs to show children how to find out who they are and the gifts they possess that can be carried out into the world. The arts can help them with this process.
Childhood has become a hurried venture; children hurry from home to school to structured activities to church school to vacation time. Children learn to tune out the intensity of the pace with TV, video games, and the Internet. We do not leave any time open for an unhurried delving into inner lives for ourselves or for our children. There is a constant bombardment of images and art meant to sell us something, and constant social pressure to join in activities that will guarantee future success. There is no time for quiet contemplation, no time to connect to something full of wonder and awe, no time to just be. Our culture seems to say that we can't get anywhere in life by sitting still, even for a few moments. Yet it is just this stillness, this chance to breathe in ourselves, that will support our hurried lives and help us to go beyond ourselves and help others.
Even young children these days have little time for unstructured play. Play is children's work; it is their time to become themselves, to figure things out, to develop and stimulate their imaginations. If we dismiss play as something unimportant, we trivialize their necessary work to become whole human beings.
The arts slow us down to experience this sense of play. They allow active participation rather than passive observation. The arts also have the potential to tap into children's deep spiritual core and help them to form their own meanings. What better education could our church schools offer?
Our responsibility as educators and parents is to open up both the world of ideas outside of children and children's inner worlds of feelings, hopes, and dreams. If all we are doing is teaching our children about Unitarian Universalism, then we are not doing our job. We need to teach children how to connect to the transformational aspect within them, to help them discover their spiritual self. We need to help them find the tools to live an active religious life. We can do this by making the church a place to explore their spirituality and giving them the time and the language to talk about it. We can do this by creating a community that shows how paying attention to the spiritual life puts a foundation of meaning and support under a life of service.
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Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.
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