Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Windows and Mirrors: A Program about Diversity for Grades 4-5

Activity 2: Where Do My Beliefs Come From?

Activity time: 10 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers and tape

Preparation for Activity

  • If you have extra time, consider expanding this activity to incorporate Alternate Activity 1, Listening Activity - Supporting Theological Diversity; children articulate a faith belief to a partner or small group and practice respectful, affirmative listening.
  • Post blank newsprint.

Description of Activity

Tell the children:

Let's practice "theological reflection"-that means thinking about a religious question.

Ask the children to consider what they think they believe about God. Have a moment of silence and reflection on this question. You may use a bell or chime to signal the need for silence at the beginning of the time for reflection. Ring the bell or chime again to signal the end of the time for reflection.

Now, invite the children to share their thoughts on what they believe about God. Allow all volunteers to share, yet move conversation along-the focus here is not on the beliefs, but how children came to them. Affirm all contributions succinctly. Make it clear there is no "right" answer. Tell the group, "In our faith, we understand that what people think about God often changes over the course of time in their lives."

Now ask the children to think about how they came to their beliefs. Write their answers on newsprint, in the order in which you hear them (no ranking by importance or tallying to mark a repeated response). Make certain that everyone has a chance to speak.

Some answers you may hear are:

  • My parents gave me an idea about God.
  • I do not believe in God.
  • I am not sure I believe in God.
  • I used my own experience to decide about God.
  • I read a book that helped me learn about God.
  • I decided about God because of something I learned in church.
  • I think that you should choose a religion that makes sense to you.
  • The idea of God is not believable.

Be prepared for negative comments, e.g., "God is a stupid idea," or "Who would believe something so ridiculous?" A sarcastic or provocative comment may indicate that a child does not feel their belief is really welcome or they are uncomfortable with not knowing what they believe. Gently help a child paraphrase a genuine question. Affirm that "not knowing," skepticism and atheism are legitimate stances on God.

You may wish to introduce terms such as "deist," "humanist," "skeptic" or "agnostic" if you are comfortably sure of their meanings. However, avoid characterizing children's beliefs by denomination-e.g., Christian, Buddhist-based on this brief information from them.

Point out the diversity of the beliefs children have shared. Ask, "If we opened this discussion to the whole congregation, might we find even more beliefs?"

Emphasize that beliefs can change as we learn and have new experiences in life. You may say:

No matter how your beliefs may change, you are always welcome here. People can believe in different religious ideas and still remain in the same Unitarian Universalist congregation because of some beliefs we all share: We believe in the value of a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. We believe in the right of individual conscience in our faith choices. We believe in respecting everyone.

Including All Participants

Do not put children on the spot by going around in a circle for responses. It is more important to demonstrate welcome to all religious beliefs and faith traditions, than to make sure all children share with the group.