We are born into this world with a natural longing to connect to God and other human beings.
When children have a listening companion who hears, acknowledges, and encourages their early experiences with God, it creates a spiritual footprint that shapes their lives. How can we increase our capacity to engage children in spiritual conversations? In this book Lacy Finn Borgo draws on her own experience of practicing spiritual direction with children. She offers an overview of childhood spiritual formation and introduces key skills for engaging conversation-posture, power, and patterns-from a Christ-centered perspective. 'When we are fully present and open to another, we will be changed,' Borgo writes. 'Indeed, as you listen to God with a child, the child will lead you into a fuller experience of God's love and acceptance.' In this book you'll find:
- Sample interactive dialogues with children
- Ideas for engaging children with play, art, and movement
- Prayers to use together
Whether you are a parent or grandparent, pastor or spiritual director, you will find this to be a friendly guide into deeper ways of listening.
- Summary: A practical, story filled guide on how to have spiritual conversations with children.
I am approaching this with a definite perspective. I am in training to become a spiritual director (for adults), but I also have spent much of my life doing administrative and evaluative work for ministries for children. I am also am the stay-at-home/work-at-home parent, and my wife is an elementary teacher. I spend a lot of time thinking about children and how to serve them well.
I am reading this directly because I want to be a spiritual director. Still, parents, teachers, pastor, and many others that are interested in the spiritual life of children would also benefit. There are good theoretical discussions about children and spiritual matters that are approachable for almost everyone. And lots of practical examples.
Lacy Finn Borgo in Spiritual Conversations With Children is not adapting adult spiritual direction for children, but starting with children’s needs and their own developmentally appropriate modes of communication and building a practice of spiritual direction that is oriented around them. It is very much focused on a listening mode of spiritual direction. (She says at one point, children already have parents and other authority figures, the adult spiritual listener is there to listen to the children not correct them, or teach them.)
She illustrated several methods of helping children to talk about spiritual matters, developing trust over time, and creating helpful rituals of blessing and specialness to the conversations that allow the children (and adults) to know their purpose. Because what works with one child will not work with another, or even the same child on a different day, having a literal bag of options for children to make choices about what is helpful for them on that day makes a lot of sense. These include several prayer methods, sometimes toys or blocks, or art, or stories, or food that can help create openness to seeking after God.
One of the real strengths of the book is that there is a significant amount of recounting of actual conversations. Spiritual direction, I believe, is both Holy Spirit led and an art that is developed over time, more than a structured science. Practical, real examples of what she means by spiritual conversations with children make this far more helpful than many books on spiritual direction I have read.
One of the differences between adults and children is that children tend to be much more aware of and engaged in their embodied lives. For spiritual conversation, that means that the discussion will be more body-focused than many adult spiritual direction activities. Kids will often talk as they are doing something. Having physical prompts, like a kid-sized labyrinth (or a finger labyrinth) or sand to draw in and wipe away are activities that would probably benefit many adults, but are essential for kids.
If I have a complaint, it is that at times there can be a bit too much focus on what benefit can come to the adult in these spiritual conversations with children. Lacy Finn Borgo is careful to note fairly frequently that while there are benefits to the adult, that the point isn’t for adult spiritual development. However, I can see many readers taking in the parts about spiritual benefits for adults while ignoring the cautions.
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