This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Faith formation with children

Last week was Pentecost, that time each year when we remember the Holy Spirit coming upon those first believers with a rush of wind and “tongues, as of fire.”

Talking with a 3-year-old about the Holy Spirit and Pentecost when she doesn’t fully understand the time-space continuum is tricky, let me tell you. We talked earlier in the week about how the Holy Spirit is like the wind, and we made a fan using paper to feel the wind.

And then on Pentecost Sunday we went to church at Mennonite Community Church in Fresno, Calif. It’s my husband’s home congregation, and my mother-in-law gave the children’s story. She talked about using our five senses as a means to experience the Holy Spirit, and she read the book Sensing Peace, by Suzana E. Yoder (Herald Press, 2010).

Sensing Peace
Sensing Peace

This was one of the first children’s books I edited during my time here at Herald Press, and I continue to marvel at this gem of a book. The gentle cadence of the words, and the lovely illustrations make this a perfect book to talk with children about peace.

What does peace smell like? What does it taste like? Feel, sound or look like? Through Sensing Peace, children are encouraged to see what peace looks, sounds, feels, tastes and smells like in their everyday moments — things like laughing, cooking, gardening, singing or sharing ice cream.

While I hadn’t thought of the book before in relation to the Holy Spirit, it’s very appropriate because, just like experiencing peace, we can experience the Holy Spirit through our five senses.

In May I attended an excellent conference in Nashville called Faith Forward. There, the plenary speakers — including Bonnie Miller-McLemore, Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, Brian McLaren and Ivy Beckwith — talked about making faith part of everyday life for children. They talked about the importance of connecting with children, about the importance of relationship.

I saw the evidence of Sunday school teachers connecting with children this weekend at First Mennonite Church of Reedley, Calif., and seeing first hand how they put many MennoMedia resources into use for the children of their congregation.

Prayer tree

The lovely prayer tree below, explained Barbara Ewy, was built over several weeks using boxes and paint. The children kept adding leaves as the weeks went on, with their prayers for global and local concerns. She said the idea was a hit with the children, and they continued the activity far beyond the scope of the session. They got the idea from Kids Can Live Upside Down, part of the Kids Can series for midweek or club settings that MennoMedia produces.

This summer it’s my goal to work more faith practices into everyday learning with my own children. I’m trying to keep it simple, both in terms of supplies and time. Today our faith practice was blowing prayer bubbles. Each time we dipped the bubble wand into the solution, we named someone we wanted to thank God for.

At Faith Forward, I learned of a variety of websites with great ideas to help with this. Here are some sites that I’ve been perusing lately:

  • Building Faith: Part of the Mennonite Early Childhood Network, the site includes a weekly faith practice for families.
  • Picture Book Theology: This website makes theological connections by using secular picture books. With each daily post, there are all sorts of book details, topics the book connects with, Scripture connections, and at least one possible application.
  • Storypath: Like Picture Book Theology, this website connects children’s literature with the faith story. This one has a story for each week of lectionary, plus indexes for Scripture and theme.
  • Flame: Creative Children’s Ministry: This site is full of tactile and hands-on ways of learning.
  • Practicing Families: The tagline is “real life, real faith, real grace.” There are ideas for parents, children, and families and the posts are written by a bevy of different contributors.

What are you doing to build faith at home or in your church?

Amy Gingerich is the editorial director for MennoMedia in Harrisonburg, Va. This post also appeared on the MennoMedia blog, MennoBytes.

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