Children's spirituality is often perceived in a caught moment: a child absorbed in creating a picture, a baby watching intently as the candles are lit, a toddler's thank you prayer.
We recognise it when we see it, but, like play, it defies a definition in words.
But it is also far more than a caught moment, for our spirituality is integral to all that we are.
Research (Hay D & Nye R 2000 The Spirit of the Child) indicates that spirituality is innate; that it is something we are born with. When asked to describe their spiritual experiences many adults will tell of something that happened in their childhood. (Robinson E 1977 The Original Vision) In a society that emphasises secularism and material prosperity, it can be hard for children's spirituality to be given the nurture it needs in order to develop. Often it seems that our children are growing up in spiritual poverty.
What are the possible elements of spirituality? We could include:
awe and wonder
awareness of "other" - both transcendent (outside ourselves) and immanent (within ourselves)
finding ways of relating to this experience of "other" that may be called God
a sense of community and the way we relate to other people, including taking social action
searching for meaning and engaging with difficult issues - death, freedom, aloneness, suffering
total absorption in the moment
What can we do to nurture children's natural spirituality?
Prayer: Creating opportunites for prayer in worship, schools and other settings
Godly Play: What is Godly Play; starting up; free response and more...
Sacred Space: Quiet rooms, creating a focus, Prayer Stations...
Story: Children's spirituality and narrative...
Labyrinths: Creating and experiencing a simple labyrinth with children and families