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Everyday Worship, Perspectives

What will we tell our children?

As I told my friends about my 52 Weeks of Worship project, one of the things that I heard frequently from my friends with small children (and most of my friends who have children have small children) was, “Wow, that’s so great! I should do something like that, because I need to figure out what to teach my kids about religion and spirituality.”

In many ways, I think – being faced with teaching a small child about faith, or worship, or religion, or spirituality (or whatever you want to call it), makes us have to really think about what we truly believe. And sometimes, that is something we haven’t done in a long time.

Many friends who for one reason or another have left the church, or abandoned traditional ways of worship, wake up one day with an inquisitive child asking about things that they have heard in school, or on tv, or on the Internet about God, Jesus, or other religious figures.

  • A friend of mine said that her 5 year child asked her “Mommy, who’s Jeebus?” and she was taken aback because she realized that the conversation that she probably should have had with her child hadn’t taken place. And now she was trying to figure out how to find a place where her child could get some spiritual grounding, but not be exposed to things she wasn’t thrilled about. She was raised Catholic, but wasn’t sure that is what she wanted for her kids. We talked about the different places that I had visited and what we thought might serve as a safe space for worship for her and her children.
  • Another friend of mine told me that he had regularly spent all weekend in church as a child, and had a sense that nobody there liked it–they just did it because they thought they were supposed to, and everyone else did it and had always done it. He was raised Southern Baptist, and as soon as he was able, he stopped (what he considered to be) the madness of the weekend church marathon. But he now has two young sons and is trying to figure out what he wants to teach them. He made me laugh by saying he didn’t trust sending his kids to a Sunday School because he wanted some control over what they were exposed to. But he didn’t know yet what that was. And everyday, they are getting older.
  • I was impressed by another friend who has taught her kids how to say grace before meals and how to pray before bed, but she confided in me that she still grapples with trying to figure out what to teach them about spirituality in general.

The caveat is that most of these friends of mine were raised in a Christian context of some sort. I would love to talk to people who were raised in some other religious tradition and wonder if they have the same challenges.

In my 52 Things I learned during my 52 Weeks of Worship, my #2 lesson was that “It is about God, and community, and experience, and worship, and culture, and family, and love. In many senses, I appreciate those who can realize that, come to terms with the contradictions and challenges of organized religion, yet still find a way to provide some instruction to their children on issues of spirituality, religion, or faith. Because I believe that some instruction is better than no instruction. Whenever I enter a place of worship, or a community religious space, I am always interested when I see kids –I assume that the parents that are responsible for them think that this religion, this way of life, is the best framework within which they can raise their kids.  In every place of worship I visited and saw children, my assumption was that every family was doing the best they can by those children.

I was inspired to write this post when I read Bassey Ikpi’s post called “Bringing Up Boogie – Jesus, Boogie & the Bible: Wading in the Sticky Waters of Religion.” In her typical thoughtful fashion, she talks about her religious journey and how raising a child has impacted her thoughts about where she and her son really need to be on Sunday morning (or Saturday, or Wednesday night meditation, or whatever.) It appeared to me that her father also cosigned on my #2 lesson – and partially helped to inspire her to decide what to do in regards to her son’s exposure to a variety of spiritual practices. The rest was about how she wanted to be intentional about what he was exposed to and to give him the best framework for deciding, ultimately, what he would believe. And I love hearing about intentional spiritual journeys. One thing that I learned on my journey is that there is a place of worship for everyone. I don’t have children yet, but I am excited to know that through this experience, I am clarifying what I believe and where I will go to strengthen those beliefs so that when I do have kids,I will know what to tell them.

(photo credit: image from http://dcf.wi.gov/bcs/)

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