What is Children’s Spirituality? Does it matter?

Children’s Spirituality: what it is and why it matters—Rebecca Nye (2009) Church House Publishing, UK.


All of us are spiritual people, and children are often more open to their relationship with God and their reflection of God’s image than older people. This basic premise, based on through qualitative research, underlies Nye’s important work in the area of children’s spirituality, which has gained wide respect and acknowledgement by theologians, psychologists and educationists.

Her writing in this slim volume is thorough, imaginative, and accessible; and encourages readers to connect more deeply and playfully with their own spirituality and with the spirit of the young in their care.

The opening chapters outline the many ways we think and talk about spirituality, always including questions for the readers to think about and discuss from their own particular perspectives. Following this Nye provides several chapters on nurturing child spirituality by providing vocabulary and practices for its flourishing.

One of the refreshing aspects of this book is the way it explores the activity of the Spirit within and beyond the scope of standard Christian practice. For instance, a child’s wondering as it falls asleep is shown to be at least as holy a time as its worship encounters in church. Within the realm of the church’s faith formation practices, the program, Godly Play, which she promotes actively in the UK, (developed and promoted by Jerome Berryman in North America), receives the bulk of her positive attention.

However, even if one uses other curricula, such as Menno Media’s Gather ’Round, many of the principles of providing S.P.I.R.I.T. (space, process, imagination, relationship, intimacy, and trust) can be easily applied and integrated.

Nye provides helpful guidelines for parents and other carers (the new term I’m coming across for caregivers) as they accompany the young in the process of growing in wisdom, in spirit, and in relationship with God, whether one is parenting a child outside or within ‘the church’.

This book does not provide easy or neat definitions of the spiritual life, but it does open a window through which the winds of the Spirit can blow. For instance, she opens chapter one of her important and intriguing book with this ‘definition’:

delighting in all things

being absorbed in the present moment

not too attached to ‘self’ and

eager to explore boundaries of ‘beyond’ and ‘other’

searching for meaning

discovering purpose

open to more?

               Nye’s Children’s Spirituality certainly helped me explore boundaries of ‘beyond’ and ‘other’, and left me feeling full of purposes as a child advocate, searching for more dialogue on this important topic. It is part of a revitalization of church and theology in the UK. May it ‘stir the waters’ in NA as well.

Available here – http://resources.mennonitechurch.ca/ResourceView/2/15688.


About Elsie Hannah Ruth Rempel

As a young senior whose life could easily have ended in a nasty car crash in 2012 I live with an extra dose of gratitude to God, humanity, and the wonders of our human bodies. I am a passionate advocate for ministry WITH children and seniors in the life and ministry of the church. I started working in Faith Formation with Mennonite Church Canada in 2002. Thinking and writing about faith helps me see God at work in all kinds of surprising places. I'd like to be remembered as one who encourages others to live into God's good dream for our world. My book, Please Pass the Faith: The Spiritual Art of Grandparenting, is one big way I'm trying to share that encouragement with my peers. This blog is another way I'd like to engage people who care about growing in faith across the generations.
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