Many religious leaders and faith community members are primarily interested in helping children adhere to a specific, pre-determined tradition. While that is their choice, that is not our goal. Instead, we adopt a more theologically open approach, grounded in the belief that we are all life-long faith seekers. Each of us must reach our own understanding of God/the Divine/the Great Mystery. Each of us must develop our own faith practice. Each of us must choose how to live a life that is both meaningful and compassionate in a world that often seems heartless and unfair. Moreover, this process is ongoing, changing over time as a result of development/aging and life experiences.
Because our approach avoids espousing any particular tradition, it can be used to help kids find their own faith (or no-faith). There are many ways to view God and many ways to articulate who/what God is. God might be envisioned as a divine force outside of us, as a grounding strength within us, as a powerful energy residing in all living things, as a combination of those ideas, or as something else entirely. But, it can be difficult for individuals to reach their own understanding of the Divine Mystery if they are required to adopt a single, pre-ordained viewpoint.
The same can be said of a faith practice. One size does not fit all. Weekly church services, daily sitting meditation, hikes in the woods, cooking for a group of friends, and dancing ecstatically have all enabled people to connect with the Sacred.
Helping our children find their place in the world – in times of joy and in times of sorrow – can include providing them with faith-seeking tools that will serve them throughout their lives. Inherent in this approach, is a deep appreciation for the faith of others. It’s simply not enough to tell children, “Be tolerant.” It is extremely difficult for humans to be tolerant of things that they don’t understand, that they’ve never heard of, or that seem entirely foreign. Evolutionarily, it was in our best interest to protect ourselves from “the other.” There are still some advantages to this approach, such as when we tell young children not to talk to strangers. But the global nature of our world is forcing us to move beyond a confining and limiting Us-Them viewpoint.
Religious belief and practice is often divisive. It’s time for that to change, and children are the place to start. Our contribution to that effort is to share the beauty of the world’s faith traditions in kid-friendly, age-appropriate ways. Thanks for being a part of this journey!