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How can we help children grow spiritually, becoming resilient and able to navigate difficulties in life? This is one of the most pressing and important questions for the church today.
Holly Catterton Allen, professor of family studies and Christian ministries at Lipscomb University, provides helpful guidance in doing just this in her newest book “Forming Resilient Children: The Role of Spiritual Formation for Healthy Development.”
Children’s well-being is constantly threatened by upheavals and trauma around them. They need to develop resilience to handle these difficulties. This book seeks to prove that nurturing the spiritual life of a child is the key to developing resilience.
First, Allen defines spiritual formation as “the lifelong, intentional, communal process of growing more aware of God’s presence and becoming more like Christ, through the Spirit, in order to live in restored relationship with God, ourselves, and others, in every dimension of life.”
Allen proposes that when children have a healthy spiritual understanding of self, their relationships with others and their relationship with God, they will become resilient.
The book provides a section for both churches and parents with examples of how each can foster spiritual resilience in children. For parents and grandparents, Allen explores the ideas of fostering religious conversation, participating in religious activities with children, modeling spiritual life and parenting firmly, yet lovingly.
Allen then moves from families fostering spiritual formation in children to the church’s role. This section would be highly beneficial for all children’s ministers and those teaching youth Bible classes. Allen highlights ways to craft Bible studies that are intentional about developing spiritual resilience in children. While not every example will work in every congregation, there is much to be taken from the suggestions.
The book has a good balance of scientific data, biblical concepts and practical application. Each chapter includes an illustration of what this looks like or why the concept is needed for spiritual formation and resilience.
Allen also includes a section that addresses children who have gone through severe trauma and grief. Even if the children in your youth program have not faced such trauma, these chapters would be helpful in preparing you and your children’s program for if and when such trauma happens.
The book is written at a popular level and is accessible to everyone. Those looking for a more scientific study in children’s resilience will desire more data and less illustrations. Yet, Holly Allen has provided a useful book that could be read by church staff, small groups or parents of children.
Everyone will walk away with a better understanding of the importance of spiritual formation in children and feel better equipped to help develop resilient children.
CHRIS KEARNEY is the preaching minister at the Windsong Church of Christ in North Little Rock, Ark., and is married with two small children. He has earned a Master of Divinity from Harding School of Theology and is currently a doctoral student in preaching at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary.
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