What Kids Need

I’ve been thinking a lot about spirituality in relationship to babies and children and youth these days. In my job I hear a lot of conflicting messages about how to nourish the souls of kids and fledgling adults: entertain them, take them to amusement parks, give them pizza, facilitate playtime, create programs that will entice them with hipness, be their bestie! As a minister, I hear this: escalated work hours, blurred boundaries, endless programs, bored and spiritually impoverished young people. I’m so weary of tactics. And the kids are, too. Here’s what our children and young people want: to be taken seriously, to be respected as human beings capable of spirituality, to be listened to, to be cared well for, to be accepted. No where in that list do I see rock bands, video games, pizza, bouncy houses, or indoor play parks. There are lots and lots of places in the world we can take our kids to be entertained and to consume. I am resistant to the idea that church should be one of them. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “It takes three things to attain a sense of significant being: God, a soul, and a moment.”

I’m not a parent {yet}. But when I am, I want church to be the kind of community my kid attains a sense of significant being in. I want my kid to understand that church is a place to be real in, to explore the human spirit and the Divine, to hear the stories of our tradition and remember that throughout time there have always been creative, compassionate, hopeful people at work in the world. I want my kids to remember that no matter how scary the world seems – no matter how much injustice and violence and chaos exists – there are always people of vision. I want my kid to know they are never alone and that God is embodied in moments when we come together in vision, hope, and creativity. As it turns out, that is exactly what I want church to be for me, too. How can we facilitate those moments for our kids? How can we embody God in song, in story, in play, in art? That, I think, would mean losing the tactics. It would mean paying serious attention to young souls in ways that are mindful of their own intelligence and capacity for spirituality. If you want glitz and a hipster-vibe and noise and hype, I’m not your gal. But if you want something that’s actually relevant and authentic, that’s the ministry I want to pursue with you and with your kids.

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