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Spirituality is often defined as a person’s individual relationship and dialogue with God, or whatever name that person assigns to a greater power. Recent scientific studies have given hard evidence to what many others have observed about spirituality for years. In terms of children and teens, there are seven main things adults need to know about children and teen’s spirituality:

1      Spirituality is inherent. A child does not need to be taught spirituality in order to have it. Human nature seeks a connection to the divine from birth.
 2     A child’s vision of the nature of God is largely shaped by their earliest human relationships. A baby who is cared for in a warm and loving way by one or more caregivers, will likely grow to view God as a loving figure. A baby whose caregivers are remote and disinterested in much of that baby’s activities, will most likely develop a sense of God as a remote and disinterested being.
 3      Adolescence brings on a surge of spirituality and spiritual interest, along with many other more obvious growth and development surges. Teens are naturally curious about spiritual matters at this time in their lives, but also particularly vulnerable to being cut off from this important part of themselves if they are not permitted to discuss and explore it fully.
 4      A strong spiritual core has great protective value against destructive and risky behaviour, such as drug and alcohol abuse and unprotected sexual activity.
 5      Having a strong sense of shared spirituality with close family members and mentors increases the protective value of that strong spiritual core.
 6      Adults in a child or teen’s life can support that child’s spiritual development by talking with them about spiritual matters, as well as seeing and naming that child or adolescent’s calls and gifts.
    7       Everyone in a child or teen’s spiritual community, (i.e. our congregation!) can support them through direct involvement with Youth and Family Ministries programs such as Sunday School, Youth Group and Confirmation mentoring, or through less direct involvement such as prayer for younger congregation members and financial support to Youth and Family Ministries. A welcoming smile can also go a long way to building our church “bonfire of love” which warms each and every one of us.


For more in depth reading about the science behind research into children’s spirituality, you can read Lisa Miller’s book The Spiritual Child: The New Science on Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2015)

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