Spiritualdevelopment among children
Spiritualdevelopment is the continuous understanding of some form of beliefsand experiences on how we relate to the universe. 1Spiritualdevelopment is common to every individual but personal to everyone,in that everybody acquires different levels of understanding ofspiritual living as they grow from childhood to the adulthood.2Spiritualdevelopment is very crucial since it helps the children and the youngpeople develop an understanding, and reflect on what they interactwith, in the world. It helps the young people to make sense of theirlife and understand how they can fit with others in the right manner,as they interact in the environment where they live. The paper aimsat explaining the factors affecting spiritual development in childrenand young people. The paper explains the ways that can be used topromote and facilitate discipleship among children and the youngpeople, with the main aim of equipping volunteer leaders to provideproper care to children in their various groups so that the childrencan grow in more spiritual manner. It, not only aims at providing thevolunteers with knowledge on how children can spiritually grow, butalso discusses the various factors that can affect the spiritualdevelopment of children.
Factorsaffecting spiritual development among the youth and children
3Thereare several factors affecting the spiritual development in childrenand young people. They include parental influence, religiousparticipation, peer influence and risky behaviors and so forth. Thesefactors will determine how a young person will develop into a seriousLord servant in the society. The factors are further explained below.
Parentalinfluence is seen as one of the most influential factors thatdetermine religiousness of children and the young people.
4Itis argued that parents have the potential to decide and shape theviews of a child or a young adult to any religion. The religion of aparent and the righteousness of the parent play an important part inensuring the religious practices of the children and the youngpeople. For example, for an upcoming Christian adult, the religiousparticipation and practices of the parents will significantly affecthis or her religious beliefs and practices. The practice can beevident even in the adult life of the person as the church attendanceof the parents can best predict the religiousness of the child incollege. 5Also,children who are raised with the families that stick to specificdenominations tend to stick to such denominations even in theiradulthood. In such families, there exist stronger agreements amongthe parents and the children on matters concerning religion than theway they agree on other matters. It is, therefore, evident thatreligious practices can be passed from one generation to the nextwith a lot of ease, provided the parents are religious. 6Toadd onto these, the kind of relationship that parents develop withthe young adults also affects the religious route the young adultwill likely take. For instance, if a young adult had a close positiverelationship with the parents, they will easily stay with thereligious practices of the parents. To ensure that young people growspiritually at the family level, it is the duty of the parents toportray good examples constantly that their children and thesubsequent generations can follow.
Parentaldivorce is another factor that affects the religious developmentamong the young people in that religion and spirituality have greatimportance on how a young adult will interpret and respond to thedivorce cases of the parents if it happens at their mid-to-lateteenage years3.The spiritual experience that is evident for the young adults ispurely tied to their adjustments to their adulthood life, and theyare likely to view their parent’s divorce as a spiritual loss thatcan lead them to experience a lot of spiritual struggles in theirattempts to adjust. Young adults who are growing spiritually normallyview divorce as a righteous loss, and they may try to apply severaladaptive mechanisms to cope with the lifestyle. 7Theymay, in turn, develop greater interrelationship with God, somethingwhich makes them grow deeper in spiritual matters.
Religiousparticipation is viewed to be positively linked to marital pleasure,and negatively associated with marital chaos. High parentalreligiousness cannot be associated with divorce, and that childrencoming from families that have never experienced divorce cases arelikely to be more religious as they maintain religious acts andreport a good relationship with the Almighty God.
Duringyoung adulthood, emerging adults tend to question their religiousbeliefs and if there is a need for them to participate in religiouspractices. During this period, people tend to practice less religioncompared to their adolescent stage as less than half of the youngadults frequently attend religious events and services. The changescan be attributed to the fact that young adult changes their primarylocation of residence, they constantly experience decreased interestin the religion they increase to doubt more facts given by religionas they involve themselves in many unreligious practices. At the sametime, young adults can adjust their beliefs, and they can become moreskeptical of institutional religion as compared to the adults and theadolescents.
Youngadults and children who participate more in religious activities andare righteous are more likely to have a healthy and prosper in life.They are likely to have a positive relationship with their parentsthey will experience very little psychological distress, and theywill have reduced physical health issues since they will beexperiencing greater life satisfaction. Such people will freelyparticipate in altruistic characters such as advocating humanitarianefforts as well as volunteering at various hospitals. During youngadult years, there is a positive correlation between various regularreligious practices and the kind of identity achieved during adultyears. Higher self-perception of value and competency can bepositively attributed to religious participation which is not thesame to those who participate less in religious matters as they postlow self-esteem and deteriorated competence. 8Also,young adults who regularly participate in religious matters show goodmorals and more desirable conservative values as compared to thosewho participate less in religious activities.
Peergroups are believed to post great influence on young adults but thenthe full effect they have on the righteousness of an individual isstill not very clear. Some people believe that peer influence doesvery little when it comes to influencing the religiousness of anindividual. Most of the time, peer influence has an effect on whethera young adult will attend a Christian youth group events and collegegroups, due to the social nature and the kind of enjoyment they arelikely to get from such events. They can be influenced by the friendswho attend such events making the others be part of such events. 9Peerinfluences also have an effect on the dating relationships mostly inthe Christian faith that have specific guidelines concerninginterfaith relationships. 10Thedecision to join or leave a certain denomination is greatly affectedby the quality, and the number of friends an upcoming adult has inthat denomination
Riskyactivities are normally associated with young adults, and they may behaving a connection with the righteousness and risky acts of theyoung people. 11Therisky behaviors tend to drive away the mindset of the young peopleaway from religious practices and if such behaviors are notcontrolled the community may easily bring up a confused group ofyoung adults. These behaviors include gambling, sex, and delinquency.
Gambling: It is becoming an increasingly popular activity that possesses a lot of problems to the coming generation and even the current one. Its emergence can be attributed to the internet as most of them are effected through the internet i.e. internet gambling, lottery tickets, and sports event gambling. The effect of the online gambling is its addictive nature. Most of the young people who participate in the gambling and lottery activities live below the poverty line, and some of them are out of college with nowhere to get cash. Gambling negatively affects the religious development of young people as most people tend to opt out of religious groups.
Sexual behavior religious upbringing have the effect of ensuring that young adults postpone sexual activities until marriage. If the number of youths attending church services increase, there is a likelihood of more people abstaining from sex until marriage and that the youths who attend religious meetings are less likely to engage in premarital sex as compared to those who do not attend such services. Adopting strong religious practices among the young people normally helps the youth abstain from sex until they marry after which they cannot engage themselves in sex with other people apart from their spouses. With this setting, immoral sexual acts can be avoided by the young people. The premarital sexual behaviors normally land the youths into undesirable lifestyles, and if such is not discouraged, most of the youths may grow up without any religious mindset.
Delinquency religion should positively lower delinquency among the young people, and the environment where the person is raised should favor good manners. When the surrounding that a young person lives in encourages wrong practices, the young people in such areas are likely to engage themselves in ungodly acts which they might proceed with up to their adulthood. A society that does not entertain wrong doings among the young people or the society as a whole is likely to bring up a responsible group of young men and women. The adults in such areas will have easy tasks when ensuring that the young people follow religious deeds.
Mostchildren raised by single parents normally become unruly but then asthey approach adulthood, they turn to religious institutions to getreligious nourishment and experience some social control, somethingthey miss from their homes. The support from religious organizationsmay help the young avoid delinquent acts.
Similaritiesof the Impacts that the family, school, and the local church have onspiritual development of the young people
12Boththe family, school and the local church have contributed positivelyto the spiritual development of children and the young adults. Thefamily, the school, and the local church should work hand in hand inensuring that spiritual development is effective by the family beingthe baseline where the young people get first-hand spiritualnourishment from the parents. The school makes the young peopleunderstand the values they read from different sectors as the localchurch ensures that the young people participate actively inChristian related projects to ensure that they become goodambassadors of Christ.
Ifa young person hails from a family that respects the word of God, itis very easy for the local church and the school to guide the youngadult towards achieving spiritual nourishment as he or she issurrounded by the Christ related issues. So the family provides abasis from where the school and the local church help grow the youngperson into a spiritual being thus both the family, the school andthe local enhance the spiritual development of young adults and thechildren.
Thefamily, the school, and the local church should always encourageyoung people to appreciate the importance of restraining themselves,having dignity and respect themselves and other people. And they bothwork together to help the young people recognize the physical,emotional and moral risks of unintentional and immoral sexual acts.
Differencesof the impacts of family, the school and the local church on thediscipleship of young people
13Thefamily is the basic foundation for ensuring the children interactfreely with the parents and that the parents are responsible forsocializing their children in the ways of the Lord. The school, onthe other hand, helps give the children basic knowledge especiallywhen it comes to reading and writing. The ability to understand whatis in the books helps the pupils to understand biblical teachings andpractice them while the local church helps in ensuring that thechildren socialize freely with other members of the church despitethe age differences.
14Thefamily helps equip the children with the basic Christian values thatthey copy and practice from their parents meaning that a familyshould be strong when it comes to understanding the word of God. Theschool, on the other hand, build on the knowledge the kids obtainfrom their parents, to emphasize salvation while the church helps thechildren practice the values they got from both the church and fromhome to be able to serve themselves and others.
Whenit comes to ensuring that the young people develop spiritually, thegood relationship at the family level will enhance how a child willrelate to others in the school and at the local church. The school,on the other hand, gives the young people reference points from thosewho have performed well in spiritual matters and how they have helpedchange lives in the society so that the young people can use them asexamples. The local church, on the other hand, has helped organizethe knowledge that the children got from home and school intobiblical perspective. So this has made possible for them to relategood behaviors and discipleship with the whole life of Jesus Christso that they don’t deviate from doing service to others.
Howto promote and facilitate discipleship in children
15Discipleshipis the kind of ministry that is divinely mandated by Jesus Christ tohis disciples, and every youth should be in a position promotediscipleship. For this to be effective, discipleship should bepromoted and facilitated among the children and the young adults. The Bible also emphasizes that parents rear their children accordingto the teachings of the Bible i.e. Ephesians 6:4 “And fathers, donot provoke your children to anger but bring them up in disciplineand instruction of the Lord.” Several ways exist that can be usedto facilitate discipleship among the young adults, for instance, thelocal church should be the disciple for every child, but then theprimary discipleship should be cultivated in the child by theparents. 16Thelocal church and the youth ministry only provide the parents and theyoung adults with knowledge and understanding that encourages them towalk with Christ and then pass such acts to their children.
Parental responsibility and involvement
17Thereis a need for all parents to plan, oversee the church activities oftheir children, and fully participate in all official teen activitieswith their children in the church. Parents have the primaryresponsibility for ensuring that their children’s discipleship isorganized, this then requires that the institutions responsible fordiscipleship insist on ensuring that strong families exist for thechildren. Most of the youth ministries should be practiced in thehomes such that the parents invest most of their time and energy inensuring that their children are getting spiritual nourishment, theydevelop mentally, socially and vocationally.
Theidea of one-size-fits-all programs in the churches may not beeffective for enhancing youth discipleship. So parents shouldunderstand the different capabilities of their children and thenorganize personal programs to each of them according to theircapabilities. With this kind of program, parents will be on theforefront for their children, like teachers, social timetable, andany other influences they may give their children in the course oftheir development. It will also help counter the issue teensseparating themselves from the parents and other adults. 18Fromthe Book of Deuteronomy 6, parents are encouraged to seek the Kingdomof the Lord on their own by using their personal spiritualchastisements and always be free to pass whatever they learn to theirchildren as they carry out normal duties at home.
Thereis a need for all youth ministries to devise a surrounding that willencourage youths of different ages and parents to mingle freely. 19Byso doing, the organizations will be emphasizing on the body of Christas one not creating a separate culture among the youths. It is ameans of ensuring discipleship among the youths. Most of the programsin the youth ministries should be church oriented. Separating theyouth from the adults only invents some form of secular humanistthinking and not biblical. It only enhances foolishness andnon-spiritual development in the young generation. Since wisdom andmaturity among the young people cannot be effective when the youthsare interacting with their peers only thus, there is a need for allthe churches to ensure that they don’t group young peopleseparately from the adults. The Bible is on the forefront inpromoting socialization across different generations and parentsshould ensure that their children do not spend most of their timewith friends of their age. 20Theolder people have the responsibility of guiding the young people, andthe young people should be humble to receive the teachings from theolder people as even the Book of Proverbs 13:20 emphasizes that “Hewho walks with wise people will be wise, and a companion of foolswill suffer harm.”
Apartfrom the official activities that the local church organizes for theyouth and the parents, there is a need for the families to organizeother activities at the family level. Thus, it is not the mandate ofthe local church to organize every activity tailored towards growingdiscipleship of the young people. And in very set up, the mainemphasis should be the promotion of discipleship among the younggeneration. By filling the calendar of the church with many youthprograms may interfere with the parents having quality time withtheir children that can hinder them from nurturing their childrenspiritually and in personal ways. The church calendar plans should bein the hands of the families so that enough time is available for theparents to interact with their children and nurture them. Each andevery family deserves the freedom to participate individually inactivities provided they do not show any ill motives. And that,“Through presumption comes nothing but strife….” (Proverbs13:10). And that the parents and those taking care of young peopleshould always be on the forefront in ensuring that no one comparesthemselves with other people but instead put more focus on Christ (2Corinthians 10:12). Sometimes every Christian is forced to makedecisions under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and such decision issometimes hurtful to other people even when their mission was not tohurt others. Most people do not like their motives judged by others.The Golden rule in the book of Mathew 7:12 discourage people fromjudging decisions of other people.
Solid biblical teachings
Strongteachings from the Bible are very crucial when it comes to ensuringthat the young people lead a life of salvation and developspiritually. There is a need for every organization to ensure thatthe teens get Biblical teachings and for this to be effective, thereis a need to create an appetite for the youths to have the word ofGod. A mechanism should be designed that ensures that young peopleparticipate actively in studying the scriptures. The organizationsshould be in a position to guard against any misunderstanding of theBible by ensuring that they are very sensitive to the understandingof the scriptures at different ages of the children. Those who areresponsible for taking care of the youths need to be qualifiedspiritually and portray enough skills to communicate and apply theBiblical teachings. There is the need of the elders approving anycircular before serving them to the youths. Some people believe thatchildren should not be taught serious doctrines of life. If theBible’s teachings are not well delivered to the young people, thehope of bringing up a focused generation that can take charge of thebiblical teachings in the churches may easily die.
21Thereis a need to motivate the young individuals to see themselves as thewhole body of Jesus Christ and not as a young flesh. Theorganizations should always have the wish to nurture a feeling in theyoung people so that they can actively participate in churchactivities and serving even when the program is not organized for theteens. If the youths are Church oriented, they easily get preparedfor leadership roles in the church since they automatically becomeChrist ambassadors in different homes.
Discipleshipfor the teens without children
22Mostpeople emphasize that the parents should be the one to teach theirsons and daughters the ways of the Lord. But then other teens areraised up by parents that do not appreciate salvation and others donot want to engage their children in the activities related todiscipleship. Those who are taking care of the teens should make it arule that the parents have to participate so that their children canlearn discipleship in the various organizations. All the youthsshould be received in the ministries so that they can participate inthe ministries. Ephesians 4:1-3: “I, therefore, the prisoner ofthe Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling withwhich you have been called, with all humanity and gentleness, withpatience, showing forbearance for one another in love, being diligentto preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Anyonewho makes a decision to participate in discipleship should beequipped with the religious need and shown the paths of salvation.All the people should be involved in building strong saints so thatBiblical evangelism can be effective so that other righteous peoplecan be involved in the whole path of discipleship.
Bridger,F., Childrenfinding faith: exploring a child`s response to God,2nd Revised edn., Milton Keynes: Scripture Union. (Growing in faith),2000.
Downs,P.G., Teachingfor spiritual growth: an introduction to Christian education.Grand Rapids, Mich, Zondervan Publishing House, 1994.
Focuson the Family et al.,Parents` guide to the spiritual growth of children: helping yourchild develop a personal faith.Carol Stream Ill, Tyndale House, 2000.
Fowler,J.W., Stagesof faith: the psychology of human development and the quest formeaning.New York, HarperCollins, 1995.
Keeley,R.J., Helpingour children grow in faith: how the church can nurture the spiritualdevelopment of kids.Grand Rapids, Mich, Baker Books, 2008.
Priolo,L.P., Teachthem diligently: how to use the Scriptures in child training.Hackettstown,NJ, Timeless Texts, 2000.
Tripp,T., Instructinga child’s heart.Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2009.
1J.W. Fowler, Stages of faith: the psychology of human development and the quest for meaning. New York, HarperCollins, 1995, p. 120.
2P.G. Downs, Teaching for spiritual growth: an introduction to Christian education. Grand Rapids, Mich, Zondervan Publishing House, 1994, p. 20.
3R.J. Keeley, Helping our children grow in faith: how the church can nurture the spiritual development of kids. Grand Rapids, Mich, Baker Books, 2008, p. 43.
4L.P. Priolo, Teach them diligently: how to use the Scriptures in child training. Hackettstown, NJ, Timeless Texts, 2000, p.23.
5P.G.Downs, Teaching for spiritual growth: an introduction to Christian education. Grand Rapids, Mich, Zondervan Publishing House, 1994,p. 21
6P.G.Downs, Teaching for spiritual growth: an introduction to Christian education. Grand Rapids, Mich, Zondervan Publishing House, 1994,p. 22
7T. Tripp, Instructing a child’s heart. Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2009, p.45.
8L.P. Priolo, Teach them diligently: how to use the Scriptures in child training. Hackettstown, NJ, Timeless Texts, 2000, p.23.
9P.G. Downs, Teaching for spiritual growth: an introduction to Christian education. Grand Rapids, Mich, Zondervan Publishing House, 1994, p. 26.
10Focus on the Family et al., Parents` guide to the spiritual growth of children: helping your child develop a personal faith. Carol Stream Ill, Tyndale House, 2000, p. 17.
11F. Bridger, Children finding faith: exploring a child`s response to God, 2nd Revised edn., Milton Keynes: Scripture Union. (Growing in faith), 2000, p. 15.
12Focus on the Family et al., Parents` guide to the spiritual growth of children: helping your child develop a personal faith. Carol Stream Ill, Tyndale House, 2000, p. 17.
13Focus on the Family et al., Parents` guide to the spiritual growth of children: helping your child develop a personal faith. Carol Stream Ill, Tyndale House, 2000, p. 17.
14T. Tripp, Instructing a child’s heart. Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2009, p.45.
15T. Tripp, Instructing a child’s heart. Wapwallopen, PA, Shepherd Press, 2009, p.45.
16L.P. Priolo, Teach them diligently: how to use the Scriptures in child training. Hackettstown, NJ, Timeless Texts, 2000, p.23.
17R.J. Keeley, Helping our children grow in faith: how the church can nurture the spiritual development of kids. Grand Rapids, Mich, Baker Books, 2008, p. 43.
18L.P. Priolo, Teach them diligently: how to use the Scriptures in child training. Hackettstown, NJ, Timeless Texts, 2000, p.23
19J.W. Fowler, Stages of faith: the psychology of human development and the quest for meaning. New York, HarperCollins, 1995, p. 122.
20F. Bridger, Children finding faith: exploring a child`s response to God, 2nd Revised edn., Milton Keynes: Scripture Union. (Growing in faith), 2000, p. 15.
21L.P. Priolo, Teach them diligently: how to use the Scriptures in child training.
22R.J. Keeley, Helping our children grow in faith: how the church can nurture the spiritual development of kids. Grand Rapids, Mich, Baker Books, 2008, p. 43.