Opening Doors To Discipleship is a series of four courses in the Presbyterian/Reformed tradition to help teachers and leaders equip themselves to be faithful teachers and leaders.
Spirituality Matters

Christian education has successfully incorporated different learning styles into programs and the general educational frame to accommodate learners as they grow in their Christian faith. However, less attention has been paid to the important role that the various spiritualities children and youth exhibit play in the formation of insightful, vibrant, and faithful Christians. And perhaps less consideration has been dedicated to incorporating spirituality into education generally. 

David M. Csinos advocates in Children’s Ministry That Fits: Beyond One-Size-Fits-All Approaches to Nurturing Children’s Spirituality (foreword by Joyce E. Bellous and afterword by Brian D. McLaren; published by Wipf & Stock) that educators pay careful attention to the different spirituality approaches of children so as to create a more inclusive and effective educational environment. While there is a natural overlap of spirituality styles, Csinos identifies four general approaches that provide different but equally legitimate means through which people connect and establish a rich relationship with God.

Word-Centered Approach: People who prefer this style are cognitive, intellectual, thoughtful, critically reflective, and are interested in the significance of words and the life of the mind.

Emotion-Centered Approach: Those who learn best in this way appreciate feelings, freedom, creativity, personal experience, and they are centered in the heart.

Symbol-Centered Approach: Those for whom this approach is best appreciate silence, ritual, prayer, drawing, beauty, listening, imagination, and they desire union with God.

Activity-Centered Approach: This approach is not the kinesthetic learning style; rather the activity-centered learner is focused on justice, compassion, social action, and kingdom-building.

The curricula congregations currently use may not provide features that sufficiently nurture various spirituality styles; therefore, it may be necessary for educators to find ways to incorporate appropriate elements into their programs. However, before doing so, they should thoughtfully consider, research, and discuss the possibilities with students and other educators. 

As in so many cases, the character and approach of educators and their receptivity to different learning and spirituality styles is vital in creating environments where children feel connected and engaged. It will be fruitful to teach parents and caregivers about the different spirituality styles to equip them for the important task and responsibility of educating and nurturing their children. Educators may also wish to consider balancing spirituality approaches as well as learning styles when facilitating educational programs for adults.

By Ian McDonald, Associate Secretary for Canadian Ministries (The Presbyterian Church in Canada)