Those of us who work with children know it. How we treat children is essential to their future…and ours.
But many have known it over the years. As revealed in Childhood and Society, the published findings from his research, Erik Erikson understood this. “Erikson believed the effectiveness of leaders in his day was limited by a major blind spot in their thinking. As they sought solutions to the problems of society, they ignored childhood. They made no connection between the ways in which children were raised and how they functioned as adults. No importance was attributed to the formative processes in childhood when considering cause or solutions for social ills.”[i]
You could have told him that.
And it’s not so different in our churches. Catherine Stonehouse has also studied children and states in Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey, her published research findings, that “church leaders suffer from a similar blindness. Although we claim to value children and give lip service to the importance of their Christian education, reference to their spiritual formation seldom becomes a significant theme in major strategies for the church. Often senior pastors leave the care of children to support staff and volunteers without having integrated the nurturing of children into the big picture.”[ii]
You could have told her that, too.
George Barna’s findings substantiate this fact, too. Barna, who says that in all his years researching adults and ignoring children he didn’t just miss the boat, he missed the ocean, says that “if you want to shape a person’s life – whether you are most concerned about his or her moral, spiritual, physical, intellectual, emotional or economic development – it is during these crucial eight years [5-12 years per Barna] that lifelong habits, beliefs and attitudes are formed.”[iii]
And you could have told him that, too.
Whether you are a children’s pastor, school teacher, volunteer Sunday school leader, parent, tutor or babysitter, don’t give up. You know what you are doing is important. Don’t forget it.
“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it” (Proverbs 22:6).
[i] Erik Erikson, Childhood and Society, 104, as referenced by Catherine Stonehouse, Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey, 62.
[ii] Catherine Stonehouse, Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey, 62.
[iii] George Barna, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, 18.