My previous post explores the need for churches to create space for children to exist outside of behavioral expectations and standardization. I find grace as a powerful tool for this. John Wesley, in his Lessons for Children defines grace as: “The Power of the Holy Ghost, enabling us to believe, and love, and serve God. Grace becomes the force which pulls people closer to God.
By closer to God, I don’t want to speak of an otherworldly being or powerful king. Instead, I think of the open horizon of new possibilities of new futures. These new futures are not elsewhere, but in the present time and space. For these children in rural communities, the new future can simply be having fun and learning without evaluations and restrictive rules. The space to imagine and grow can exist, with the scaffolding of grace.
Plain white paper becomes a scaffolding. Instead of expecting kids to produce or replicate an expected piece of art or writing, the paper allows freedom to create. Instead of programmed activities for hours, 45 minutes of free play with multiple options allows children to make choices. Teaching prayer practices becomes scaffolding. Instead of simply having students memorize spoken prayers, prayer practices provide imaginative ways for children to engage with God and the world, whether body prayers, music, art, or other ways of exploring. Finally, allowing children to share with us their lives is important. You will hear stories of pain, joy, sorrow, anger, and more as children give words (and sometimes images through art) to their experiences.
While, yes, I agree formal faith formation is necessary, and I will write more about that in the future, the simple act of providing the free space in an environment filled with love, freedom, and community becomes a means of grace, or a way of experiencing God’s love and the possibilities of the future. A future in their rural world, where often, futures are in short supply.