Transformational Children's Ministry

All week, we have been reviewing and commenting on Ivy Beckwith’s newest book called “Formational Children’s Ministry.” You can find previous installments in this review here:

In the last three installments in this series, we introduced Ivy Beckwith’s newest book, “Formational Children’s Ministry,” and looked at the importance of story and ritual in transforming kids. Today we will continue our chapter-by-chapter synopsis and review of the book looking at the transformational power of relationships beginning with family relationships, and I will offer my overall review of the book. Finally, I have included links to various reviews from other blogs which were posted as part of the book blog tour.

Chapter 9 – Soul Care Through Family Relationships

This chapter addresses the importance of the family in nurturing the spiritual development of children. Although family has been alluded to in earlier chapters, this chapter is dedicated the relationships a child has within the family including some of the struggles that families in our culture face which stand in the way of forming good relationships. The chapter speaks extensively of the busyness of families in our culture which does not allow enough time to form deep relationships.

Ms. Beckwith also addresses one of the areas that I see as a major, and negative, impact on children in our culture today. She writes:

When we view children as more mature than they are and believe that they have a sophisticated understanding of the world, this causes them to grow up faster because they are asked to shoulder more and more responsibility for themselves. When parents begin to see their kids as older and more emotionally mature than they really are, the parents may sense they can pull back from parenting, leaving the children more and more on their own to make their own decisions.

As a church, we must find ways to help families nurture solid relationships within their unit to help in the spiritual development of children.

In one little chapter, Ms. Beckwith hits on two issues faced by kids which are near and dear to my heart. We live in a culture that prides itself on being busy, and we are imposing that busyness on our kids. The result is often to raise busyness to the status of idol in our lives and the lives of our kids. When they are signed up for so many things that God and his church become secondary rather than primary, it is time to rethink our priorities.

Secondly, Ms. Beckwith addresses the premature and forced maturation of children in our society. We force our kids to grow up way to quickly and they miss out on childhood. I think she makes a profound point when she identifies the selfishness in some parents in not wanting to parent anymore as a potential cause for some of this phenomenon. Parent should, and must, be active in their children’s lives as a guide and an authority and an example.

Chapter 10 – Facilitating Spiritual Formation through Community Relationships

In addition to family relationships, a child’s spiritual formation is also impacted by community relationships. Ms. Beckwith points to the “age-stratification” of the church today and posits that “Age stratification happens because we’ve turned the church into a place where we go for ‘what we can get out of it.’” Ms. Beckwith argues that churches today are fundamentally broken in this area, and we must strive as a church to eliminate the “age-stratification” that exists and allow for inter-generational relationships to flourish.

There is much to be gained in the church community by promoting interactions amongst different age groups. Adults have much to offer to the children of a congregation in terms of wisdom and insight. Likewise, the children of a congregation have much to offer the adults in terms of modeling child-like faith and innocence. While I see benefits in providing age appropriate lessons to children versus adults, I do think that churches should actively seek out opportunities to promote inter-generational opportunities and relationships.

Chapter 11 – Facilitating Spiritual Formation through Peer-to-Peer Relationships

The final method of spiritual formation addressed in the book comes through peer-to-peer relationships. Ms. Beckwith notes the importance of strong peer-to-peer relationships amongst children then addresses some of the problems in the church and culture today that limit these from forming such as:

  • Irregular attendance
  • Larger churches and children’s ministries
  • Lack of attention from parents
  • A lack of children (numerically, and especially in emerging churches)

Obviously, there are a number of factors which prevent and/or discourage regular attendance in today’s church. Ms. Beckwith hits on many of these issues and stresses the importance of weekly attendance in terms of building solid peer-to-peer relationships. I would have liked to see more practical ideas in terms of how to overcome these obstacles.

My Overall Observations and Recommendation

I think Ms. Beckwith offers some useful suggestions and practical ideas in this book that would be beneficial to anyone working in Children’s Ministry, and for that reason alone I would suggest that you pick it up and read it. That said, the overall tone of the book is that Children’s ministry today is fundamentally broken and needs a complete over hall. While I think many of her suggestion could be useful improvements to any children’s ministry, I am reticent to throw out the baby with the bath water when it comes to effective children’s ministry. I do applaud Ms. Beckwith’s efforts to continually look for new and better ways to do children’s ministry. In the end, we share a common goal of reaching children with the gospel of Christ!

Though I am sometimes furnished with free review copies of books for the purposes of reviewing them on this blog, that was not the case with this book. The money to purchase it came directly out of my wallet, and as always that did not affect my review in any way.

Other Reviews of “Formational Children’s Ministry”

As promised, the following is the entry from March’s Children’s Ministry Blog Patrol including references to the other reviews of this book:

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for all the work you did here.

    I was wondering to myself how does someone relate these points back to the bible and I realized that God asks the Isrealites to teach these things to their Children. Not to hire someone to teach them.