Monday, 04 May 2020 How to teach children about God: Howard Worsley and Ronni Lamont's new books

Blog | Author Interviews

Many people — parents, ministers, and educators struggle to teach about God in a way that resonates with children. No longer! We are thrilled this week to publish two wonderful books that provide practical and thoughtful guidance on the importance of understanding the unique spirituality of children and how best to share our faith with them.

How Not to Totally Put Your Children Off God

Howard Worsley

How can a parent share their faith without confusing or scaring their child away from God? How Not to Totally Put Your Children Off God provides practical insight on what does and doesn't work when teaching children about faith.

Howard is a dad, a Christian leader and a theologian. He reflects in his book on what did and didn't work when he taught his own children. He has also elicited the help of his sons to write their perspectives on how their experiences and memories connect, or differ from, his own.

Faith in Children

Ronni Lamont

For ministers and educators, Ronni Lamont's Faith in Children will be a welcome source of inspiration. Faith in Children draws upon Ronni's extensive teaching experience and her emprical research offers a window into how children think and process information.

With rare insights into a range of teaching methods, learning styles and the unique spirituality of children, Faith in Children suggests that adults can truly learn from children as they learn from us.

To celebrate the publication of their wonderful new novels, we were lucky to eavesdrop on Howard and Ronni chatting about everything — faith, children, and the importance of having fun at church. Pour your self a lovely cup of tea and enjoy their chat below!

Howard: Many of us will know from experience that "take your children to church and they will believe in Jesus" just isn’t true. While researching How Not to Totally Put Your Children Off God, I've met so many parents who are really worried for their children who have grown up without a faith. We need to leave the faith question to God, and be faithful ourselves....But there is no single solution to children having faith, other than God. God wants us to florish in awareness of him and the joy of his love. And we can ask ourselves, are churches places where the love of Jesus is known? Is that our experience? The answer is of course no, and we need to be humble in our attitude.

Ronni: Churches can be wonderful places and awful places. When I was in my last parish, we had a professional puppeteer. Imagine that Howard? This puppeteer worked on Star Wars and he and I had so much fun during the all age services. Church isn't often fun. We don't do enough of that.

Howard: I've been amazed at what children like. My children loved Complin night. They'd even invite their friends to join in. They’d say, "come and do complins with my dad!" In the pause afterwards, there was a space to talk about our beliefs, so it was a great time for everyone.

Ronni: There are often assumptions about what Christians believe. And when you ask what children believe, they come out with the most incredible things. That's why I called my book Faith in Children, it's about having confidence in them and their spirituality. For example, a group of young people were exploring what they do when they're feeling down. And this thirteen year old boy made a model of himself in his room with another person. When I asked who that other person was, he said, "it's the angel, but I can't see it." And that just blew me away that this typical thirteen year old was having regular experiences of an angel being with him. Typically, you just don't get people talking about such things.

Howard: I love the language of angels! Theologians don't really know exactly what they are. Once while I was in charge of a session with children on Daniel and the lion’s den, I asked them all to draw a picture of the scene. The boys drew muscular angels holding off the lions, the girls drew a super woman type angel doing the same. One boy drew a picture of an angel, but then rubbed it out saying it "wasn't good enough." He then suddenly exclaimed, “I’ve worked out how to draw angels!” Pointing at his half rubbed out picture he said, "You can't see angels, but you can see where they've been."

Children have a great ability to talk about the divine and the things on the edge of perception really simply and easily. Children can say things that really help us recapture the sense that we're in a fully spiritual world. We need to listen to our children and not stand over them as though we have God on our side and in our pocket. We must listen to their perceptions — their questions. I happen to be a theological educator, but I don't know everything! No theologian has the last answer on everything spiritual.

Ronni: Exactly. Respect and inclusion are so important. Something that really affected my ministry was when a child said that he wasn't "part of the body" because he wasn't allowed to take communion. Are we all ‘one body’ or not? We need to take children seriously.

Howard: I was brought up to be very conservative about the bible. But my children opened my eyes that I was being a bit overly reverential. I love the story of Balaam’s donkey. I was reading this story to my kids, and their comment was that the story was “like shrek.” Typically adults will start tying themselves in knots trying to explain how the donkey was able to speak. Kids just accept it and take the story as a story, and talk about it. And that's really helpful.

Ronni: The way that stories affect us is so profound. We can hold up stories like they're in glass cases, but we need to form our own opinions on stories, and sometimes we need to not like the stories. And what we must not do is tell them what to believe. You can teach children to read the bible and pray, but me trying to give children my faith is silly — they're not me.

Howard: I like that that approach. We also mustn’t become legalistic and make them believe in a simple faith construct. Show them the complexity of our faith, otherwise your children will think you're stupid. I've heard many children say, "I think my parents are stupid because they don't think about their faith." We need a living faith, that Jesus will be known in love.

Ronni: If it's living, it will grow and change. It won't get stale. And people and children respond to me as a person, when I respond to them as a person. It gives people the confidence to talk about faith.

Thank you for sharing your conversation with us, Ronni and Howard!

Faith in Children
is available in paperback here and Ebook here.
How Not to Totally Put Your Children Off God is available in paperback here and Ebook here.