Ten years ago my desire was to write a curriculum I would want to use. One that would foster and feed the relationship between children and God.
As I began to imagine how to structure this enormous project, I had some specifics in mind, things I had learned in my years with children and my years with working with curriculum. As an educator, I have seen lots of curriculum. Public schools have a tendency to blame curriculum for their problems and therefore change them quite frequently. (As do churches, but I’ll save that for another discussion.) In addition, I have written curriculum.
There is a temptation for adults to train children like they are cyborgs. (Forgive me for my sci-fi terminology.) We think we are beginning with a blank slate that is passively moldable under our influence. Rather than crack open the “nature verses nurture” debate, let me just say that it’s both and more. Children come installed with their own temperament, developmental pace, and even with their own imprint of the image of God. As they grow, their life experiences will be part of that formation.
Life with God for Children is moldable to the child. There are portions for nearly every kind of learner, there are options, and there are developmental levels. It can be changed, and it should be changed to meet the needs of the children we teach. We are teaching children, not curriculum.
The second thing I was looking for in a curriculum was an experience with God. Children are constantly being taught. We teach them new words, we teach them to brush their teeth and make their beds. At school they learn math, reading, and science. The kind of direct teaching we do makes them passive participants and the learning experiences never really become their own. When we employ these methods in Christian formation, we are risking inoculating children against the very abundant life we want them to have. This is not the best way to learn, this is not the way that sustains or the way God teaches us.
Like adults, children need an experience with God. Life with God for Children makes the space for children to have an experience with God. Children are often asked to listen to God, and act on what God says to them. The space is made for them to experience God in the twelve classic spiritual disciplines woven into everyday life.
The story goes that as we got down to publication time we were stuck for a title.
Stepping Stones? No, it was already used.
Kids Life? No, I like the respectability of the word “Children.”
Toe Jam? I loved it, but couldn’t convince anyone else. Respectability left the building.
So we settled on Life with God for Children. But frankly it still isn’t perfect. If we are “doing” this curriculum for children and are not engaging in life with God ourselves it’s not going to fly. Children can spot a fake at fifty paces; and in addition we, adults, are missing out on the very life Jesus came to bring us. It is like trying to serve a gourmet dinner and refusing to taste it. The guests are going to think something is fishy. As a result it is designed with a section for the spiritual formation of the adult.
Life with God for Children could have been called With Squared. It is spiritual formation material for children and their adults. It is food for a life with God with children. We are co-pilgrims with these folks who teach us patience and kindness and childlike abandon to the Father. They are good at it, and we have much to learn.
Life with God for Children, for God’s children, the young and the old.