Shannon Rains might arguably have the craziest summer of anyone else I know right now. While completing her final summer at Kingwood Church of Christ as Children’s & Family Minister, she is also a D.Min student at Abilene Christian University and in the middle of that she moved to Lubbock Christian University to begin working this fall as the Assistant Professor of Children’s Ministry.
It seems appropriate that she joins our conversation again today sharing the importance of practicing silence not only in our own lives but also with our children.
I have a keen interest in engaging with children in the spiritual disciplines of silence and reflection. This concept seems counter-intuitive to most philosophies of children’s ministry. But, it is not counter-intuitive to centuries of spiritual practice or the witness of Scripture. The process of spiritual maturation needs silence and reflection on God. This is as true for children as it is for adults.
Our children live in a very busy world. Their days are filled with noisy and activity: morning news, music in the car, school buildings full of kids, sports and music practice, multiple electronics are always on and with the average family. Parents, how many times a day do you ask your kids to do something? Kids receive constant input of stimuli.
Adults live noisy lives. TV, sports, kids, friends, family, co-workers, cubicles, computers, background noise. We fill our lives of busyness and noise to avoid that inner part of our true selves that is uncomfortable and searching. We hide in the noise.
We live in a world that has forgotten silence.
It is a counter-cultural practice to spend time with God in silence. It is a practice that children need to learn and engage from a young age, before their lives are overwhelmed.
Our society does not believe children can handle silence because our society cannot handle silence. It’s in silence that we must come to know ourselves and connect spiritually with the Creator. Let’s face it – silence makes us uncomfortable because we have to deal with the deepest parts of ourselves.
“Be still and know that I am God” ~ Psalm 46:10
Have you read the entire chapter lately? It begins,
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear …” Psalm 46:1-2a
What is there to fear? The Psalmist explains a chaotic earth filled with war, natural disaster, desolation – loud, scary, uncertain, and all reasons to be very, very afraid.
Facebook, TV, or radio, we hear the same fear invoking news day in and day out: war, natural disaster, desolation. Not mention the everyday life problems of the average person. Parents and ministers, if we are afraid and worried, so are our children. We control media in my house and my kids STILL KNOW and STILL WORRY about world events. Instead of sheltering our kids from everything we need to connect our children to Lord Almighty who is with us and is our fortress. (Psalm 46:11)
The past two years I have led a 3rd-5th grade class at my church in which we focused on the idea of being still and knowing God. We learned to engage silence. We learned to sit with God and with each other, to be honest about our fears and joys, to listen for God’s gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:9-18 is a remarkable account of God’s gentle whisper).
The children told me how much they needed their quiet time on Wednesday nights. They began to recount moments of quiet in their homes, at school. They listened for God.
More importantly, they began to wrestle with the thoughts that were buried deep down in their hearts. Fear of wars. Anxiety over tests. Worries over family. Health issues of their own. Disappointments in themselves. They listened for God’s Spirit to speak into these concerns and the discerning voice of their classmates and teachers as we directed them to Scripture, conversations and prayer.
In this class, we no longer taught children. We journeyed with children on their spiritual journey. We listened to the witness of the child’s spiritual lives. We mentored these young apprentices who are learning to walk with God.
Don’t be afraid to be quiet with children. Create a place in your home or ministry for children to wonder aloud about God. Encourage children to not only “know about God” but to “be still and know God.”
Would you like ideas to help engage the children in your family or ministry in practices of silence, listening, and centering on God? I have created this Pinterest board with prayer practices that help children enter into prayers of silence and reflection.