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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Tending souls

Helping parents nurture spirituality in children

Our society trains children to be good consumers and strong competitors. But there’s more to life than acquiring and winning. Our schools train children how to access an increasing amount of information. But our children have more than minds—they also have souls.

We want our children to be gracious and grateful, to have knowledge and wisdom. We want them to have courage during difficult times, to have a sense of wonder and appreciation, of joy and purpose. That is what it means to nurture their spiritual lives.

Children have an innate spirituality—an insatiable curiosity, a delightful sense of spontaneity, a deep capacity for trust, surprise and creativity. What they don’t yet have is a language to express it. As parents we can give them the language, the tools to reflect and explore their spiritual experiences. A spiritual life is a gift of birth. Spiritual awareness must be learned or it will remain dormant for a lifetime.

Sometimes children tell me they are worried about “messing up.” They usually mean they’re afraid they’ll make a mistake in class, miss questions on an exam, fumble the ball. We need to teach our children that “messing up” isn’t just about a wrong answer or a lost game, it’s about how they respect themselves and treat others.


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