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An exercise in child theology – students and disciples

October 3, 2015

Many communities see children and young people through the narrow lens of ‘student’.

Both in general society and in the church children are placed in ‘learning environments’ and the measures of effectiveness that are evaluated are often to do with whether we think the children have ‘learned something’.

There is a mass industry of ‘curriculum’ for children in faith based communities.

But Jesus called followers, disciples if you like, but it is clear that these were more than ‘students’. ‘Disciples’ are more than ‘learners’ or ‘students’, surely!

What do we lose in our communities of faith when we continually treat children as students?

What do we deprive the whole community of? Does it abuse or mistreat children in some way? Does it rob them of something?

And what is the consequence for adults in faith communities whose children are cast in the role of ‘student’?

What damage is done to family relationships?

How does it limit or perhaps corrupt the role of leaders and pastors if a community’s children are understood primarily as learners?
Why isn’t it enough to treat our children as ‘learners’?

These questions are not just about whether children in the congregation are sent out to a separate learning time from the adults in the congregation – though this practice highlights some of the issues. More deeply, we ask not just what do we do programmatically or organisationally with children, but who we understand children to be.

One comment

  1. Over the last 5 years my contact with children has focused on preschoolers. Because of their need to play, the time when they are ‘learners’ only consumes a fraction of the time. By hanging out together, even playing actively with them (they like me to be their pet dragon) we move beyond the teacher-student role, and become friends. It’s tiring, but as good for me, as it is for them.



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