What is KidZ at Heart?
We are a global Christian community that trains, partners with, and mobilizes networks of leaders to help children fall deeply in love with Jesus.
What is “Christian spiritual formation” for children?
Christian spiritual formation for children is the lifelong process by which the Holy Spirit serves as the child’s teacher, deepening the child’s relationship with God, transforming the child into Christlikeness from the inside, and generating an overflow of love toward God, self, and others (Romans 8:27-29, Mark 12:28-31).
Why does KidZ at Heart focus on the spiritual formation of children?
1. Because God loves us, and he wants his children to experience an accurate representation of him and his love through us. The child’s view of God is being formed, for good or bad, from conception onward (Psalm 51:6, 71:6 139:13; Luke 1:44; Job 10:10). The quality of the relationships that children have with the key adults in their lives greatly affects their view of God and attachment to him. Children are dependent upon adults for food and shelter, security and value, and loving relationships. The trustworthiness of adults in providing these determines a child’s future ability to build trusting relationships with God, self, and others (Matthew 18:6). The essence of Deuteronomy 6 is for adults to first have a personal love commitment to God and confident faith in God, and then to take every opportunity in daily life to pass these on to their children through participation, modeling, instruction and encouragement. Since children look to adults for guidance, there is an increased responsibility for adults to model lives that are being transformed (I Corinthians 11:1). Adults who provide loving environments built on identity in Christ help the child understand unconditional love from God, love based on who the child is rather than any ability to please others. When God’s love is modeled in the sphere of the child’s home, children learn to be with God and to develop an authentic relationship with him that results in real change, spiritual transformation.
2. Because God loves children and offers us, as leaders of the church and home, the opportunity to cooperate with him in forming the child’s faith. God loves children and calls them to himself for relationship. While the Holy Spirit leads children to know and respond to his love (Psalm 139:13-17), God has given the adults in a child’s home and faith community the responsibility to impact the key spheres of a child’s life: the child’s home, spiritual practices, engagement with biblical truth, holistic health, and loving relationships (Psalm 78:5-7). Because adults control most of the child’s environments, they have the charge and opportunity to partner with God in nurturing the spiritual formation of the child. By staying alert to the formative influence of the Holy Spirit, setting a pace of life conducive to reflective processing and providing opportunities to pursue personal, intimate connections with God, both the home and faith community are able to offer routines/rituals, symbols and story that nurture the child’s ability to connect with the Holy Spirit as “teacher” (John 14:15-17).
3. Because we love children and want to help them fall deeply in love with Jesus. The fruit of spiritual formation for the child is Christ likeness. Adults can cultivate ways for children to be with God in deepening friendship, keeping the focus on God and leaving the results to the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:3). Spiritual formation for children is significantly different from traditional Christian education, which focuses on knowledge of Scripture (intellectual) and obedient application (behavioral). Formation is relational and personal, as governed by the Holy Spirit as the child hears, reads, and engages with Scripture in age appropriate ways. Scripture is central to the spiritual formation of children, but transactional cognitive and behavioral changes, important as they are, are not sufficient evidences of spiritual health. Instead, spiritual formation is evidenced by a growing, lifelong love for God, self, and others (relational changes) within the child. This includes the three components: knowing God’s story (head), following his instructions (hands), and increasing in love for him (heart).
4. Because we want children to dwell in and live out of God’s abundant love for the world (as per the Great Commandment). The child’s love for God, self, and others (Mark 12:28-31), including sensitivity to Christlike behaviors, serves as evidence of the child’s spiritual formation as love overflows in his daily living. This is a picture of the abundant life Jesus came to give (John 10:10). Knowing God’s Word is vitally important, but biblical knowledge alone is usually not sufficient by itself to bring transformation. Spiritual formation is best nurtured and flourishes when Scriptural truth is lived out in community and shared with a needy world. The most formative community for a child is within the child’s own home. The church has a significant responsibility to resource and support families by presenting role models, relationships, rituals, symbols, stories, and opportunities to respond to God in tangible ways.
5. Because we want children to encounter God early in life, since childhood is the most advantageous time to shape a person’s relationship with God. Each person is created to relate with God and others, but the effects of the fall, which dispose children to pursue life independently from God, require new life and transformation. From birth, humans seek and are formed by the relational connections that surround them and have a special responsiveness to spiritual practices throughout the childhood years. Starting this process of nurturing relationships while the child is in the most critical stages of human development provides greater opportunities for movement toward God and a reduction in the damage from moving away from God (Deuteronomy 30:19). Nurturing a child’s great interest and openness to God is particularly powerful, because it allows for the early, healthy development of lifelong relational structures needed for life and a preparation for the child to be aware of God’s presence in every aspect of life.
6. Because we understand that spiritual formation is a process that can coincide with the developmental stages of the child. The childhood years offer a unique window of opportunity to partner with the Holy Spirit in the spiritual formation of children (Psalm 33:15). At a very young age, children already have a special capacity to notice and respond to God and a willingness to engage in prayer and other formational practices. If these practices are developmentally appropriate, continue evolving as children mature, and take into account the uniqueness of each child, they can establish lifelong patterns. It is in these youngest and most formative years of human life that both formation of Christian faith and the natural developmental stages are able to be impacted simultaneously. This allows spiritual growth to enrich all of life (Psalm 63:1).
In summary, KidZ at Heart has the knowledge of child development, educational methodology, and Christian spiritual formation to enable us to train teachers and leaders worldwide, and by extension families, in effective formation practices for children. We pray that intentional homes and equipped faith communities will partner with the Holy Spirit to nurture the spiritual formation of children resulting in the love of God and for God overflowing into the lives of children and through them to the world.