Slugs and snails and puppy dogs' tailsPaperback Helping boys connect with God Carolyn Edwards
Who says boys aren’t spiritual? Carolyn Edwards draws on twenty-five years experience as a children’s worker, and her study of boys in school and church settings, to provide practical ways that boys want to connect with God when given the chance. Crucial reading for every church leader, children’s worker, youth leader, teacher and parent of boys.(more...)
‘We have such a problem with our boys,’ ..is a common refrain in many churches. The probability, though, is that boys are not actually the problem, rather our attitude to them; our ideas of what a boy really is and what he needs in order to connect with God.
Over the last few years, boys have been perceived to have been under-achieving at school, a problem in our society, and disengaged from our churches. It is Carolyn Edwards’ heartfelt conviction that this is because we are not meeting boys’ spiritual needs. Her experience is that boys are willing to engage in the struggle to make themselves heard and seen as they really are: full of energy, fun, feeling and spirituality.
In this intensely creative and practical book, Carolyn provides ten ways that boys would willingly connect with God, given the opportunity. Prompts and practical ideas help readers apply her findings to the boys they know and work with.
'Men often dismiss Church as irrelevant because we fail to connect with them. To correct this trend we need to start by looking at boys who grow up to be men. Boys are spiritual beings - but much of organised Christianity fails to understand what makes them tick. Carolyn Edwards has undertaken some thoughtful research and come up with insightful and practical suggestions of ways to reconnect with boys. She is a practitioner and that shows as throughout the book as ideas come across as tested and tried. As the parents of four lively boys who are now grown men, we commend this book as extremely helpful and packed with good suggestions. As teachers involved in training people for leadership, we commend it as essential reading for any who are serious about engaging in the Mission of God.' Ian and Ruth Coffey
‘An important contribution to the issue of boys spirituality, taking it from theoretical research, which she is well qualified to offer, to well grounded practical application, based on her many years of experience as a children’s worker. Boys especially need their advocates at the present time. Carolyn Edwards offers them another supporting voice.’ Ian White, Programme Leader; Children’s and Youth Ministry courses, Cliff College
Extent: 192 pages
Publication Date: 15/04/2011
Published by: IVP
A spiritual spectrum?
Ways of listening
Part Two: Ten spiritual connections
1. Our Father
2. Muscles and mayhem
3. Once upon a time
4. Make it go away
Pain and loss
5. Poo, bum, willy
6. Rock and paper and scissors
Music and creativity
7. Pauses and ponderings
8. The eleventh commandment
9. Thrills and spills
10. I game, therefore I am
Go and do likewise
Appendix 1: Statistics on boys’ childhood experiences
Appendix 2: The creation of the spiritual connections list
Appendix 3: The research project
Appendix 4: Michael Anthony’s Four Perspectives of Children’s Ministry
This book comes with a caveat! It is about boys, and shares a passion about boys and developing their spirituality within a Christian faith framework. It is not, however, a magic potion and I am well aware that, as a woman in her forties, there are many things about being a boy that I do not know! Nonetheless, I grew up with a brother, I have one son and two godsons, and I have worked with boys for over twenty-five years. Please forgive the generalizations, and instead use the discussions and ideas as a starting point for developing your own understanding of boys, and join the debate that raises awareness of the beauty, wonder and fragility of children’s spirituality. I am a Christian, and this work has a faith-based frame of reference and reflects my belief that spirituality is a God-given attribute, as we are made in God’s image. I am hoping, however, that it will not only be informed by non-faith-based understandings of spirituality, but also contribute to the general discussions on this subject and be useful to those working with boys in schools and other secular organizations.
‘I am so glad you are doing this research: we have such a problem with our boys!’ has felt like a common refrain as I have broached the subject of this study. The probability is that boys are not actually the problem, but it is our attitude that is at fault, and our ideas of what a boy really is and what he needs in order to exercise his spirituality and connect with God. Over the last few years, boys have been perceived as underachieving at school, becoming a problem in our society, and disengaging from our churches. It is my belief that part of the reason for this is that we are not meeting their spiritual needs.
In the light of the current interest in spirituality and the apparent drop in numbers of children attending church, I decided to investigate the spiritual expressions and preferences of children between the ages of five and eleven, using three different settings within the UK:
• an Anglican children’s church;
• ecumenical bimonthly worship activities run by Scripture Union, called X:site;
• RE (religious education) lessons in a school.
My research findings form the foundation of this book. My hope is that they will provide some pointers on how we can all better help boys express and engage with their spirituality.
By writing about boys, I am not suggesting that boys and girls are completely different, but rather that there might be differences that need exploring more fully in order for us to give every child as many opportunities as possible to explore his or her spirituality. The purpose of this book is not to judge children for the gender role messages that they have been given and for which they are not responsible, or to make unwarranted suppositions about their natures. Instead, the purpose is to ask, ‘So what do we do now?’ about what we find to be true about the boys and girls with whom we work, and then to ask, ‘How do we engage with them and enhance their engagement with God?’
The emphasis is on boys and their spirituality, but I believe that both boys and girls will engage with God, and express how they connect with him, in a range of different ways, and so there is every chance that the material in this book will be helpful for working with girls as well. Equally, although the research findings are from children in Key Stages 1 and 2 of primary education (five- to eleven-year-olds), many of the ideas are appropriate for pre-schoolers. There is evidence to suggest that the pattern of religious or spiritual experiences, and children’s ability to make sense of them, changes as they grow up; so again, although some of the suggestions may be applicable to teenage boys, it is as well to be aware of the variances caused by adolescence and the transition to secondary school.
Each chapter includes a ‘So how . . . ’ section, with ideas on how you can put some of the thinking into practice, and concludes with some questions for you, your children’s work team (if you have one) and your church leaders to think about.
Where I have used the ideas or research findings of other writers, they are referenced in the notes at the end of the book, so that if something catches your interest you know where to go to find out about it in more detail. The chapter entitled ‘Ways of listening’ gives a brief overview of how I did the research – not solely to validate the findings, but rather to suggest ways in which you too can ‘listen’ to the boys you are working with to find out what is true for them.
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