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Helping Children Grow in Faith
October 12, 2007

A new book from an education professor at Calvin College is aimed at helping the church nurture the spiritual development of children.

Helping Our Children Grow in Faith: Nurturing the Spiritual Development of Kids by Robert J. Keeley"Helping Our Children Grow in Faith: Nurturing the Spiritual Development of Kids" will be released in January 2008 by Baker Books, a Grand Rapids based publisher of books for pastors, church leaders and lay Christians.

It is written by Robert J. Keeley, a Calvin professor whose area of expertise is the spiritual development of children. He also is co-director, with his wife, Laura, of children's ministries at Fourteenth Street Christian Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan.

Keeley said he's long wanted to write this book.

"Through my training in educational psychology and my years of working with kids in churches and schools," he said, "I became convinced that studying how kids learn and how their faith develops can have a positive impact on the way ministry is done. I thought that having a good grounding in both scripture and ed psych was a valuable thing for people working with children and I wanted to write a book to help people without that background understand it better."

The 160-page book takes on a topic Keeley says is vital for the future of the church: the spiritual preparation of the next generation.

"Children have serious faith questions that require serious answers," he said, "answers that adults often find themselves under-prepared to give. The Christian community has a responsibility to help its children develop a faith that affects their heads, their hearts, and their spirits."

The book is designed for children's ministry and worship leaders, Sunday school teachers, and pastors, but also for parents.

"All want to nurture the spiritual development of the children in their lives," said Keeley.

The book examines such areas as integrating children into congregational worship, teaching them the Bible but leaving room for the mystery of God, and distinguishing the differences between faith development and moral development.

There's a critical difference, Keeley said, between faith and moral development.

"Faith development is about helping children come to know and trust God as the Lord of their lives," he said. "Moral development is about helping children learn how to behave. They’re both important but they're not the same. I have noticed that in working with kids, well-meaning people sometimes substitute moral development for faith development and I think that’s a shame."

That's not to say that Keeley is against kids behaving themselves.

"Anyone who is a parent wants kids to do the right things," he said. "But we don't want to reduce what we do with our kids to merely getting them to behave. That's like winning the battle but losing the war."

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