Scottie May believes children can have a real and growing relationship with Jesus. In Listening to Children on the Spiritual Journey (IVP 2010), May and co-author Catherine Stonehouse describe how children express their experiences with and growing understanding of God. They suggest ways that parents and ministers can aid children's spiritual growth. Leadership's Brandon O'Brien interviewed May, associate professor of Christian formation and ministry at Wheaton College (Illinois), about how understanding of a child's faith development affects the way we minister.
How do different Christian traditions understand the beginning of a child's faith?
There are fundamental theological differences among faith traditions regarding how children come to faith in Christ. Some churches in the sacramental tradition baptize infants in order to eradicate original sin. Churches in the conversional tradition teach children to accept Jesus as their personal Savior in order to overcome the sin problem. Churches in the covenantal tradition enfold children into the faith community, teaching them the Christian faith until they claim that faith for themselves. Many churches combine these elements and allow children to respond as the Spirit leads, whether through a gradual process or by a point-in-time decision.
How do the different views affect children's ministry?
A key factor can be summarized by prepositions: some churches do ministry to children; others do ministry with children. In my research, I've found that this difference is even more significant than a church's official theological positions. Children that felt as welcome at church as they did in the family home usually came from a faith community that saw them as respected, gifted, valuable ...