Right from the Start: A Parent's Guide
to the Young Child's Faith Development.
Morgenthaler, Shirlely K. (2001).
St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. 256 pp.
The book is written for Christian parents who are serious about seeking wisdom to nurture and guide their children to grow spiritually in Christ. Dr Morgenthaler is an educator, researcher and
specialist in early childhood studies but her qualification to impart the much sought after wisdom to parents also comes from her experience as a parent and grandparent.
The spiritual formation of children begins at infancy and it begins at home since parents are the child's first teachers who will "introduce her to Jesus and His love" (p. 28). This God-given responsibility is not to be taken lightly because the foundation of Christian faith is laid during the first three years of the child's life,
During the first three years of life, the young child develops more rapidly [physical, cognitive, emotional and social] than at any other period of time …. Spiritual growth also takes place, or fails to take place, during these earliest years (p. 33).
The author's belief in the first three years as the formative period of the child's faith development is supported by her observation of children that affirms the teaching of the Scripture, theories of child development and brain research in relation to faith development (chapter 5). Numerous examples of her observation can be found in the book that parents can identify with and parents-to-be to be prepared for their spiritual role. In the sociological context of the modern society, the child may experience only three years of Christian home school, thus, the "foundation will be of major importance as you [the parent] bring your child to Sunday School or [Nursery] and entrust her to her first Sunday School teacher or [Preschool teacher]" (p. 28).
The "how" of bringing up a child in the Christian faith is discussed extensively in the book but Dr Morgenthaler is right to caution against treating child spirituality as a separate aspect from the holistic understanding of child development because "spiritual milestones are interwoven with
achievements in the physical, emotional, social, and cognitive areas of development" (p. 34). The
separate emphasis on spiritual development may lead to over reliance on the rituals of church attendance, family devotional time, mealtime prayer, bedtime Bible stories and other routines to pass on the Christian heritage from the parents to their children. Provisions must also be made for the child's physical, intellectual, social and emotional needs as they are related to her development of attitudes and dispositions towards Christian spirituality. For example, a child who is brought up in a secure environment and who has experienced the reliability of her earthly parents to meet her emotional needs will not struggle to accept that "God is loving, forgiving, and reliable" (p.96).
In her presentation, the author seems to equate the spiritual aspect of development with moral
development but reasons for the equation are not given. The author's belief in infant baptism as the "beginning of an infant's faith relationship with God" or the "initiation of God's relationship" with the baby (p. 23, 24) may not be agreeable to all readers. However, she does not view the rite of infant baptism as "immunization that takes care of their [parents'] faith nurturing responsibilities" (p. 24).
The discussion guide at the end of each chapter and the recommended resources in the bibliography make it a useful manual to understand and nurture the faith development of children but its usefulness is not limited to parents. Grandparents and teachers of children's ministry in the church will be convinced of the strategic role they play as supporters to parents in bringing up their children in the Christian faith. The spiritual task demands the collaboration of the Christian community (Chapter 12) but it is God's command to parents with the help of the Holy Spirit to intentionally "walk the way with [their] child--God's way--right from the start" (Deuteronomy 6 and p. 237).
(Review by Dr Ng Peh Cheng)
Chapel on 2nd October focused on prayer. Dr Ng read the three principles of Christian living from 1 Thessalonians 5:16 and one of which is prayer, "Be joyful always, pray continually; giving thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." A number of hymns were selected to express various needs Christians may have to go to the Lord in prayer and reasons why it is essential to cultivate the habit of praying unceasingly. PRAYER, TRUE AND SIMPLE
A devotional thought by Richard C. Halverson was read for meditation on prayer.
Prayer is not so much getting things from God as it is getting God's viewpoint about things.
It is submitting to God, not using God. It is seeking God's wll rather than demanding my own. It is not "Gimme,
gimme, gimme," but "Lord, what will you have me do?"
Prayer is as much listening to God as it is talking to God. It is dialogue, not monologue.
Prayer is spending time with God for His own sake--not just asking and running. Prayer's preoccupation is the glory of God's name, the coming of God's kingdom, the doing of God's will.
True prayer is simply to know God! Jesus said, "This, then, is how you should pray:
'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven' "
The chapel concluded with a time of praying in small groups. Besides personal needs, certain reports from newspaper clippings were used as prayer items to seek the Lord's "will be done on earth as it is written in heaven."
Chapel speakers for the current and following weeks are: Dr John Lim (Oct 9);
Rev Ng Seng Chuan (Oct 16); Dr Philip Satterthwaite (Oct 23); and Dr Quek Swee Hwa (Oct 30).
- NT GREEK: BASIC RESEARCH METHODS & TOOLS (BG214 - THURSDAY CLASS). Please note that the class will be meeting next on Oct 17, 10 - 11:30am, as Dr Quek is not in Singapore this Thursday.
- CHURCH HISTORY TUTORIAL will be held on 11 Oct, 6-7.30pm.
- SUBMISSION OF ASSIGNMENTS. Kindly take note of some changes in the submission process. For
courses taught by resident lecturers or guest lecturers, please submit directly to the lecturers or coordinators
respectively. For Dr Quek's courses, please submit all assignments directly to the Library staff or send via
email to firstname.lastname@example.org (please do not send a copy to Dr Quek).