Stonehouse, Catherine (1998). Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey: Nurturing a Life of Faith. Michigan: Baker Books. 237 pp.
The book is a declaration of the spiritual rights of children. Spiritual formation begins at childhood and not to be concerned about the " spiritual formation during childhood is to ignore the very foundations of the spiritual life" (p. 21) and its impact on the child's Christian faith pilgrimage in his or her adolescent and adult years.  Dr Stonehouse's credentials as a Professor of Christian education, curriculum writer coupled with her passion and expertise in Children's ministry make the message of the book an essential reference for understanding and facilitating the formative years of child spirituality.

The author believes that the "goal of spiritual formation is a maturing faith and a deepening relationship with Jesus Christ, through which we become more like Christ in the living of our everyday lives in the world" (p. 21) and the child's conversion experience marks the beginning of that process.  The effort of forming the experience and the environment to prepare the child to respond to God's gift of salvation and to live the Christian faith is the calling for Christian parents, teachers and workers of children's ministries. They are the Christian educators. To participate in the forming can be defined as the "act" of facilitating the spiritual development of children.  The facilitation requires an understanding of  "how the spiritual life of the child forms" (p. 22) to be effective in teaching children and to make an impact on the whole personality of the child to reflect his or her relationship to God.

The understanding must begin with the authority of the Scripture.  In chapter one, the readers are invited to explore with the author on how children learned the Christian faith and participated in the Christian community both in the Old and New Testament times.  In contrast, she has observed that Children's ministry in the church tends to be "simply entertaining them." (p. 41). Instead, children ought to experience a sense of belonging and active participation in the life and events of the church. Intergenerational learning is strongly recommended. However, questions on the extent to which it can be implemented are not discussed knowing that children do not share similar developmental characteristics and needs as teenagers and adults.

Another source of information which readers can gain insights into the spiritual formation of children comes from human development research on the psychosocial, intellectual, moral and faith development of children (Chapters 3-5,7).  Each theory is presented with clarity and implications are drawn for forming the spirituality of children.  The weakness of the presentation is the lack of assessment on the different theories from Biblical perspective.

The chapter on "Knowing God in Childhood" is convinced that children can "think deeply about God" (p.133) and they are "sensitive and responsive to God" even at a tender age of two or three years of age (p.128). Consequently, their images of God are "powerful" and can "influence them throughout a lifetime"  (p. 128).  Based on her firm beliefs expounded in the book, chapter eight demonstrates how Dr Catherine Stonehouse puts principles and theories into practice to instruct and to bring up children in the Christian faith. 

In conclusion, the author invites parents, workers of children's ministries and members of the church community to walk the spiritual journey with children to form within them the pursuit of knowing the Christian God.  The invitation should prompt the church to ask at least two questions for self examination, "Are the educational ministries of the church built to enhance opportunities for children to know God and to continue the pursuit in their teenage and adult years to come?" and "Is the nurture of parents a special concern of the church?"
(Review by Dr Ng Peh Cheng)

Chapel speaker on 9 October was Rev Dr John Lim.  The title of the sermon was "Dangerous People in Our Churches" from  Matthew. 13:24-30, 36-43.  He provided the following summary.
An author once published a list of the ten most dangerous leaders of the church in the US.  Among them were Billy Graham and Lloyd John Ogilvie. 
This sets me to ask a question: Are there dangerous people in our churches?  I am convinced that every church does have a group of dangerous people.  We can begin to see from the parable of the wheat and the tares some of their characteristics:
Where do they come from?  Verse 39 says, "the enemy who sows them (the tares) is the devil."  The kingdom of God is in a great battle with Satan and his forces.  The evil one seeks to destroy God's work. Who are they?  These are the people in our churches who have a religion but not a relationship.  What is their purpose? Verse 41 (NASB) "The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness."  The mission of these dangerous people is twofold: (a) to be stumbling blocks, and, (b) to tear down. Where do they work?  The tares did their most damaging work during the growing season.  Satan does his most damaging work in growing churches or believers. The tragedy of the parable is that the tares never could become wheat.  But the good news of the gospel is that dangerous people can become Christians who are committed to Christ and His church.
Chapel speakers for the current and following weeks are: Rev Ng Seng Chuan (Oct 16); Dr Philip Satterthwaite (Oct 23); and Dr Quek Swee Hwa (Oct 30). Come and join us at 12 noon, Wednesdays, at Room 302.

1.ERRATUM. We need to make further changes to last week's notice on submission of assignments. For all courses, please submit the assignments  directly to the Library staff or send via email to lib@bgst.edu.sg (please do not send a copy to the respective Lecturers or Coordinators).

2.CHILD DEVELOPMENT & MINISTRY FORMATION (CE355). Thank God for a good registration of over 40 so far for this course. Pray for Dr Ng as she teaches this course.

3. Dr Quek conducted the first of a two-part training programme to the staff of Singapore Youth for Christ on Monday, 14 Oct. He spoke on "JOURNEYING WITH JESUS" and illustrated his talk with slides and artifacts from BGST Library. He continues next Monday with "JOURNEYING WITH PAUL".

4. Next week, Oct 24-26, a visiting team of examiners from the ASIA THEOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION will conduct an accreditation exercise at BGST. Extensive preparations have been made for this event and we are glad that this exercise can enable us to see how we have fared during the thirteen years of our existence. This will also be a significant moment for ATA as they will be conducting such an exercise for a traditional cum open learning institution like ours.

5. NEW PROSPECTUS. We are almost ready to issue the latest revision of our Prospectus, which will apply for the period 2002-2005. Some courses have been withdrawn and some new and exciting courses are being planned to support our curriculum development as we work out strategically our mission of laity training.

Wishing you God's blessings on your Birthday!

Mr John Tan Nar Toon  14/10
Assoc Prof Quek Ser Aik  15/10
Pastor Jeffrey Tay Soon Hiang  15/10
Ms Chan Meng Choo  16/10
Ms Theresa Tan Lee  17/10
Mrs Ng Soh May  18/10
Ms Lee Siew Lan  19/10
Dr Tan Poh Kiang  19/10
Ms Dorcas Lee Siew Ling  19/10
Mdm Sharlene Yeo Shu Ching  19/10

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This page is updated on 16 Oct 2002 by Tan Lee Pin
    Oct 2002