(picture taken from http://don.ratcliffs.net)
(picture taken from http://soulshepherds.com)
The second General Session at Conspire 2009 was on the topic of spiritual formation. Amy Dolan interviewed two heavy hitters on the topic: Dr. Ivy Beckwith and Dr. Don Ratcliff. You can check out my live blogging of the session here. You can also read my summary of the session at the Conspire blog.
Of all the sessions, this one was my favourite. I was surprised to read some of the strong negative comments that were left about the session on the Conspire blog. After thinking about it, though, I guess I can understand. More often than not, I run into children’s ministry people who are more interested in WHAT to do instead of WHY. In my opinion, we’ve been spoon-fed for WAY TOO LONG and need to start digging deeper than the methods and 3-year plans. Those of us in children’s ministry need to learn how to take in theoretical, philosophical and sociological information regarding spiritual development and figure out how all of that informs the how of what we do.
Anyway, back to the session…
I was in awe of these two leaders in the field of spiritual development. I loved each of their definitions of spiritual formation. Dr. Ratcliff defined it as encouraging children to be Christlike by connecting God and the child helping them to experience God. Dr. Beckwith’s definition was “helping a child to love God and live in the way of Jesus.” Wow! How simple, yet how profound! Sometimes we convolute what spiritual formation is. We attach conditions and knowledge and tests to spiritual formation, and we lose the core of what it truly is: helping children to love God and love others.
Another thing that really stood out to me in the interview was Drs. Beckwith and Ratcliff’s views on measuring spiritual growth. They did not point to which verses should be memorized or what stories a child should know or even theological concepts that children should understand. They pointed to a transformed life. The measurement of spiritual growth in these scholars’ eyes is in how they live. I like what Dr. Ratcliff said, “It’s not a test. It’s a testimony.”