From the preface:
Faith in the Nexus is a rare, possibly unique research project. Its focus on the nurture of the spiritual life of children through examining the nexus between home, school and church is not something I have seen examined in such depth before. The research focus on listening to children’s perceptions of this nexus is particularly valuable. What we learn is that children have a lot to teach us.
In the Christian faith, families are the key institutions in the spiritual nurture of children.
This and other NICER research, however, tells us that parents generally do not find this task easy. This is a critical issue for the Christian church when the evidence is that young people are increasingly not responding to institutionalised faith. However, the Nexus research points to a way forward, because it shows us that schools have a key role in stimulating spiritual growth that both family and church can draw on.
For me, the most striking insight to emerge from the Nexus research is that children can drive the agenda. Curiosity, the desire to explore puzzling questions, enthusiasm for stillness and other formative practices all emerge as children’s strengths. They, we are told, are instigators of faith-talk. This should be both a relief and a wake-up call for parents and church leaders. The Nexus research seems to be saying that the oft-made assumption that the adult role is to provide correct answers for children’s faith questions is ill-conceived. Rather we should respect children’s spiritual leadership and give more emphasis to engaging in exploratory conversations and sharing in faith-nurturing practices with them.
Open-mindedness not slick answers is what this research tells us children need.
Faith in the Nexus offers great encouragement for those concerned about faith nurture. It tells us that schools can and do achieve a lot that stimulates children’s spiritual growth. It does identify some challenges for both families and churches in building on this, but shows that much is possible if we focus on the relational strength that they offer and respect the spiritual leadership that children can bring. In the end relationships, not answers, seem to be the key to the growth of faith in the nexus.
Emeritus Professor Trevor Cooling
Canterbury Christ Church University
National Institute for Christian Education Research NICER is a University Research Centre at Canterbury Christ Church University. It undertakes research to inform the contribution of faith to the public understanding of education, to aid the mission of church schools, universities and Christian education in communities, to develop and improve religion and worldview education, and to support the work of Christians in education and leaders in education. It uses qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods research approaches in that work, and has developed novel approaches to investigating school ethos, character and curriculum in Christian schooling.
NICER receives funds from charities and other grant-making research bodies,
supported by the University’s commitment to the centre. NICER collaborates with
specialists from other leading institutions, schools and research centres, including
institutions of other religions and worldviews, across the country and from around
the world. It acts as a hub to promote international Christian education research at the highest level, through seminars and conferences.
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