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Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey

Nurturing a Life of Faith

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"Drawing together an enormous amount of material, Stonehouse . . . discusses different approaches to Christian education and adopts an approach focused on spiritual formation. . . . This is a superb book and highly recommended."--Choice

Understanding how a child's faith forms is crucial to knowing how adults can most significantly enhance the child's spiritual development. Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey provides parents, teachers, and Christian education leaders with valuable insights into spiritual formation during childhood.

With a biblical perspective as a starting point and a recognition of the crucial role of both the family and the faith community, Stonehouse reviews important contributions from noted child development experts Erik Erikson, Jean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg, and James Fowler. This overview gives insight into the processes of psychosocial, cognitive, and moral development in children and adolescents.

Stonehouse concludes with solid guidelines for designing children's ministries. By carefully "setting the stage" through liturgy, sacred stories, and parables, Christian educators can help children meet with God. Quiet times of "godly play," carefully adapted to the age level of the child, enable adults to join with children on the journey toward deeper intimacy with God.


"The love of God and children shines through these pages which extend Jesus's call for us to be like children. This book helps us prepare for kingdom entry by both illustrating and carefully describing how and why the spiritual journey begins at childhood. . . . It is open-eyed adventure and deeply fun."--Rev. Jerome Berryman

"There is nothing more important than [children's] spiritual formation, yet we often leave this most important function to untrained persons. Dr. Stonehouse's book provides clear and understandable teaching for children's teachers and parents and also for teacher's teachers."--Rev. Marti Ensign

"Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey . . . is thoroughly grounded and altogether responsible advice based on scholarly interpretations from the research world and the most careful sort of Christian insight."--Dr. Ted Ward

"This is a delightful book. . . . Dr. Stonehouse's personal experiences with children communicates to the reader her value and appreciation for each individual child."--Dr. Virginia Patterson

The Author

  1. Catherine Stonehouse

    Catherine Stonehouse

    Catherine Stonehouse (PhD, Michigan State University), prior to her retirement, served as the Orlean Bullard Beeson Professor of Christian Discipleship and dean of the School of Practical Theology at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. She...

    Continue reading about Catherine Stonehouse


"Drawing together an enormous amount of material, Stonehouse (Asbury Theological Seminary, Kentucky) discusses different approaches to Christian education and adopts an approach focused on spiritual formation. After presenting insights about formation from the Old and New Testaments and recent Christian educators, she surveys theories of child development from Erikson, Piaget, Kohlberg, Rizzuto, and Fowler. She also discusses Berryman's 'Godly play,' which she has used with children, concluding with a discussion of the pilgrimage metaphor of spiritual journey from the book's title. Her account is accessible and engaging, sprinkled with illustrations from the lives of children she has known and worked with. Though written from a Wesleyan perspective, there is very little in the book that would not transfer directly into work in other denominations. Its argument is broadly applicable and should be widely used. Though the book moves toward an account of the Montessorian methods of Berryman as informed by Cavalletti, earlier chapters on child development provide a more eclectic account of the nature of children. This is a superb book and highly recommended. Every church or parish library should have it, as should every Christian education collection in seminary and college libraries."--Choice (September 1998)

"A book that merges theology with practice. . . . Dr. Stonehouse presents an integrated approach suggesting that leaders working with children in the church need a philosophy of education, an understanding of human development, and a theology that are all in harmony. . . . This book will definitely help us all on the Journey of the Cross."--Spirit Catalyst (January 1999)

"Fascinating and enlightening. . . . A good resource. I recommend it for parents, teachers, and students desiring a deep understanding of how children develop spiritually."--Church Libraries (Winter/Spring 1999)

"Reminds us of all the reasons we invest in children, and helps us understand how their needs must affect our ministry."--Children's Ministry (May/June 1999)

"Engaging and thought-provoking. . . . This book makes three major contributions to students of spiritual formation. The first is the author's passion for children, and this work adds a needed perspective to the literature on ministry with children. . . . A second strength of this book lies in the author's attention to a shared role between parents and the faith community in nurturing a child's spiritual journey. . . . Stonehouse's work with developmental theorists is the third and major strength that particularly commends this book for church school teachers and seminary students. . . . For parents and teachers of children, as well as the faith community as a whole, Stonehouse has provided new insights into the foundations and nature of spiritual formation."--Asbury Theological Journal (Spring 1999)

Exceptional and perhaps even [a] landmark volume. . . . Deserve[s] a wide readership. . . . Catherine Stonehouse, a professor at Asbury Seminary, considers the important but often neglected topic of children's spiritual development in her excellent book. . . . Stonehouse provides a strong introduction to children's ministry, and a specific method of encouraging religious experience in youngsters, one that is strongly grounded in developmental theory and biblical imperatives."--Journal of Psychology and Counseling (Fall 1999)

"Every church library and minister should have a copy--every Sunday School teacher should have a copy, also. Parent groups can discuss this book and get a whole lot out of it--it is a wonderful resource. . . . Very practical, easy to use ideas, helps and encouragement. This is not a book to just pick and read, put down and forget. It is a resource, reference book--one that needs to be studied, thought about and used."--Nashville News (November 25, 1998)

"In this seminal and nuanced text, Catherine Stonehouse explores the complex theme of children's spirituality through a variety of lenses. . . . As children's spirituality is a relatively new area of study, Stonehouse has produced a book that is among the first that reflects a distinctively evangelical perspective on the topic. She does a masterful job of explaining the developmental theories in a manner that non-professional practitioners can readily grasp, while readers who are more familiar with the complexities in this area will appreciate what the book has to offer. The author provides wise principles as well as practical ideas for helping children develop cognitively, socially, and morally, each of which can aid spiritual development. The concluding chapters on God concept/image, 'godly play,' and the shared pilgrimage of children and adults offer profound insights concerning children's spirituality. . . . Highly recommended for undergraduate and graduate students."--Christian Education Journal