2019 Gathering – Children’s Formation




  • Children’s spiritual formation is offered for children ages 5 and up during the four plenary sessions as described below (meet in the Africa Chapel).
  • Structured free-time is offered for children of all ages during the two workshop sessions (meet in room 405).
  • For children under 5, a childcare/ playroom is available throughout the entire gathering, and will be staffed during the plenary sessions (room 403?).  


  • Politics and the Good Shepherd

Children are perceptive. They hear what is going on, and are not oblivious to the anxieties of the world around them. When we think about what is wrong with the world, we are tempted by despair unless that darkness is held and bounded within the story of the Good Shepherd. It is Jesus who leads us through, and who comes between us and danger.

We will gather to hear the Godly Play parable of the Good Shepherd, and use this story as a framework to draw out the children’s questions, concerns, or fears about political issues on a local and global level. Response time may include working with images of political importance, and then returning to the circle to place those concerns where they see fit in the story of the Good Shepherd.

  • Politics and Creation

Children have ideas about how things ought to be. When we think about changing things, we risk simply yelling our own opinions in a loud voice unless our vision is grounded who and Whose we are. No wrongs can be corrected without an image of what is right. It is God who determines the good that we and the whole world were made for.

We will make an excursion to the nearby Chicago Botanic Garden, where we will hear the Godly Play story of creation in the open air. Children will be invited to work with materials that juxtapose the way things are with they way they ought to be.

  • Politics and Baptism

Children have a deep need to belong. When we strive to accomplish God’s desires, we tend to feel like it’s all just up to us to make things come out right, unless we remember that in baptism, we become part of those people whose “tongues glowed like fire, and were more alive than they had ever been before.” It is the Holy Spirit who empowers God’s people  to do what could otherwise not be done.

Returning to the Africa Chapel, we will tell the Godly Play story of baptism, in which each child receives a candle reminding them of the light of Christ that they received, or will receive, at their baptism. Children will be invited to depict places, people, or situations that are in need of healing and then be given a chance to place their lit candle in front of the objects that represent those troubles.

  • Synthesis: The Church

Children can think theologically. The stories above offer raw material for reflection on the church as politics. Our fears and hopes for the world are framed by the God who makes us, shows us what is good, leads us through the dark places, and empowers us through the Holy Spirit to be a people who make the rough places plain.

The children will have an opportunity to work with the pieces and materials of the three stories above – the parable of the Good Shepherd, creation, and baptism – combining them to write their own answer to the question, ‘Who are the people of God and what do they do?’’