Children & Spirituality Symposia

Held annually at the Centre for Theology & Ministry, the Children & Spirituality Symposia provide the opportunity for theologically engaged practitioners (including chaplains, RE teachers, Christian educators, ministers/pastors and children and families ministry leaders), those who are currently undertaking research around ministry with children and families and those who have previously completed such research, to gather, engage and explore together.

For more information on the 2015 Child, Mission and Education Symposium, featuring Rev Dr John Flett, (Pilgrim Theological College), Dr Larissa McLean Davies (Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne)  and Beth Barnett (Victorian Council of Christian Education), go to  Children & Spirituality Symposium 2015.

Enjoy exploring these previous papers from earlier Children & Spirituality Symposia.



Objecting to Objectification of Children: Some help from the writings of Paul
E. Waldron Barnett, the University of Divinity
This paper addresses objectification of children in relation to biblical texts and theological conversation. Children are ‘objectified’ commonly in our culture; they are placed under the gaze, both physically, in image, and in language, to be interpreted and evaluated by others, and potentially thereby instrumentalised and exploited.

Life in the Raw: Children in joy and despair
John Capper
Two things together shape the uniqueness of Christian thinking and living: a celebration of life as God’s gift; and a realistic optimistic view of death.

Predisposed to Spirituality: Five ways to observe in children
Dr Brendan Hyde, Faculty of Education and Arts, Australian Catholic University
The concept of a disposition in developmental psychology stems from Dewey’s (1966) work. It is seen as a quality or attribute possessed by a person…



The Many Influences on Children’s Spirituality
Dr Glenn Cupit
When Christians consider ministry with children they usually focus primarily on what we teach and how we relate to them. However, spiritual development is the work of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit uses a much wider range of influences. Christian children’s workers need to identify these influences and cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s use of them.

Faith Communities that Foster Children’s Growth in Faith and Spirituality
Craig Mitchell, Adelaide College of Divinity, Department of Theology, Flinders University
What are the characteristics of a faith community that is effective in nurturing the spirituality and faith of children?

Engaging with the Imagery of Children and Motherhood in Deutero-Isaiah
Angela Sawyer, MCD, University of Divinity, PhD candidate, VCCE
The purpose of this paper is to engage with the imagery of children, in relationship to motherhood, as encountered in Deutero-Isaiah. The focus passage will be Isaiah 49:14-26. I will be utilising the sociological findings of life in Ancient Israel as it pertains to the world of children and the family, with a specific interest in exilic and post-exilic contexts.

A Concept of Human Spirituality: Implications for education
Dr Marian de Souza, Australian Catholic University
As spirituality has, more and more, become the subject of many discussions, debates, conference themes, workshops, and research studies, there continues to be a certain insistence on treating the concept as one of ambiguity accompanied by a reluctance to pin it down to a manageable construct.



Investigating the Meaning and Function of Prayer for Children in Selected Primary School in Melbourne, Australia
Vivienne Mountain, PhD Research, Australian Catholic University
…through wider reading in the area of children’s spirituality and psychology the topic has become linked to the well-being of children in the face of our secular, consumer-driven society.

Children and Patterns of Spiritual Growth: A Pauline perspective
Elizabeth Waldron Barnett, United Faculty of Theology, MCDUD, 2012
In academic theology and biblical scholarship as much as in popular Christian literature and culture, expectations of spiritual growth are unchallenged and accepted as completely normative.

Living the Lord’s Prayer: Karl Barth, abba, and children
DJ Konz, Compassion Australia
There are few pieces of Scripture as well?known, oft?recited, or beloved as the Lord’s Prayer.

Children, Fathers, Sons and Daughters: Exploring familial imagery in 2 Corinthians
Sean F. Winter, Pilgrim Theological College
In her introduction to the essay collection, The Child in the Bible, Marcia Bunge
describes the way in which contributors to that volume have sought to ‘“foreground”
questions and concerns about children and childhood’ in the interpretation of biblical


Children of Flesh and Spirit: 1 Corinthians 2 and 3
Elizabeth Waldron Barnett
The compulsion to define things, ideas, identities, even ourselves oppositionally, against something else is a powerful and pervasive psychological reflex. As black is to white, as off is to on, as hot is to cold, as right is to wrong (and isn’t that a favourite among us?) and so often in relation to life in Christ, as flesh is (antithetically) to Spirit.

From Childhood to Adolescence: Trends, transitions and challenges
Claire Pickering
During 2010, I completed a field placement at the Christian Research Association, and I
primarily investigated and learned about the perceptions and experiences of young people (aged 13-24).

Foregrounding the Child’s Voice in Children’s Ministry
Brendan Hyde, PhD, Australian Catholic University
Although we strive to listen to and honour the voices of children in our ministry, the reality is that often this is not achieved. Could it be that the structures in which we carry out our ministry actually seek to silence children’s voices by labelling them and (albeit unintentionally) exert power of them? This is known as “colonization”. Can children and family ministry be explored in another way ? a way which seeks to reclaim and foreground the voice of the child? This paper will explore such a possibility.

Childhood as a Challenge to Traditional Theology
C. Glenn Cupit, PhD, Senior Lecturer in Child Development, deLissa Institute of Early Childhood and Family Studies
Theology has always reflected the perspective of the theologian, almost inevitably male, and always adult. Childhood has either been ignored or dealt with by applying propositions about adults to children, whether that was appropriate or not.



Exploring Children’s Spiritual Expression of ‘Wonder’ in the Natural World
Richard Mallaby
Childhood is a very significant stage of human development. Anna Freud describes the primary school age of children as ‘the age of conscience…the age that a child’s conscience is built-or isn’t; it is the time when a child’s character is built and consolidated, or isn’t’.

Godly Play, the State of Play: US, UK and Australia
Judyth Roberts
Godly Play is a language – a language to make meaning – to name, wrestle with, and make meaning out of our own existential issues of loneliness, freedom, death and the need for meaning.

Pastoral Care of Childhood: Assessing models of pastoral care in the light of a developing theology of childhood
Peter Ackland
I advocate for innocence in childhood. The Ancient Hebrews saw children as innocent (Deuteronomy 1:39; 11:8 Isaiah 7:16). Every new life is surely pure and holy at the start (Psalm 51:5-6).

The Child in 1 Corinthians 13: A more excellent way
Beth Barnett
As Paul attends to the discourses of status and valuation that preoccupied the Corinthian community, a few of our own cultural and symbolic status obsessions come to light.

Children in the Worship Service: The theology behind it, and its ramifications for others
Alison Sampson
Fundamental to the way our church practices worship is the notion of the priesthood of all believers.