Spending time outdoors, in the natural world, is a time-honored part of Christian spirituality. We feel refreshed, we are able to put our problems in better perspective, and we are able to find peace in places with birds (instead of tweets) chirping. We know that Jesus, Moses, and other major figures in scripture spent time quiet time in nature, along with many of the early Christian saints.
Yet if we take a look at classrooms and other spaces for young people, we find that involvement with the natural world is often completely missing. Yes, we encourage children to take part in church camps during the summer, but what about other youth events and programs?
Offering youth a chance to re-connect with our rich heritage of faith-in-nature is both important and a relatively easy thing to do. All you have to do is have youth activities outside. (And psssst…you’ll likely find young people calmer and better behaved if you do.) If this isn’t feasible, you can bring fresh flowers or greenery in and ask young people to decorate their prayer table, altar, or gathering space (as opposed to asking them to construct a so-called “craft” out of plastic or other non-recyclable, mass produced materials).
Time in nature is a “core asset” of spirituality that we seem to have lost along the way at some point. But now that we know that time in nature is important in developing spirituality in children and youth, we need to do something about it. In this new era of Christianity where we get to re-invent what the Church is and should be, adding time in God’s creation can and should be one of the core assets of our spiritual tradition we can re-claim with just a bit of effort.
Cynthia Coe is the author of Wild Faith: A Creation Care Curriculum for Youth and Earth Our Garden Home: Creation Care Lessons for Children, both available in paperback and e-book editions. Click the titles above for information on ordering these creation care resources.