For many new parents with young children, developmental milestones are one of the measuring tools our culture utilizes to see how young people are growing and maturing. While the validity of this approach can be argued from a theological point of view in how we are made in God’s image, I have spent a lot of time thinking about development for our taby.
Our taby or boddler (if taby sounds too much like scabies or some other disease) is at a transitional period between baby milestones and toddler ones. Hence the term taby (baby + toddler = taby). Perhaps later in the transition, he will become a boddler before fully emerging as a toddler. The challenge for me has been finding good activities for the 12-18 month period that will help him continue his development. Recently, I did discover some great resources, but it made me think about how concerned I was for his development and that he continues to progress. Naturally, as a minister, I could not help but make the leap to people in general in thinking about spiritual journeys and maturity.
As I began reflecting on my own spiritual journey, I made some surprising observations. First, while I love to learn, acquire new skills, and grow, my pace for spiritual development pales in terms of maturing compared to what I have seen achieved in my taby son’s ability to process the world and grow on many fronts. Second, I noticed that while I am doing many churchy things and leading others in discovering where God is calling them, I have not set any goals or milestones where I would like to personally be in six months or a year. Third, I have discovered that many people around me are asking about my taby’s development, yet very few of them talk about their own development and spiritual journey stories and ask others where they are on their journey. Fourth, something within our Christian culture seems to give permission or allows excuses to adults for a slowing or stagnating spiritual development. It is as if work, family, friends, vacations, entertainment, and other activities are good reasons why to reduce church, Christian education, and spiritual formation to a backburner, when in fact, faith formation will enhance every one of these activities and more. While other observations were made, these keep rolling around in my head.
What becomes the role of the church when our leadership becomes slow to react to the Spirit or complacent with how the church is doing because life seems to be running smoothly? What kind of leaders does the church produce in our children and youth when they do not perceive an active and growing faith within the larger church? How does the church foster Christian formation and spiritual acumen? What are the developmental milestones that churches can lay out for visitors and seekers wishing to know or strengthen their relationship with God?
As an educator and minister, I work with some of the most remarkable people on the Slumber Falls Camp Council. For the past couple of years, we have talked, envisioned, and formulated ways in which summer camp at SFC can enhance and set the trajectory for a rich and meaningful life. This is a living conversation that continues to happen as we offer camps, conferences, and retreats. This process is fun but requires open and honest communication about our strengths and weaknesses so that we can focus on the ultimate goal of developing a person holistically – body, mind, and spirit. We are creating milestones for our camps and age groups. The hope is that our efforts will shape young leaders grounded in an active faith, equipped with a variety of 21st skills, and the passion and resiliency to engage the world and make it a better place.
I would love to see what your churches have in terms of milestones for the various levels of members in your church, and if you have not set any, I would welcome the conversation to see how our efforts at Slumber Falls Camp can enhance your ministries in your local church or community. We are stronger when we remember that we are all a part of the same body, just in different locations and sometimes called to minister in different ways. Blessing and peace upon your ministries, and I hope to see you and your children and youth at camp this summer. If you are around, our taby will probably be a boddler or perhaps a full-blown toddler!