SWBTS students contribute to national child spirituality conference

Six doctoral students enrolled in a spring research seminar in childhood education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s School of Education Ministries presented their research findings at a national Children’s Spirituality Conference held at Concordia University in River Forest, Ill., June 2-7.

Two other doctoral students, Deborah Pauley and Denise Moitinho, assisted Marcia McQuitty, associate professor of childhood education at Southwestern Seminary, in presenting the qualitative research done by students last fall for a seminar titled “Parenting and Faith Development.”

The Children’s Spirituality Conference —which received a grant from The Louisville Institute in 2001—provided opportunities for the students to interact with well-known authors and theologians from various traditions, share insights and engage in meaningful theological discussions. Plenary speakers included John Westerhoff, author of the book “Will Our Children Have Faith,” and Patrick McDonald, international director and founder of the Viva Network.

“It was interesting to be around people from so many different denominations who share a passion for the spiritual growth and life of children,” Kelly King, a doctoral student and presenter, said. King presented her research findings on the topic “Santa and Salvation: The Coexistence of Fantasy and Faith in the Mind of a Child.”

Doctoral student Joshua Hong presented his paper titled, “Young Children’s Abstract God Concepts and Parental Influences.”

Hong said that his presentation sought to “emphasize research showing that children are able to know and understand abstract concepts of God from early ages. They can also begin to understand the person and work of Jesus Christ and begin their journey of personal faith. Parents should strive to intentionally teach their children spiritual truths and seek to live their lives as strong spiritual role models in the home.”

The four other Southwestern Seminary doctoral students and the papers they presented were Karen Kennemur, “Prayer and Children: What Do They Understand?”; Sung-Won Kim, “Parenting Styles and Spiritual Development;” Yunhee Lim, “Children’s Spirituality: Transcendence and Empathy;” and Heuikwang Shin, “Christian Fifth and Sixth Graders’ Awareness of Physical Changes, Relationship With the Opposite Sex, and Their Understanding of the Biblical View About Their Body Change.”

McQuitty, who served on the conference planning team along with professors from Wheaton, Concordia, Asbury Theological Seminary and John Brown University, was pleased about the overall experiences with other professionals in the area of childhood education, including the conversations the doctoral students engaged in on theological issues such as infant baptism.

“I am excited about the opportunities God has given Southwestern Seminary to prepare educators and ministers in the childhood and parenting areas,” McQuitty said. “I am excited about our research seminar students being able to participate in a research-driven conference where they were able to make presentations to people from various denominational backgrounds. Southwestern is doing significant research in the area of spiritual development of preschoolers and children.”

McQuitty said she returned from the conference with a desire to incorporate into the masters and doctoral courses more theological discussions relating to issues children’s ministers encounter such as infant baptism, original sin and personal salvation among other things.

“This conference confirmed my belief that each student of childhood education must be grounded in knowledge of the scriptures,” McQuitty said.

In the days ahead, the conference planning team will be enlisting presenters to edit their conference materials for inclusion in a book which will be an overview of the entire conference. Plans for another national conference are already in progress, McQuitty said.

To view an abstract of each of the presenters’ papers, and for more information on the Children’s Spirituality Conference, go to www.childspirituality.org.

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