I wonder is a good word (anonymous, age 8).
Over the last few weeks I’ve had the privilege of journeying with different families as they wrestle with their questions about God. Two of these questions include:
- “Why would God ask Abraham to kill…isn’t that wrong, why would God even ask?”
- “How do I explain the Trinity to my 5 year old?”
As I struggled with how I might respond to these questions, I remembered what children have taught me: Active Wondering and Active Listening are essential steps in faith inquiry, discovery, and growth. These two tools create a space that honors the questions and provides an opportunity for persons to find meaning and value as they seek understanding.
In my PhD dissertation research project, Experiencing God Together, I worked with 28 amazing children who showed me the importance of wondering and listening in our faith journey process. As one eight- year old boy declared, “Wonder is a good word.” Through active wondering and listening we create a space that:
- Invites all of God’s children to share their stories
- Affirms every person’s experience of the Holy
- Supports persons as they wonder, discover, claim, and respond to these experiences of and with God.
It is no wonder Jesus was surrounded by priests, scribes, Pharisees, disciples, and many others who were constantly asking him questions. Questions are an essential part of our learning and living process. When we pay attention to Jesus’ responses we hear how Jesus did not provide straightforward, easy answers, but instead Jesus stopped and honored the process of wondering with his reflections that often came in the form of parables. Jesus’ wisdom provides us with significant insight as we continue the spiritual discipline of asking tough questions, wondering and listening together, and seeking new understanding as an intentional faith community.
We all have questions that drive us into a quest for understanding. It is the questions that lead us into a deeper relationship with the Holy. One question I will never forget- asked of me by a four year old boy- “How do I know I believe in God?” My response, “You know I wonder about that too… maybe we can learn together.”
I am praying for fruitful conversations, new discoveries, and strengthened relationships. Blessings on you and your ministry.
- I wonder what questions children have asked you?
- I wonder how you responded to these questions?
- I wonder what you learned about God in these experiences?
- I wonder what you wonder about?
How to actively wonder with children and other people in your faith community
- Honor the question: (You might choose to say)
- That is a really big question
- That is a really important question
- Note: If you do not have time to engage in a wondering session immediately after the question is asked you might choose to say: “That is a really important question. I need some time to think about it and I wonder if we can wonder together about this…[insert another time/day].” Remember- this is important work- make sure you keep your wondering date and help the child know that you are not just dismissing their question.
- Affirm the value of the question (You might choose to say)
- This is a big question. I think other people probably wrestle with it too.
- You know, I wonder about that too.
- That is such a big question many people have wrestled/struggled to understand/answer that question
- Remember that there is not always a simple “right” answer
Note: Take time to wonder with the child leaving the conversation open- try to avoid giving concrete answers immediately.
- Recognize children have often thought about the question before asking it (You might choose to say)
- I wonder what you think?
- I wonder what you know?
- I wonder how others have answered the question?
- I wonder how you might answer the question?
- Note: This will help you understand what is behind the child’s question and what thinking he/she has already done.
- Ask: I wonder if there’s anything we can read/look up/listen to/watch that might help us with this question
- As you research together ask:
- I wonder how this helps us answer the question?
- I wonder if there is other information that we need?
- I wonder where you want to look next?
- Note: This “active wondering” process honors the child and creates a space for you to wrestle with the faith together. Sometimes there are not easy answers and we have to work together to form our own understanding.
- Conclude this time together by saying
- Thank-you you for wondering with me
- I now see…(insert your own ah-hahs here)
- I wonder what you discovered
- I wonder if there are any steps we are missing?
- Affirm and Summarize
- Note: You can conclude with something that affirms the wondering process or summarizes what you discussed/learned/discovered.
- Ex: Thank-you for wondering with me. I love how wonder helps us think together as we grow in our faith and learn more about God, each other, and the world around us.