Part one: Link
When many people think of how to teach children to be religious, the only psychological model they use is developmental psychology — and with good reason: developmental psychology is an extremely useful model for planning cognitive and affective learning. Because so much has been written about applying developmental psychology to religious education, I don’t need to spend too much time on it.
The insights of developmental psychology basically tell us to create programs wherein children of the same general age (or same general developmental stage) learn together. In my own experience as a religious educator and parish minister based in local congregations, developmental psychology has helped me to figure out ways to create a mix of good programs for different age groups. The key word here is “mix”: while some religious educators feel they have to rely on just one kind of developmentally-based program, in my experience children are best served by offering a variety of programs, offered either concurrently (in large congregations) or successively (in smaller congregations).
For school aged children, the mix of programs might include closely-graded classes (traditional Sunday school and the Montessori-based “Godly Play”), closely-graded worship experiences (children’s chapel, or in large churches even more closely-graded worship experiences), and other programs like a children’s choir (in larger churches, several different children’s choirs, divided based on physical and intellectual development, will be possible).
For teens, the mix of programs might include closely-graded programs (traditional youth groups, mission trips, youth choirs), youth worship, and closely-graded classes.
As we’ll see in the next installment, these closely-graded programs can (and, I believe, should) be mixed in with multi-age programs.