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Asking big questions is good for children

A recent study by the Diocese of Guildford has found that the greater the involvement from a church in a school, the greater the children are aware of their own, and the world’s, strengths, wonder, and beauty.

In a world that is increasingly complex and confusing, a space to ask questions is more important than ever. Children have asked big questions like: Why are the days going so quickly? Why are people mean to each other? Why do bad things happen? Is there any hope in the world? Is God real? Can God breathe? How did God make everything? Does God know everyone? Is the Bible true?

Emma Coy, Mission Enabler - Children and Families at the Diocese of Guildford, said: “Children and young people face pressures and levels of anxiety we have never seen before. We know that they thrive when they have space to understand the world and are shown great love. The space we create for them to ask big questions, whether physical or psychological, has a massive impact on their inner life. This research has shown us how important the partnership between church and schools is in creating that as a safe space.”

Canon Jane Whittington, Schools Officer Christian Distinctiveness at the Diocese of Guildford, said: “Sometimes we want to give neat and clever answers to these big questions, and often there isn’t one. By learning to navigate these questions when we are young, we set ourselves up for an adulthood where we can continue to question, learn, and grow. That’s why this space is important, where children can explore their own experiences, the world and their inner world. Where children are encouraged to reflect and think deeply, they are inspired to grow and challenge themselves in new ways.”

There is evidence from the research that having visitors from the church help children feel closer to God at school most days. And the more time and number of people from churches involved, the more children feel closer to God.

Findings from the study led to 20 recommendations, 8 for schools and 12 for churches. They include:

  • Church and school leaders should invest in the relationship between church and school
  • PCCs and School Governors should encourage church and school leaders respectively, and give them time to build a relationship with one another.
  • Parents and households can support their church to get involved with their child’s school.
  • Churches should create space for reflection and quiet time in their children’s work.
  • In collective worship and assemblies, move away from a focus on moral lessons and behaviour to encouraging children to think deeply, to explore their own thoughts and questions about God and inspire them to grow and challenge themselves in new directions.

Over the coming months the Diocese of Guildford is working with its school and church leaders to support them as they build relationships and create space for spiritual development.

The report also covers questions posed to dioceses and the national Church of England. The questions focus on how best to support school and church leaders, who are looking to improve how they partner with each other and create space for children’s spiritual development.

The research was conducted by the Diocese of Guildford and funded through the Church of England’s Growing Faith Foundation. It looked into what an effective church-school partnership looks like. It also explored the role the church plays in supporting the spiritual development of children in a school.

Lucy Moore, Head of Growing Faith Foundation, said: “It has been a privilege to support the Diocese of Guildford in this exciting research that draws on the voice of so many children as well as adults. Along with the other 12 Growing Faith research projects from the last year, this piece of work highlights valuable challenges and opportunities for churches and schools as they work together to support the flourishing of all children, young people and their households.”

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