In our Child Sponsorship Program it is necessary for us to consider the ways and means by which a good spiritual education can be ensured for every child. One of the objectives of our sponsorship program is to help children become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults. To do this, our holistic development strategy includes four domains: physical, socio-emotional, cognitive and spiritual.
Today I will explain how we teach the spiritual domain at our child development centers in Togo.
We are committed to being an instrument of God serving the church. For this reason, we partner with local churches to create child development centers and localize our curriculum for each of the development domains. The methods used to teach the children are age-appropriate and may vary from one center to another and from one country to another, but the goals are the same.
The traditional method is to teach courses in a classroom while helping students to assimilate what is taught. This method relies heavily on the repetition of words.
In some classes, children are asked to repeat Bible verses after their teachers, until they have mastered them completely.
“This method often works for very young children, between 3 and 7 years. In fact, they can neither read nor count. So, only repetition helps them memorize some Bible verses,” says Odile Dantse, coordinator of the Praise Chapel Child Development Center.
Repetition is a good method of helping children memorize material, but it may leave gaps in their understanding of what they have memorized.
Songs are also used to teach children Christian values, as verses and biblical characters are put into the lyrics. When the child sings, it is for him a way to keep these verses and characters in his heart.
“The majority of children in our center love to sing. When we write songs based on Bible verses, they hold it fast,” says Thierry Adanlessossi, coordinator of the Deeper Life Bible Church Child Development Center.
In most centers, singing includes a well-known song that lists the books of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Almost all children of these centers are able to quote by heart, and in order, the books of the Bible. The song method is successful because children know, by heart, Christian behaviors.
Another example of songs used to impart Christian basics to the children is one that mentions the fruits of the Holy Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23.
Fellow Kpodo, the millionth child to ever be sponsored through Compassion, attends a development center in Togo. His father, Edoh, told us this story:
“Often, Fellow plays with the neighborhood kids. Since he started attending the development center, he and his friends sing songs he learned. When I listened to some of those songs, I sometimes meditate on them. Today, even though I am attending church, I feel Fellow knows the Word of God better than me.”
In some centers, games are among the biggest attractions. The game method allows children to play games while reciting what they have learned.
It is often said that the best thing a child can do is to play. It is during games that he is best focused. To draw the children’s attention to the Word of God and other spiritual activities, teachers allow them to play games they play at home – but here, everything leads to knowing God.
For example, a game of a hopscotch helps children memorize Bible verses.
Learning by Imitation
Children learn by example. It is for this reason that some people believe that it is not good to do certain things in front of children. In many centers, children imitate their teachers. They make the same gestures and sometimes even talk like they do. Other children copy the actions and words of their teachers when it comes to praying or singing.
For instance, Yves Kitsho dreams of becoming a pastor one day. Very excited by preaching, he communicates his source of inspiration:
“When I come to the center, I like the way that Pastor Odile prays with us. She begins singing songs of praise and worship and thereafter prays fervently. I love it and I want to become a pastor like her.”
Teaching the spiritual domain has positive impact. Some parents come to church because they see change in their children’s behavior. Even if they are reluctant to come to church, some parents change their minds because they are convinced their children are on the right track.
There is a surprising example at the Baptist Child Development Center of Kangnikope in Lome, where a father who is a voodoo priest allows his wife and children to go to church, even though he vigorously resisted his son’s registration some years ago.
He saw change in the life of his child, and then allowed his other children to attend church. Today his wife is an active member of the church and fully participates in meetings, without being persecuted as she was before.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” ~ Proverbs 22:6 (RSV)