Are you irreligious or not religious

Help, my child becomes a believer!

Sunday, May 23rd, 2021

How parents deal with the child's longing for religion

By Annegret Kunkel

What to do if the child suddenly becomes religious? (Stock.XCHNG - Cris Watk)

Some religious educators say: every child, if you just let them, is religious. Asking about God can come as a surprise to parents - especially if they are not a believer themselves or if they have had bad experiences with the church.

"If you really don't believe in God, then you are really very strange, because without God there would be nothing!"

"Then who created the world, how could we be born, how could the animals live without God's help, I want to know from you!"

"If God weren't there, then the world wouldn't have been created, and then you could have thought about what you would have done then!"

From Ulla Hahn, "The Hidden Word": "In the beginning God created hell, devils and children, and he saw that it was bad. Children were badly born (...) Growing up meant getting better. They took care of that Adults who knew everything better, could do better, did better, precisely because they were adults. To be a child meant to be guilty. To be sinful. In need of repentance, penance, punishment, in exceptional cases of grace. Commandments and prohibitions came directly from God. But God was the one before whom everyone fell on their knees. "

This is how the writer Ulla Hahn describes her memories of the church in the 1950s. The image should still be present to many: bowed heads, dull murmurs, guilty conscience and endless boredom. Being a child in church means having to sit for hours, not talking, not fidgeting, not being allowed to play. At the altar a priest waves his index finger, and in the pews there are grannies with pinched faces and screeching songs with high voices. That's right, is it not?

Children: "This is not a grandma event, most people believe in God, then they go there, and then they hear something about God, and then they are happy! And that's why it is better to go to church because you can then be happy too! "

"And there are usually no grandmas, mostly it's young adults and children who listen, the old grandmas and grandpas, they watch it on TV, but sometimes they go too!"

"There are often musicals of some kind in church, and you can go there, and they tell you something about God clearly and with a lot of music."

From the 1970s the number of people leaving the church in Germany increased dramatically and reached its peak after reunification. Baptism has long since ceased to be a matter of course, and religious instruction even less so. In Berlin, for example, ethics classes are compulsory, religion is only for volunteers. And if you want, you can hang out the traditional crucifixes in Bavarian classrooms. The Christian festivals such as Easter, Pentecost and Christmas still structure the year - but often they no longer structure faith.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. Amen. The Lord be with you. And with your mind.

Religion has become a private matter and is increasingly coming out of the junk box. Those who feel like are Buddhists today, esotericists tomorrow and psychoanalysts the day after tomorrow. But what happens when a small child suddenly utters the following sentence:

"But I want to go to church!"

Michaela Hoffmann: "Help, my child becomes a believer! There is this - for example confession! There are some sacraments that are obviously connected with something negative. Because it is simply the case that some points of contact with the church personally were not always good." I also think that the current press is not exactly helpful. There is also this fear of this perhaps too esoteric or sect-like. But our everyday experience is that we parents actually have a need to give our children a good path to share a thread that is morally valuable. "

Says Michaela Hoffman, mother of two devout sons. Together with Katrin Sücker, she is involved in the Children's Church, a project of the Holy Spirit Church in the Berlin district of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf.

Katrin Sücker also has a devout daughter, who is now a Catholic, and a young son who has just been baptized a Catholic. This did not happen without marital disputes.

Katrin Sücker: "My husband is a Protestant, I am a Catholic, grew up strictly religious, my husband, I would say, relatively relaxed when it comes to religious upbringing. But a lot developed in the marriage, there were many points of friction, many Discussions, and it's always exciting to be with us in the family. "

Children: "I would tell my child that he cannot be seen, but if you believe in it and pray with him, then he will answer you at some point, and then you will see it."

"I would tell the child that God is a figure who lives in heaven. You can't look through the universe, that's why you don't see him."

"And it's transparent anyway."

"Just believe in God and pray a lot, a lot! Just believe in him. And then, whoosh, you belong to God and Jesus."

Schwuppdiwupp - how this can be done, Father Rüdiger Brunner from the Holy Spirit Church was able to experience. Instead of forcing the children into the pews, they are let out after about five minutes of worship. And their parents too, if they want.

In an adjoining room, parallel to the sermon, the children's church takes place, for around 20 minutes, with stories, singing and theater. Then it goes back to the whole church.

Rüdiger Brunner: "Well, we didn't think about how we could get the families into the church so that they might even pay church tax, but we reacted to the wishes of the people. One or the other family had already experienced that somewhere else or Heard of it, the others came through the daycare, man, but we also need some form for our children to continue to pursue this Christian orientation, and then we just opened the door. "

When the parents prepare for the children's church, they work out their own liturgy that is suitable for children. The setting is always the same: a circle of blankets for the children, chairs for the parents all around, a fabric cross lying in the middle. And then a plan is made: what is the subject? Who says what when? Who performs what, when does the guitar play? What should the children contribute to this? First preparations on Sunday morning.

"Ruth? Rebecca? Nah, they haven't landed here yet, good morning!"

The subject today: Africa and how to learn to trust your skills. From the ghetto blaster music sounds to set the mood, Katrin Sücker packs a basket with rubber animals, photos and fruits, Michaela Hoffmann distributes the hymn books for the adults. And a drum is already there.

In the middle of the circle comes the flag of South Africa. The idea: the children - most of them are of pre-school age and younger - should assign the objects to the symbolic colors of the flag. Shortly before the start, the guitar player suddenly disappeared. And there is one more problem to be solved: what to do with the reporter who is present?

"We make the greeting, we make our song, and then I introduce you, doesn't it fit best, ne Michi? No, I would do that before we make the sign of the cross, as part of the greeting."

Outside the bells are already ringing and the first church guests pour in, past the open door of the children's church, while Michaela Hoffmann is still untangling the ribbons on the name tags. The children will arrive here just a few minutes after the service has started.

"So every child has their own name tag, because we like to address every child by name, and when they come in, they first find their name. And that's why we have these name tags that are with animal symbols, so that the children do usually cannot read, recognize their signs from the animal symbols. "

The children's church has been around for a good three years. Eleven women and one man alternate in teams of four to design a Sunday church. It was brought into being by the parents themselves, who in turn were motivated by their children.

"I'm not taking my name tag today! Neither do I! Neither do I! Rebecca, there are the boys on the other side!"

In the beginning there were a maximum of 20 children in the children's church, now there are up to 70. And more and more children drag their parents into the church. Quite a few of the parents are initially skeptical to atheistic. But in the end the children prevail.

Rüdiger Brunner: "If by chance, you can name it, this child suddenly takes on the religious dimension, takes on the religious track, and because the friends think that's nice, and then they come too - then the parents are challenged to react. And if you are sensitive, the parents, and the child, however small it may be, really respect as a personality, then you have to ask yourself this question: How do you feel about religion? "

Children: "Well, I've never heard God answer something that I said in the evening. Well, some things work that way too!"

"You see him and hear him, you just have to follow your heart." "And how does that feel?" "Somehow so warm and so nice ..." "

Katrin Sücker: "You all did a great job, now we've all said hello to each other."

And now the real theme of the Children's Church begins. How does a person learn to trust, in himself and in others? Michaela Hoffmann plays it. She has put on a huge, black Afro wig and is kicking a tin can in front of her.

"Hello, I'm Nelio. I can't go to school. I sell cans."

When he's not busy, Nelio plays canned football. So far, he has only watched the real games.

And it happens as it has to: Nelio is supposed to step in, doesn't dare, first embarrasses himself in front of everyone, is cheered on by Father Carlos and finally scores a goal.

"And then I took off in the second half, dared, and then ..."

Child: "Well I would say that God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit created the earth, and that they are good, and they help someone, if they don't dare to do something, that they give them courage."

Kathrin Sücker: "A topic is picked out, we take the core message and package it in a child-friendly way. I think many parents get a lot more insight and even more connection to the church than when they go to the sermon and only half of them take away ... I'll see that now ... "

Children: "I would ask Jesus how he imagines God to be."

"What the good God looks like and the angelic kingdom."

"And what he is anyway. Whether he is dead or still alive and whether he is a person or a ghost."

Let the little children come to me and do not prevent them, for such is the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 19)

Michaela Hoffmann: "Our children's church is growing and growing. It's a pyramid scheme where children say to each other: There's something great on Sundays, can you go there? One child tells the next, then they meet on Sundays. I think it's one To a certain extent, well, I don't know whether that sounds too grandiose, it is also the spirit of God that they feel, I believe that it is enthusiasm, literally. "

Children: "" I would ask Jesus if he could teach me how to heal the sick.

"I wish that the children in my class don't hurt each other so often and so often."

"I wish that there is no more war."

"Well, I want God to help the children."

"That he manages to make everyone dear."

Perhaps these children too will one day be driven from their little paradise, get to know their own sorrows instead of those of the children from Africa, read Darwin and Freud and Nietzsche, find the Bible brutal and church days peculiar, quarrel with their church, step out, get excited Missionaries and the Pope and the evangelical bishop up. Until one day they might have children of their own.

Truly I say to you: if you do not repent and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (...) And whoever accepts such a child in my name accepts me.
(Matthew 18.1)

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