Tucked in the corner of the room stood a large block tower. Four childrenall under the age of 5were cheering. They were handing blocks to a grandfather who sat between them. As they did, the tower grew taller and taller.

We were at our monthly Little Lutherans gathering for families with children 5 and under. Each month we focus on faith formation with our youngest theologians and their families. We read stories, learn and share. We play and pray together. We laugh. We chase the toddlers and babies. We sing and cheer. We have fun.

To be honest, I don’t remember the specific topic we’d chosen to discuss that evening. I don’t know what Bible story we read. I don’t remember the prayers we offered or the songs we sang. What I do remember is that block tower.

We had divided into stationssome to color, some to read, some to craft. The church basement where we met also had toys readily accessible for the children. So over time, one by one, the children made their way to the toys. And the blocks. And from those blocks and hands working together emerged a large block tower.

I didn’t see it going up. I only heard the joy and cheers and laughs. By the time I looked, the tower was wobbling back and forth and being held by the grandfather. The kids kept handing him more blocks to stack. Higher and higher. Wavering more and more.

Together, with hands reaching and holding, with lots of smiles, they built a tower.

Isn’t that how faith formation works?

We plan and wonder and pray about how to share our faith, only to realize that the basic building blocks of faith formation are right in front of us.

As a pastor working with families, I frequently engage in conversation around the topic of how to incorporate faith activities at home. As a mother of two, I similarly wonder how to involve my children in prayer and faith rituals. The struggle is real. Yet the opportunities are endless.

We plan and wonder and pray about how to share our faith, only to realize that the basic building blocks of faith formation are right in front of us.

I’m guilty of reading too much and over planning when it comes to my kids, especially in regards to how to teach them and share with them in faith. It’s that way, too, sometimes during our Little Lutheran nights. I spend so much time reading about faith formation and picking the right story or activities that I forget that our biggest teachers are right in front of us—our children.

That night our children and families may not have talked about God or offered prayers as they worked on that tower. But they were engaged in a deeply spiritual activity: working together and cheering each other on.

The work of raising faithful leaders in the church begins small—with laughter, play, conversation and being a part of something bigger than ourselves.

Kimberly Knowle-Zeller
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, spouse of an ELCA pastor and co-author of The Beauty of Motherhood: Grace-Filled Devotions for the Early Years. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, Mo. Her website is kimberlyknowlezeller.com.

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