The September issue of the Mennonite Brethren Herald is promoting a long awaited new curriculum for children from age 3 to grade 8. Shine has been in the works for three years, and is now available and coming to Sunday School classrooms in a Mennonite church near you.
The new Sunday school curriculum Shine: Living in God’s Light for fall quarter 2014 is now available from MennoMedia and Brethren Press, the publishing houses of the Church of the Brethren, Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA.
– New Anabaptist curriculum Shines
The article explains the importance of one of the aspects of this curriculum – the spiritual formation of children:
Why is spiritual formation for children important, and why do you call it that now instead of “Sunday school”?
Sunday school indicates a school model based on acquiring information. We certainly want children to become biblically literate, but we hope for something much deeper. Spiritual formation happens in vibrant communities of God’s Spirit. One of the things we try to convey is that children’s natural language of prayer is thanksgiving. They need to experience joy and hope. Children also need to know that God walks with us in difficult times. God’s love transforms our lives, so we can show God’s love and call others to follow the Prince of Peace.
To find out what this spiritual formation for children looks like, a link provided to the Shine resource website explains further what will be taught:
Spiritual practices help children to pay attention to God’s activity in their lives, and show them ways that they can shine their light to others.
Engage your children in the language and habits of worship through prayer, ritual, celebration, and silence. Each Shine session has a spiritual practice to teach your group. Student resources will reinforce these practices, helping your children to take these practices with them in their daily lives.
What are some of the spiritual practices that Shine sessions include?
Breath prayer . . . Centering prayer . . . Collage prayer
Examen . . . Giving . . . Grace at meals . . . Hospitality
Intercession . . . Labyrinth . . . Morning and evening prayers
Noticing God in creation . . . Prayer doodling
Reciting scripture . . . Sabbath keeping
Service . . . Silence . . . Solitude . . . Thanksgiving prayers
Walking prayer . . . Whole body prayer . . . Worship
– Spiritual practices with children
One of the many Shine curriculum resources is a PDF guide for instructors and teachers on how to make a prayer path labyrinth for the children:
Prayer path (labyrinth)
A prayer path (labyrinth) is referred to in Spiritual practices of several teacher’s guides. Prepare one for your congregation or one per classroom.
The alarming truth is that many of these spiritual formation practices that children are going to be learning in the Shine Sunday School curriculum at Mennonite churches are rooted in mysticism and contemplative spirituality. For example . . .
“…the practice of breath prayer involves “picking a single word or short phrase and repeating it in conjunction with the breath. This is classic contemplative mysticism.””
–Breath Prayer—Not Biblical Prayer
“Centering prayer is an unbiblical and dangerous practice. It can put a person in an altered state of consciousness and open him up to a spiritual connection that is not in harmony with Scripture.
Instead, we are to seek God in prayers that are non-repetitious, with a focus on God’s word and truth, with an active mind seeking to find the true and living God through the revelation of the Scripture and communion with his son Jesus.
In short, avoid centering prayer and avoid whatever church promotes it.”
– Centering Prayer
What is the Ignatian Examen?
Ignatian Examen is an occult visualization technique taught by Ignatius Loyola, who founded the Jesuits in the 16th century. His exercise teaches one to visualize oneself in the presence of Jesus and then interact with Him during his earthly events, e.g., “at the Last Supper and the Garden of Gethsemane, at the foot of the cross, and laying Jesus’ body in the tomb.”6 This has one adding content to Scripture from his imagination and opens a person to demonic manipulation (2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:8).
“The labyrinth is just another way to perform contemplative or centering prayer.”
– Ray Yungen, LABYRINTHS, Prayer Paths That Promote the Occult
“…like putting the mind in neutral. Contemplatives say it is like tuning into another frequency. New Agers call it different things like a thin place, sacred space, ecstasy; whatever it is called, both New Agers and Christian leaders are telling us we must practice silence and stillness if we really want to know God.”
–The Altered State of Silence
In conclusion, instead of practicing labyrinth prayer paths and the Ignatius Prayer Examen, perhaps it’s time for Mennonites to examine some very important questions. Where are the watchmen on the walls? How many parents dropping their children off at Sunday School in their Mennonite churches will be aware that the new Shine curriculum will teach them how to practice contemplative spirituality? What will become of each three year old child whose parents faithfully bring them to their trusted church to be trained in a 10 year contemplative curriculum? Is this what Sunday School teachers in Mennonite churches want to be teaching to the children in their care? Who will defend and teach the truth? Who will guard and teach the children?
Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.
And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Mennonites and St. Ignatius
Mennonites Teaching Contemplative Spirituality to Children
Anabaptists and Jesuits – Lest We Forget
Understanding The Jesuit Agenda and the Evangelical/Protestant Church
The Labyrinth Journey: Walking the Path to Fulfillment?
McLaren’s New Book – A New Kind of Year Long Church Curriculum
Muddy Emerging Convergence in Sunday School Curriculum