My Baptism Liturgy Now Includes “Language Dancing”

I was surprised by the information in the chapter about the important development that happens in the first 36 months of life. Parents clearly play a huge role in the cognitive development of their children by doing simple things like increasing the amount of words they say to their children from infancy. Christensen says that this is called “language dancing,” a term coined by researchers Hart and Risley (l. 2611-2612). Not only is this information good for me to know as a hopeful future father, but I found myself reflecting on what this information means for a worshipping community, especially in light of my last post focused on the role of parents in education and churches.

As I think about a future role as a pastor or leader in a congregation, I reflect on the importance of the teaching role. Not just teaching parents and congregation members about the Bible and what it means in our culture, but also coaching them how to be mentors and teachers to others. The teaching that pastors do is often focused on the adults. While adults are doing the work of learning about the Bible from the pastor, the young children are often put in nurseries where teenagers or parents keep them entertained while parents are learning the important “adult worthy” content.

As a leader of a congregation it is imperative that I understand the development of children, encourage and teach parents about their role in that development, and call the church to do more than provide entertainment-based care for young children, but to value the role that we have in supporting and encouraging the development of those children together.

One idea is to simply train the congregation (adults and teenagers, or even other children) to use “language dancing” in their interactions with young children. It would be interesting for further research to be done on the value of using religious language while “language dancing” and how that shapes a child’s later religious experiences.

Christensen’s proposal of communicating with your children, even before traditional school, can have a large impact on their development. As a proponent of cross-generational family faith formation ministry I see no reason why not to invite a church community to actively participate.

The baptism of a child is often about the parents and the congregation committing to raise the child in the faith, but with this new information, the church should take a more active approach to the cognitive development of the child and the baptism liturgy is a beautiful and profound place to make that commitment. Furthermore, Christensen’s statement, “self-esteem is a foundation that can give children the confidence they need to successfully grapple with difficult educational challenges and life issues as they are encountered” gives the church a practical reason to participate (l. 2647-2649) reminds us that communication with young children actually matters and makes a difference in the whole life of a child.

I continue to like reading on the Kindle. This week I did more reading on the computer and like changing the background color to black. It makes it much easier to read at night without burning my retinas.

Christensen, Clayton., Michael Horn., & Curtis Johnson. (2010). Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. (2nd ed.). n.p. McGraw-Hill. Kindle Edition.

  3 comments for “My Baptism Liturgy Now Includes “Language Dancing”

  1. Mark Jackson
    August 11, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    I would definitely encourage you to include this notion of “language dancing” in your future trainings with those who work with young children. Many volunteers are excited to work with children, but not all possess a background or the necessary skills to be as effective in promoting child development as they could be; including this conversation would be helpful. Even in the context of a church/faith community, it’s important we pay attention to the child’s holistic needs — including cognitive development and specifically (as you suggest here) language development.

    Great reflection — with great implications.

  2. David Ellingson
    August 12, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    Great insights and comments. Let me push it further. in Jeremiah 1:5 God reminds the prophet that “I knew you before you were born”. Millenia before neurobiology is demonstrating the importance of parenting “before birth” the Bible tells Jeremiah/us that we are being shaped/formed in faith “in utero”. This passage is “foundational” for parenting/pastoring/youth leadership. So the next time you are asked when youth ministry begins, you can with biblical and biological support, “Before birth!!”

  3. August 14, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Ryan,
    I’m continually impressed by the ways you tie our readings that are tailored to general education to your own experiences and goals. By working to teach your congregation to become stronger teachers and mentors, you increase the learning that occurs as well as the sense of community. I like the idea of helping staff members learn to “language dance” with the younger members of the congregation. It seems that Christensen was arguing that we just need to get more people talking personally to babies, so any way to do that seems like it’d be beneficial. I’m curious how much the content of the conversation matters–do you envision specific conversations or a particular type of language dancing occurring within the church setting?

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