Children mimic most every move you make. Believe me, I know with two small boys illustrating my best and worst bits of body language. Why should style of worship be any different?

This little toddler effectively demonstrates this learning process — looking for approval while imitating how others worship at this church service in Lakeland, Florida. I do wonder how physical forms of worship like this contribute to the development of a child’s faith and belief systems as she grows older. Any thoughts?

[via Boing Boing]

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I have conflicting emotions. Having experienced the pressure that comes from religion and people within the religion as a child, there is a side of me that feels anxious by this. But then there's another part of me that recalls, "But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these," and "At that time Jesus said, "I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants." (Mark 10:14 and Matt 11:25)

Not knowing the parents or the church or the child, I don't want to judge. However, yes, growing up in a religious environment is certainly influential and not necessarily in all ways that are good.

She looks like a little old lady!

There is something to be said for worship practices that are physical, visceral and teachable to others. There is a kind of synchrony between music, gesture and brain going on here that does generate a sense of unity within the assembly and some sort of communion with the Divine, however that is understood. Re-linking people, earth, and the Divine is what religion (re-ligio, re-link) has always been about. The experience of the "re-link" or the "sync up" may be a good thing in itself regardless of the textual framing of the experience. If the textual framing is also generating something good-- something that speaks from and promotes such re-linking interpersonally, infrapersonally and transpersonally, that seems to be a good thing, too.

As parents and adults, we model behavior for our children. Modeling a worship style is not any different. I think it is important! As a child grows - he/she can naturally develop their own worship style if they are given an early foundation. We should empower our children with a love of worship. Regarding physical forms of worship - I have a child on the autism spectrum - he loves "hip hop" worship (as long as it is not too loud) - he's told me he's glad he can use his whole body to worship God instead of sitting still and being uncomfortable!

Here's another one, with subtitles that may or may not be accurate.


Mixed feelings here, too. We can't know from watching whether this child was looking for approval in the context of scarcity or from a companionable and secure joining in. I do believe that during early childhood we're probably more able to tune in to our own intrinsic experience of spirituality, whether or not that reflects the religious beliefs and practices of our family and community. One's family and community will, of course, influence that at some point. However we might define what's going on here, that child will inevitably decide for herself what's what.

As for the connection of movement and spiritual practices, I think it's wise to consider the depth of experience and integration that many in western cultures miss. Think of whirling dervishes, tribal Native American, Australian and African spiritual practices, and how a great many of us are fascinated and drawn in. I suspect this is one reason why evangelical religions are growing so rampantly in the US.